The Blood on Satan's Claw
Film: The Blood on Satan’s Claw
Director: Piers Haggard
Writer: Robert Wynne-Simmons
Starring: Patrick Wymark, Linda Hayden and Barry Andrews
This film begins with a man plowing a field; he is played by Barry Andrews. A woman calls for him to come in. Before he does, he sees a murder of crows over something in the field. He goes over to investigate and finds some bones. He sifts through them to find a skull, but it has an eye attached to it. He will tell later that he sees fur on the bone still as well.
Andrews takes this information to a judge that is currently in town, played by Patrick Wymark. Also there is a woman played by Charlotte Mitchell. They listen to him, but neither believes what he is telling them.
A man returns to the village, played by Simon Williams, along with a young woman, played by Avice Landone. He enters the home of Mitchell and he introduces that she is his aunt and that he is going to be married to Landone. They are going to stay at the house, under the same roof together and Wymark makes a comment about how that is not customary, as this film takes place in the 17th century. Since Wymark is staying there as well, Landone must sleep in the attic.
Williams tells her that he will come up and visit her at 11 pm, but he gets caught up with Wymark. Landone sees something in her room and starts to scream. Williams tries to get into the room, but the door is locked. Her screaming wakes the house up and Wymark comes to the landing of the stairs. He easily opens the door, looks in and then closes it. The door is hammered shut at first, but then when they take Landone out, we see that she has claws on one of her hands. She is taken away to an asylum.
The local doctor, played by Howard Goorney, shows Wymark a book on witchcraft before he leaves. Wymark doesn’t believe that it could be back, but then notices an image in the book that is eerily similar to one that Andrews described. Before he leaves, he tells Williams that he will return, but he is not ready yet.
We see some children who are in school and being taught by the local reverend, played by Anthony Ainley. In the class are Linda Hayden, Michele Dotrice, Wendy Padbury and Robin Davies. Davies actually has a pouch that he empties to show a claw and some bones he found. Ainley sees it and asks for it. The children keep it from him and he demands to have it. It then disappears before it comes into his possession.
That night Williams goes up to the attic room and lies in the bed. The candle by the bed goes out and the floor boards start to jump. He gets down trying to stop them and then he gets scratched by something. He then has a nightmare that night that he cuts off his hand.
Soon after we see Davies playing with the bones by himself, when he hears something outside and he goes to investigate. He stumbles upon a group of kids with Hayden. He is then attacked. His mother hears his yell goes to investigate and finds he is dead in the woodshed.
Later that night, Andrews comes to visit with her teacher. She undresses and tries to seduce him. He is strong in will and demands that she puts her clothes back on. Ainley presides over the funeral of Davies and Hayden is there. She stares at the reverend and her eyes are determined. After the funeral, her father played by Godfrey James, approaches James Hayter, a local squire and she recounts a different version of what happened with Ainley. It is decided that he will be punished for it.
Padbury is lured by her brother into the woods where she is tied up by another young man. She is taken to a group of the local children and raped while they watch. Hayden stabs her in the back.
Andrews is taking his wagon along a path when he witnesses some villagers throw Dotrice into the river, trying to ensure if she is a witch. Andrews points out that if she does not float, she is not a witch, but will be dead. He saves her and takes her to Goorney where they find devil’s skin on her thigh.
Is witchcraft taking over the village’s children or is this a mass hysteria? Can it be stopped before more people are hurt? Can Wymark be convinced to comeback and if he is, will he be able to stop this?
I will lead off by saying that I didn’t know much about this film coming in. I thought the opening scene was good and peaked my interest early. I thought the acting in this film was pretty good, with many of the actors being fairly young. I really liked Hayden as the leader of the coven as I found her innocent look to be great for someone who is leading the rituals. The story I thought moves pretty quick while still building some suspense. There were a couple of scenes that got me to cringe a bit as well, which gets me even more interested. It takes a lot to scare me, but the film’s horror is pretty good.
I didn’t have much negative to say about this film. I would have liked to learn more about what happened to Landone and why she had claws when no one else did. The demon at the end does look a little bit fake, but thankfully he is used much more than a minute or so. I also felt the ending was a little too quick, yet I still liked the resolution of the film.
Now with that said, I would recommend this film. The acting is good, the story is will written and the suspense builds with it. I am a big fan of witchcraft films, because you never know if it is real until normally it is too late. It also brings up the idea of paranoia, because you never know who is really involved. This film has it centered on children which make it even better, because as an adult, you never want to harm what is considered youth and their innocence. This film is from the 1970s, so keep that in mind, but it takes place in the 17th century. It is also from the UK, so everyone has accents as well. If you can get past this, this film is worth a viewing.
My Rating: 8 out of 10