“ Genre: Horror / Suitable for 18 years and over / Director: Peter Sykes / Actors: Michael Horden, Patrick Magee, Paul Jones, Gillian Hills, Yvonne Mitchell ... / DVD released 2007-01-01 at Optimum Home Entertainment / Features of the DVD: Anamorphic, PAL „
RELEASED: 1972, Cert. 18
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 85 mins
DIRECTOR: Peter Sykes
PRODUCERS: Michael Carreras & Frank Godwin
SCREENPLAY: Christopher Wicking
MUSIC: Harry Robertson
Gillian Hills as Elizabeth
Paul Jones as Carl Richter
Robert Hardy as Freidrich Zorn
Shane Briant as Emil
Yvonne Mitchell as Hilda
Michael Hordern as the Priest
Patrick Magee as Falkenberg
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Fearful that his son and daughter may have inherited their late mother's madness, Freidrich Zorn keeps his two teenage children, Elizabeth and Emil, locked up in his big, creepy old house in the country, ably assisted by the children's Aunt Hilda.
Elizabeth and Emil have an incestuous attraction towards one another, and fearing the worst, Freidrich has ordered them to be kept apart. Emil is constantly looking for ways he can be with Elizabeth, some of them more successful than others.
Whilst a serial killer is on the loose in the nearby woods and a seemingly mad priest wanders around spreading a gospel of fire and brimstone, Elizabeth somehow manages to meet and fall in love with Carl Richter, a young medical student who appears to be passing through.
Freidrich employs the services of Falkenberg, a hypnotherapist, hoping that he will be able to stall and erase the family's apparent madness.
Demons Of The Mind is one of those Hammer Horror films which I somehow managed to miss when I was seeing most of them in the late 1960s and through the 1970s, as virtually the whole library was dong the cinema rounds - some later being shown on TV during the 1980s.
The first thing which struck me as I recently settled to watch Demons Of The Mind was that it immediately came across as being a far slicker, more polished production than are most Hammer offerings. I too was pleased to see Paul Jones cast in one of the leading roles, as besides his valuable and continuing contribution to the world of R&B, jazz, blues and soul music, he actually is quite an adept actor.
The second, third, fourth and ongoing things which struck me were that I had little or no clue as to what actually was happening in this very disjointed film. The storyline seemed to jump from one thing to another with little or no groundwork which would have served to provide me with some vague kind of clarity. I did manage to sit through the whole film, but even as the closing credits rolled, I still was none the wiser.....entertained, but clueless.
Little parts of the dialogue did annoy me somewhat, but that's because I'm uncomfortable with the style of speech used for films where the storyline is set a couple of centuries ago, as is Demons Of The Mind. However, I found most of the acting to be rather good, especially that of Paul Jones as the perhaps too willing and helpful Carl Richter and Patrick Magee as the weird, somewhat creepy and a bit off the wall hypnotist. Robert Hardy was rather good as Freidrich Zorn, way overdoing his fatherly duties through fear that his children will turn out barking mad. Yvonne Mitchell injected a nice, rather laid-back kind of creepiness into her role as Hilda, the diligent aunt employed to keep an eye on Elizabeth. Shane Briant was also quite good as Emil, the young man whose affection for his sister get way out of hand, and I loved Michael Horden's portrayal of the single-minded and enthusiastic priest, although I have seem him play similar parts in a couple of other films.
Despite my utter bafflement and concerted yet in vain efforts to try and understand the storyline, I did quite enjoy Demons Of The Mind. The score is quite pleasant too, consisting of orchestrated music which perhaps is a little too in your face, but is something I'd enjoy listening to without the film; in fact, I found my attention drifting away from the film and onto the music.
There is no doubt about it that Demons Of The Mind is, by Hammer standards, a polished and professional production, with a star-studded cast, the members of which acted their parts very well, especially some of the facial expressions each of them accurately conveyed at all the appropriate moments. However, it isn't a film that I'd particularly want to see again, as I feel Hammer has churned out far more exciting movies...maybe of inferior quality, but more lucid and entertaining.
Demons Of The Mind was made at a time when the world of cinema was taking some bolder steps than it had ever done, mainly in the area of showing a bit more flesh than had previously been considered acceptable, and edging into the world of depicting blood and guts more outrageously - but, both of those things come across in this film as extraordinarily tame compared to what followed afterwards and what we have become used to and maybe inured to.
Demons Of The Mind is quite entertaining, because even if (like me) you can't for the life of you work out what on earth is going on, there is something about the whole production that draws the viewer in and provides 85 or so minutes of escapism - albeit of a somewhat muddled nature. Of course it could be a lot better and the way the storyline is presented needs a hefty sort out, which is what persuades me to allocate the star rating that I have done.
