This is part of a short-lived British “movement” connoisseur Mark Gatis terms as folk horror, but whereas the most obvious other example, The Wicker Man, is entirely earthbound The Blood on Satan's Claw does look to the supernatural. At least it appears to… after all what the audience sees is only what we think the characters see…
Directed by Piers Haggard who also contributed additional material to writer Robert Wynne-Simmons’s script, the film is based in Eighteenth Century England and superbly catches the moment before autumn turns to winter in the gently rolling hills of Oxfordshire (Bix Botton and Black Park were appropriate locations).
|A Devil's eye-view|
In shock he runs off to report the incident to the local Judge Patrick Wymark who seems far less than impressed and all the more so when on returning to the site nothing is found.
|Simon and that wig|
The haunting has begun and after the local doctor (Howard Goorney) can do nothing an horrific incident occurs when Peter sleeps in the same room and hacks his hand off believing it to be the hairy, clawed hand of a devil…
Idle hands make light work and there’s more evidence soon enough as the village children turn away from their Sunday school teachings towards more twisted, adult pursuits. They are led by the increasingly un-angelic Angel Blake (Linda Hayden) who was innocently out in the fields when the skull was first found.
|Wendy, Linda and Roberta|
The children play blind man’s bluff with Mark Vespers before he is ritually slain by Angel in an abandoned church yard.
|Miss Blake; not angelic in the slightest...|
Angel accuses the cleric of assaulting her after Mark’s funeral and he is arrested by the gullible Squire Middleton (the great James Hayter – such a feature of period TV and film!). But it’s not long before more ill-doings reveal his innocence,
|This sort of thing never happened in the Tardis!|
|Yours truly angry mob...|
You can probably read it on a number of levels but brooding skies and the haunted landscapes of late autumnal Oxfordshire make for an outstanding “mood view” that captures a feeling: the seasons turn and Man is faced with his usual choices. Sometimes, the mask slips and we descend.
|Zoe... sorry, Wendy|