JULY 20, 2010
I hate when you rent a British horror film from the 60s assuming it's a Hammer film, only to find out Hammer had no involvement. We need a sniglet for that, I think. Devils Of Darkness is one such example - it's just a simulation of a Hammer film: very colorful, overly makeup'd women, and it has vampires. But it lacks that spark that makes so many Hammer films so wonderful, and thus it's mostly just a forgettable dud.
The main problem is that it's too goddamn talky. Throughout the film, things happen very quickly, and without buildup, and then we get 5 minutes of guys standing around talking about it and adding "Myeh" into every 3rd line for good measure. For example, our hero's buddy, a doctor, is seen going about his business, when suddenly a gust of wind starts making shit fly around his lab. He screams, and then we cut away. Later, the hero and the detective go on and on about how he was crushed by a cage and seemingly bitten by a poisonous snake (actually a vampire). Well, why not show us THAT? Who gives a shit about some papers flying around and a monkey shrieking? Plus, such "death scenes" have no buildup whatsoever to them, so the film isn't particularly suspenseful either.
In fact, the most action in the film occurs in the headlines of the newspaper:
Just look at those other headlines! Lost jungles, robberies, bomb scares... hardly anything about the government or whatever faded pop star is currently in jail (though one apparently burned her house down). All of which are more exciting than anything we actually SEE in the film (including the movie-relevant headlines, which are more suggested). I mean, I know that the film is 45 years old and thus they didn't have big effects and such back then, but they can at least show us some of this stuff instead of just yammering on about it in every scene.
I also don't like when there's a twist in a movie that never really registers with the person who would be most affected by it. Late in the film we find out that the hero's lady friend is one of the cult members, but they never give the two of them a moment where he knows about her betrayal. Instead he just sees her dead during the climax; for all he knows she might have just been kidnapped or something.
Speaking of the climax, it also doesn't deliver anything that can make up for all the jibber jabber. The hero (William Sylvester, by the way. MST3k fans will be delighted, even if he should be out trying to find the elusive Robert Denby) punches some random cult dude, but does nothing else. Nature takes care of everyone else - a bunch of rocks fall down and crush the female villain, and our main villain (a vampire) just wanders outside into the sunlight for some goddamn reason. I think Tom Hanks in DaVinci Code might be the only other "hero" I can think of who did so little in a film.
There are a couple of cool moments here and there, though. I particularly liked when the female villain slashed a painting, which started to bleed. There's also some voodoo stuff tossed into the mix - the movie may be dull, but at least they were trying to spice it up with as many random elements as possible; they could have introduced time travel or maybe Godzilla into the story and it wouldn't really seem strange. And as always, I was delighted by the dated approach to people's smoking habits - there's a number of party scenes in the movie, and they all have a thick cloud of smoke floating right above the characters' heads. I sometimes get bummed out when I see how many old horror movie stars died at relatively early ages, but Christ, it's pretty obvious WHY.
But really, the vampire/cult/swinging London thing was done far more successfully in Dracula AD 1972. If you have a fix for a film that combines a bunch of swingers, an attempt to raise the Devil, and vampires, I would stick with that one.
The only extra on the disc was the trailer, and it was in black & white. Was this common back in the day? For a second I thought the movie was actually colorized later on, but according to the IMDb it was shot in color. Why drain it for a trailer?
What say you?