Blood on Satan’s Claw (1970)

(a.k.a. SATAN’S SKIN)
Article #1511 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-4-2005
Posting Date: 10-1-2005
Directed by Piers Haggard
Featuring Patrick Wymark, Linda Hayden, Barry Andrews

When a farmer digs up the body of a demon in 17th Century England, it leads to a cult of witchcraft among the youngsters of the village.

When I saw this movie years ago on my local Creature Feature, I was left with three impressions. I remembered vividly a scene where something horrible was found in a field. That scene is certainly here, and it opens the movie. I also remember being creeped out by the movie, and it certainly does that. Many factors come into play to create this feeling. For one thing, the movie has a strong sense of period, with excellent costumes and effective use of archaic speech patterns. It also makes exemplary use of music, and builds on a sense of dread and uneasiness and the use of disturbing images and events. In fact, the movie is a near classic in the way it gets under your skin.

My third feeling was one of confusion; I couldn’t understand the story very well back then. It’s easy to see why; the movie was no doubt heavily cut for commercial television. However, the sense of confusion has been replaced by a sense of disappointment, and despite its many strengths, the movie falls flat. Its problem is a simple one; there’s a point where the deliberate and moody buildup needs to be set aside so that the movie can kick into high gear for a big finish, and it fails to do so; the ending falls flat badly. It’s a shame, as a strong ending would have made this one a classic rather than a misfire. Still, it is an interesting misfire, and it’s worth catching for the first two-thirds of the movie.


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