At the time of writing, Demons Of The Mind can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-
New: from £4.32 to £37.08
Used: from £2.79 to £5.25
A delivery charge of £1.26 should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
From the very first scene where we see a black coach going at breakneck speed through a mist filled forest pulled by four black horses being frantically whipped by a black clad henchman we can suppose that this is going to be a typical Hammer offering, but we'd be wrong. 'Demons of the Mind' was a late offering in the long and productive history of Hammer studios being made in 1972 a few years before Hammer finally folded. This film is different in many ways to the more well-known Hammer films made at the height of the studio's success in the late 50's and 60's, the horror attempts to be more psychological than physical and the menace of the story is really more implied than realised. However all could have been different if the original script ideas had been adhered to.
"MADNESS EATING US ALL LIKE CARRION BIRDS THAT KILL!"
There isn't much of a story really, madness stalks the Zorn dynasty. The Baron's late wife died under tragic circumstances afflicted with insanity she committed bloody suicide in front of her young children. The Baron himself a little unbalanced to say the least worries that his two children Elizabeth and Emil have inherited the family curse and tries to cure them by calling in the skills of unorthodox psychologist and mesmerist Falkenberg. Aided by his sister in Law aunt Hilda the Baron keeps the Emil and Elisabeth drugged to control their urges. When Elizabeth briefly escapes she meets a medical student living in the woods and falls in love complicating the situation. At the same time young peasant girls in the nearby villages are being brutally murdered in the woods and a deranged priest stalks the land on the lookout for evil. Soon things degenerates into a lot of running around in the forest with no apparent purpose, a pity since the first half of the film set the story up quite well. A great number of portentous dialogue is delivered mainly by the baron it has to be said.
And towards the end the peasants predictably revolt and a lynching party is soon formed complete with torches and burning crosses. All this leads to a predictable end with plenty of gore flying around, amputations, shootings, burnings and impalings.
Originally in the first drafts of the story the madness that haunts the members of the Zorn family had a basis in lycanthropy the cause of werewolves in popular myth. However against the odds Hammer would only consider finding the project if this aspect of the story was dropped and the pseudo Freudian themes where introduced. There is not much in the way of graphic violence on evidence until the last few scenes although we do see a few nasty medical procedures and plenty of murders and there are suggestions of incest in the story. These adult themes mostly explain the UK 18 certificate.
"YOUR DREAMS OF BLOOD... HAVE BROUGHT ABOUT THIS HORRIBLE REALITY,"
The cast that was finally selected was very good including well respected character actors such as Robert Hardy in the lead role of Baron Zorn and hammer regular Patrick McGee as Falkenberg sporting a wonderful mock middle European accent. Thespian Michael Horden (later Sir Michael!) also hams it up as the fanatical priest, lots of waving of arms to the heavens and raving about evil and the like. However these actors were by no means first choice, the original lead role was offered to both Paul Schofield and James mason who both turned it down, the role of Elizabeth the Baron's disturbed young daughter was originally intended for 60's Pop icon Marianne Faithful that would have been an interesting film to watch! The role eventually went to Gillian Hills who'd had small parts in 'Blow-Up' and 'A Clockwork Orange'. A pop connection was however maintained by casting Paul Jones ex lead singer of Manfred Mann and later front-man of the Blues Band as the lead romantic role of the young medical student who falls in love with Elizabeth.
Director Peter Sykes who also was responsible for the far better Hammer classic 'To The Devil A Daughter' (1976) sets a rather slow pace for the film. The look of the film and the themes have more in common with the classic 1960's Roger Corman adaptations of Edgar Allen Poe rather than anything Hammer produced in the past, you'd only have to replace Robert Hardy with Vincent Price to make it a perfect fit.
"A DEMON OF THE FOREST... LIKE MY ANCESTORS BEFORE ME..."
What makes this recognisably a Hammer production is the vibrant use of colour blood is still as deep red as it ever was! Surprisingly for a Hammer film of this period it is filmed mostly on location in Sussex at Wykehurst Park rather than in the studio I'm not sure that Sussex fully convinces as the Bavarian forests that the script demands. The costumes and general design also leave a little to be desired and the film suffers from an odd fault that seems to be common to most period films made in the 70's the hair of the actors always looks wrong, despite supposedly being set in the 19th century they all have recognisably carefully Buffon 70's hairstyles!
The original title of the film was supposed to be 'Blood Will Have Blood' a quote from Macbeth but was changed in post production, and this belied the underlying problem with this film, an uncertainty of purpose which shows through in the final product. You feel that Hammer wanted to make a rather more cerebral horror than their normal offerings, the choice of cast and the more highbrow subject matter tend toward a more art house horror that really wasn't that well known as a genre at the time. Yet old habits die hard and the studio already past it heyday was probably also looking at having box office appeal so along with the lofty themes we also get a fair bit of the tits and bums that was characteristic of the more lurid horror films of this period. The film essentially fails because it falls in between the two genres; too hammy and camp for real art house and yet too clever for Hammer brand that people were used to.
