Disciple of Death is a 1972 British low-budget horror film co-scripted and directed by Tom Parkinson (producer of Attack of the Sabretooth) in Cornwall. The film was part-financed and stars Mike Raven, an ex-DJ with ambitions to become a horror star. Raven had already appeared in I, Monster; Hammer Films’ Lust for a Vampire and also starred in another vanity project Crucible of Terror. The remainder of the leads are Ronald Lacey (Crucible of Terror, Raiders of the Lost Ark), Stephen Bradley, Marguerite Hardiman, horror film regular Virginia Wetherell, George Belbin, Betty Alberge and Nicolas Amer.
Hammer Films had been approached by Parkinson and Raven a year earlier and although there was discussion of Disciple of Death being filmed, with Jimmy Sangster directing, the project was shelved. The enterprising duo decided to go ahead and film it themselves but in Super 16mm. The British censors removed gory shots of a heart being ripped out and blood squeezed into a goblet.
In 18th century England. an enigmatic yet charismatic stranger (Raven) arrives in a rural village to claim his inheritance. The stranger is actually a henchman of Satan who has been unleashed when the blood of a virgin accidentally drips onto the grave of a suicide victim. Aided by a dwarf, he kidnaps and murders young women until the local parson (Lacey) enlists the aid of a wisecracking Jewish Cabalist to resist his evil ambitions…
“Disciple of Death is the worst film I have ever seen. It is quite simply a stinker of remarkable ineptitude – featuring the worst performance by a leading man in the history of celluloid, some truly pitiful special effects, a story which beggars belief and camerawork and direction which… well, I despair.” Chris Wood, British Horror Films
“This is a film for people who enjoy seeing an individual vision transplanted to the screen with as little filtering through consensus, committee and studio sensibilities as possible. A low budget can only enhance such qualities: it prohibits short-cutting and reliance on cliché; it forces unusual solutions to logistic and creative problems. It’s the kind of environment in which one-of-a-kind imaginations like Raven’s can thrive.” Matthew Coniam, Hammer and Beyond
“There is no neck-biting – Raven removes the hearts of his female victims and wrings them out into a goblet to drink – and the unusual imagery includes a cabalist steeped in vampire bones, and two horsemen clashing at the skyline gibbet where a hanged man still dangles.” House of Horror: The Complete Hammer Films Story
” … the film is amateurish and Raven is dreadful in the extreme. Ronald Lacey comes in a close second as a badly bewigged parson … Laughably overacted by everyone involved, the ritual sacrifice scenes are especially hilarious.” Gary A. Smith, Uneasy Dreams: The Golden Age of British Horror Films, 1956 – 1976 (McFarland, 2000)
Also released as:
Das Monster mit der Teufelsklaue (Germany)