Devils of Darkness – UK, 1964

Devils of Darkness is a 1964 British horror feature film directed by Lance Comfort (The Ugly Duckling; Daughter of Darkness) from a story and screenplay by Lyn Fairhurst (production manager on The Flesh Eaters) and produced by Tom Blakeley. The Planet Films movie stars William Sylvester, Hubert Noël, Carole Gray, Tracy Reed and Diana Decker.

Plot:

A small town in Brittany, primarily inhabited by gypsies: Paul Baxter (William Sylvester) is on holiday with a group of friends. Count Sinistre returns to terrorise the townspeople on All Soul’s Night, and murders three of Baxter’s friends.

Initially sceptical of the supernatural nature of the town, Baxter becomes suspicious and returns to England with a talisman belonging to Sinistre which he had taken from the scene of one of his murders, leading Sinistre to pursue Baxter in an attempt to recover the talisman and murder acquaintances along the way…

Reviews:

“Plot expediency sees the police keep their cynicism for approximately two minutes before suddenly believing all Paul’s wild theories about vampires on the loose, and the cast, although mainly attractive, are wooden and dull. The film’s only saving grace comes when Karin the gorgeous shop girl (Tracy Reed ) wakes up after being initiated into Sinistre’s coven…” British Horror Films

“Stilted British dud […] Directed uncomfortably by Lance Comfort.” John Stanley, Creature Features

“Stodgy and slow-moving though it is, the film is garishly photographed and has several diverting moments.” Jonathan Rigby, English Gothic: A Century of Horror Cinema, Reynolds & Hearn, 2004

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” …it’s an uninteresting combination of vampires and Satanists, and the only times the movie comes alive are during a dance scene in the pre-credits sequence and a lab scene in the middle of the movie where all the lab animals start going wild.” Dave Sindelar, Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

“Uninspired but efficient, the film raises little sense of terror or atmosphere but has an ingenious script that manages to combine elements of witchcraft, reincarnation and vampirism.” Alan Frank, The Horror Film Handbook, Batsford, 1982

Devils of Darkness begins rather unpromisingly but quickly turns into a proper hoot, diverting into soap opera and the hipster no-man’s-land party world between the beatnik and hippie era (a world that seems to be be full 50 percent lesbian). The plot plays quite a bit with the allegiances of the some of the characters, ably juicing up the dreary good vs evil clichés these films so often followed.”  Wendell McKay, The Shrieking Sixties: British Horror Films 1960 – 1969

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“With some amusing special effects such as a rubber bat (shown up by a couple of real bats later on) and a hurricane from nowhere, there are intermittent points where the tone gets it right, but it was colourful yet flat otherwise.” Graeme Clark, The Spinning Image

Filming locations:

Pinewood Studios, shooting began on 14 May 1964.

Cast and characters:

  • William Sylvester … Paul Baxter
  • Hubert Noël … Count Sinistre
  • Carole Gray … Tania
  • Tracy Reed … Karen Steele
  • Diana Decker … Madeleine Braun
  • Rona Anderson … Anne Forest
  • Peter Illing … Inspector Malin
  • Gerard Heinz … Bouvier, the Hotel Manager
  • Brian Oulton … The Colonel
  • Walter Brown … Bruno
  • Eddie Byrne … Dr. Robert Kelsey
  • Victor Brooks … Inspector Hardwick
  • Marie Burke … Old Gypsy Woman
  • Marianne Stone … The Duchess
  • Avril Angers … Midge

Choice dialogue:

Tania: “It’d make a marvellous horror. You know. Ghouls and witches.”

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