Overall not one of Hammer's best moments but it has to be given some credit for trying to elevate the genre a little even though it didn't in the end have the courage of its convictions.
Technical Details & Bonus Material
Screen Widescreen 16:9 Anamorphic
Languages English - Dolby Digital (1.0) Mono
Duration 1 hour and 24 minutes (approx)
Region 2 - Will only play on European Region 2 or multi-region DVD players.
Included on the DVD there little in the way of bonus material, you get the scene selection option and a commentary featuring the director Peter Sykes, the writer Christopher Wicking and Virginia Wethrell generously called the 'co-star' but who actually plays the role of Inge one of the ill-fated village girls. The commentary is interesting in parts, little anecdotes and interesting details come out but all fairly standard stuff.
Robert Hardy ... Zorn
Shane Briant ... Emil
Gillian Hills ... Elizabeth
Yvonne Mitchell ... Hilda
Paul Jones ... Carl Richter
Patrick Magee ... Falkenberg
Kenneth J. Warren ... Klaus
Michael Hordern ... Priest
Robert Brown ... Fischinger
Virginia Wetherell ... Inge
'Demons of the Mind' can be bought form Amazon UK for £3.99 (including p&p) at the time this review was written.
Recommended (for real Hammer fans only)
A review of the Hammer Collection DVD.
Made in 1972, this is probably the last good (or at least interesting) film that Hammer made. It's one of their very few good films that isn't based explicitly on one of the classic old monsters. It's a very atypical Hammer horror.
The rather complicated story involves Baron Zorn (Robert Hardy) and his two children Emil and Elizabeth (Shane Briant and Gillian Hills); all three are insane. Elizabeth has fallen in love with a medical student (Paul Jones), and the Baron has hired a mountebank mesmerist (Patrick Magee!) to try and cure his family. Meanwhile, local girls are being murdered, and a deranged priest (Michael Hordern!!) is wandering around warning about a demon...
This is a more impressive cast than Hammer normally managed. It's unusual for there to be this many important characters in one of their films. The younger cast members are much better than Hammer's usual pretty clothes horses (although Paul Jones, the singer of Manfred Mann, could perhaps have been better). Shane Briant, an intense screen presence, is especially good as Emil. The older cast members are allowed to act it up a storm. Robert Hardy thankfully doesn't go to the annoying, mannered lengths he does in his later work. Michael Hordern is amazing, doing his usual twitchy, muttering thing, which works very well in the context. Best of all, as ever, is Patrick Magee, a jowly Northern Irish actor with the most astonishing vocal inflections and an incredible raspy voice.
Although the storyline is rooted in the usual killing-peasants-in-the-woods antics, it's a great deal more intelligent than most Hammers. The plot takes in various discredited medical theories, from bloodletting to mesmerism - both of which are recreated in loving detail here. There's also a very peculiar but effective scene in which the village children enact a bizarre, near-pagan ritual, a very odd detail that you just wouldn't normally find in a Hammer film. Although the direction, by Peter Sykes, doesn't show any massive flair, and there's plenty of wretched day for night photography, there is a lot here that's mould-breaking.
It's all shot on location, which is extraordinary for Hammer - so no wobbly sets and polystyrene tombstones. The violence is also explicit in a very non-Hammer way - someone being stabbed in the throat with a bunch of keys isn't what you normally see in the studio's films. There's also a lot more nudity than Hammer usually gave us. In its intense family relationships and general sense of impending gloom, this feels more like one of Roger Corman's Poe adaptation than a Hammer horror. And it still has the very rich colours that typify Hammer.
It's not perfect, though. The music is disappointing, generally bland but with the odd stab of urgency. There are some bad distorted lens effects at the beginning - I think they're meant to evoke the madness of one of the characters, but they don't really do any such thing. And it's a bit too slow, even at a mere 85 minutes - Hammer's films always feel about 15 minutes longer than they should be.
But still, it's great that they made a film like this, even if it came too late to save them. It's obviously influenced more by the likes of Witchfinder General or Blood on Satan's Claw than any of Hammer's own films (although it lacks the social commentary of either of those films).
The DVD has a trailer, which isn't very exciting. There is also a commentary by the director, the writer and one of the actresses (Virginia Wetherell, whose part isn't that big. She does disrobe a lot, though). It's OK, a fairly typical Hammer commentary really - I'd guess everyone knows each other well from the horror convention circuit, so there are no scurrilous anecdotes.
This can be had for £6 on amazon, but HMV are *still* selling the whole 21-disk Hammer Collection boxset for a mere £40 (its RRP is £150).