The Horror Honeys: The Devil needs a Dermatologist!

The Devil needs a Dermatologist!

A Supernatural Honey Review by Suzanne

Blood on Satan's Claw (1971)

I sought Blood on Satan’s Claw for much of my adult life. Not because it wasn’t available on DVD or VHS, but because I didn’t know what it was called. Let me explain.

I watched a lot of British horror as a kid. It was pretty much the only thing worth watching on TV, Saturday afternoons at my grandparents’ house. Most of it I could remember easily because it starred Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee or both. Then there were those other films where, while I couldn’t remember the titles or even storylines, I remembered certain images or scenes and those stuck with me. One such movie has come to me in flashes over the years; Period costume, a girl with her leg in a bear trap, a strange patch of hair on the body. It’s not a lot to go on, as you can see. Then, one night, after I watched that awful House on Straw Hill movie, I watched an interview with star, Linda Hayden. In it she talks about one of her favorite movies, The Blood on Satan’s Claw. After seeing the clips, I got so excited, I nearly punched boyfriend! He didn’t understand, but then again, I’m still teaching him the ways of British horror.

Eesh. Bummer of a decomposition, Hal.
In 17th Century England, a farm hand, Ralph (Barry Andrews), plows up some deformed remains in a field. He alerts the local judge (Patrick Wymark) who doesn't believe his tale as the remains have mysteriously disappeared. Soon after, strange events happen around the children of the village, as they form a devil worshipping coven. Led by Angel Blake (Linda Hayden), the children take part in ritualistic sacrifice. Those who bear "Satan's Skin" (the film's original title), a patch of fur on the body are the intended sacrifices. However, anyone who gets in Angel's way will suffer her wrath.

"I'm suspicious of you because you're witchy and not
on fire yet."
The witchy business begins within the first 15 minutes when a girl has a meltdown and, when being taken away, is discovered to have a claw for a hand. The children begin to torment the villagers, beginning with the priest, who Angel tries to seduce. When he rejects her, she tries to frame him for the murder of one of the local boys. One of the most disturbing scenes involves the abduction, rape and eventual murder of a young girl, orchestrated and encouraged by Angel. Once the villagers figure out what's going on, they go on a full-scale witch hunt.

Insert "playing with his snake" joke of your choice!
What's most impressive about this film is, unlike Hammer or Amicus films, Blood on Satan's Claw is dramatic without crossing the line into cheesy. The characters are well developed and the acting is solid. Wymark, in his last role, is sort of atypical as the judge. Ordinarily, this type of character is preaching pious while taking advantage of the young village girls. Here, the judge tows the line and practices what he preaches, while still consuming copious amounts of wine. When he realizes the town is in trouble, he takes it upon himself to vanquish the evil. Linda Hayden is fantastic as Angel, although she's anything but. She manages to convey both innocence and evil without being contrived. She's incredibly beautiful and has one of those faces that can go from wide-eyed and etherial to scary in a flash. She's also not afraid to get naked, which she does, so there is full-frontal action for the men folk.

Ahh yes, the 70s. When any butt could appear on film
without fear of judgement. It was a simpler time. A better time.
The other major players in this film are the scenery and the score. Both simple and dark, lending to the atmosphere. In fact, it's so compelling, I'm at a loss to find snarky things to say. It's just really that good.

While I've been heaping on the praise, there is one big flaw that cannot be overlooked. The Devil himself. He makes several appearances during the rituals and, for the most part, stays in the shadows, which is for the best. The makeup is utterly ridiculous. It looks something like a cross between a goat, a bat and bearded lady at a sideshow. The effects on the whole are more than adequate, especially for the early 1970s, but the Devil's visage was a sin. Obviously, they spent so much money on location and good actors, by the time they decided to work on Satan, they only had enough left over for a wonky Halloween mask and a cloak.

Ordinarily, when I get my hands on a film I saw as a kid, I end up wishing for my time and money back, even when it's $5 bootleg purchase from a convention. Blood on Satan's Claw was such a different story. It's dark and disturbing, without going overboard on the gore. I'm not even sorry I spent $30 on this import.

Supernatural Honey Rating: I give this 4 out of 5 claws. I'm clipping one claw for the dumb Devil mask.

Blood on Satan's Claw is available via YouTube & blu-ray/DVD