THE BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW (1971) – The Dungeon Review!
The Blood on Satan’s Claw is a delightful folklore yarn about a small village in 17th Century England. It is filmed in the beautiful English countryside, it has great sets and costumes, a rousing score and solid performances but it is not a Hammer film. There were in fact other film studios in the UK; sometimes I have to remind myself so I don’t miss out on little gems like The Blood on Satan’s Claw. Tigon British Film Productions made films beginning in 1967 through to 1977 and have a relatively small catalog. Among their other treacherous treats is Witchfinder General, Curse of the Crimson Altar and The Creeping Flesh. I’ve had my eye on the Tigon box set which comes in a coffin-shaped box and includes six of the production company’s horror films; The Blood on Satan’s Claw amoung the sextet. In my opinion, The Blood on Satan’s Claw is one of the best of the Satan subgenre. All hail Satan!
Local farmer Ralph Gower unearths a corpse (or at least its head) while plowing. Alarmed by the finding he immediately goes to see the judge. He convinces the judge to come examine his discovery only to find it missing. The judge shrugs the incident off citing superstitious paranoia. Soon after however, the village children become marked by a strange patch of black fur and develop unsettling behavior.
For those of us who enjoy some Satan-inspired shenanigans how could one not find The Blood on Satan’s Claw appealing in title alone? Although having seen the film, its alternate title The Devil’s Skin may be more appropriate. Not only does the devil mark the children with an ugly patch of fur he appears to be harvesting their skin! What a delightfully nasty premise! While it is not particularly graphic there is a pitch-perfect atmosphere and a feeling of foreboding you can not escape! That is not to say there aren’t a few meaty scenes to behold. There is a strong sexual undercurrent to the proceedings beautifully accentuated by the young and lovely Angel Blake. Linda Hayden is fantastically evil as Angel Blake whose youthful beauty and pent-up sexuality is reason enough for any school boy to follow her; even if it leads straight to hell! She joyfully gives herself over to Satan and is the undisputed leader of the group of Satan-worshipping children. The UK censors had loosened their grips around the throats of film-makers slightly and more lurid images started to turn up in the period’s films. It was still rather light when compared to what was coming out of Italy and America. Nonetheless The Blood on Satan’s Claw’s creepy premise, young cast, nudity and rape scene must have raised a few eyebrows in British theatres at the time.
The stunning English countryside is the perfect backdrop for our sordid tale of youth corrupted by the devil. The peaceful surroundings are the perfect compliment to the horrific satanic rituals occurring in a desecrated church. The Blood on Satan’s Claw’s cinematography is beautiful as is the film’s score. The film is more about mood and atmosphere than graphic violence and effects. I am a little surprised that director Piers Haggard made the decision to actually show Satan. I was convinced the dark lord would stay illusive to the end. I’m happy to say I found the reveal quite effective as Haggard shows “just enough” to make it work. The Blood on Satan’s Claw is not flawless; there were a couple of unexplained random events that lead nowhere but frankly they were of little consequence in my enjoyment of the film. The only real complaint I had about The Blood on Satan’s Claw was its rather abrupt and somewhat anti-climatic ending.
The Blood on Satan’s Claw is brimming with atmosphere and mood and its creepy premise is simply delicious. Stunning cinematography, well paced, a great score, beautiful sets and costumes along with a wild performance from Linda Hayden as the wicked Angel made for an all around entertaining watch. The Blood on Satan’s Claw comes highly recommended.
Dungeon Rating: 4/5
Directed By: Piers Haggard
Starring: Patrick Wymark, Linda Hayden, Barry Andrews, Michele Dotrice, Wendy Padbury, Anthony Ainley, Charlotte Mitchell, Tamara Ustinov, Simon Williams, James Hayter, Howard Goorney, Avice Landone, Robin Davies