Written by Christopher Wicking
Directed by Peter Sykes
Starring Paul Jones, Patrick Magee, Yvonne Mitchell, Robert Hardy, Gillian Hills, Shane Briant, Michael Horden, Virginia Wetherell
- Commentary by director Peter Sykes, writer Christopher Wicking, and actress Virginia Wetherell and moderated by journalist Jonathon Sothcott
- Theatrical trailer
Released by: Anchor Bay.
Anamorphic: Yes .
My Advice: Rent it.
There is fear and death in the dark German woods. The local baron, Zorn (Hardy), has become obsessed with stopping his family’s curse of forbidden desires and an all-consuming bloodlust. He believes the curse consumed his wife and caused her to commit suicide in front of their children. He keeps his son Emil (Briant) and daughter Elizabeth (Hills) locked in separate rooms, constantly drugged and bled to suppress their attraction for each other. The baron has even gone so far as to bring the brilliant but disgraced Doctor Falkenberg (Magee) to cure his children. But as young girls in the nearby village are being murdered and a half-mad priest (Horden) is screaming about evil in their midst, it can be only a matter of time before all are threatened by the Demons of the Mind.
In the early 70s, the infamous British film company, Hammer Studios, saw that their horror movies with vampires and demons weren’t pulling in the box office. So they decided to go the psycho route with human monsters driven by madness instead of the supernatural. This movie can be seen as a bridge between the two styles with a serial killer on the loose as the main villain, but having all the trappings of Gothic horror: a decaying manor house, a corrupted noble family, a young ingÃ©nue in peril, even a torch wielding mob. This type of genre demands overacting from its cast and you get scene chewing in all its bombastic glory.
From the piteous moaning of Gillian Hills to the half-crazed pronouncements of Robert Hardy, everyone gives an appropriately broad performance. The problem is that under the bombast, there’s no solid character work to support it. So instead of epic and sweeping passions, it just seems hammy. It’s good ham, but it’s not steak. The story is quite tame by modern standards, but with its hints of unbridled lust and depraved sex, it must have been quite risquÃ© at the time of its release. But all the teasing with no payoff will irritate most modern viewers. The plot also had too many extraneous elements and it weighs the movie down. For what it is, a “B” horror movie, it’s not that bad. Just don’t expect too much from it.
In addition to the trailer for the film, we have a commentary by several people involved with the film: director Peter Sykes, writer Christopher Wicking, and Virginia Wetherell who played Inge, the village prostitute. With journalist Jonathon Sothcott, they talk about how they were trying something to liven up the standard Hammer formula without losing what had made it successful in the first place. They also did a fair amount of research into this script and even had an antique scarificator used to bleed patients on set as well as a replica of a device to encourage hypnotic states. What is interesting about this commentary is that the group, while giving out praise in general, does point out problems.
One was that Hardy never really took his part seriously and his performance lacked the commitment the other actors are said to have. Wetherell even tells how Hammer tried to take publicity stills of her during her nude scene in the film. She refused and even walked off the set when she wouldn’t go along. It’s nice to hear some honesty in a commentary track.
The novelty of the commentary track coupled with a decent flick makes Demons of the Mind worth a rental.