Newest Review: ... 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... more
EVIL IN THE BLOOD!
Demons Of The Mind (DVD)
Member Name: Mauri
Demons Of The Mind (DVD)
Advantages: Good cast, unusual story
Disadvantages: A little too hammy and lack of horror
"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)
Summary: Early 70's attempt by Hammer films to make an intelligent psychological horror