DEVILS OF DARKNESS. Planet Films/20th Century Fox, 1964. William Sylvester, Hubert Noël, Carole Gray, Tracy Reed, Diana Decker, Eddie Byrne, Victor Brooks. Director: Lance Comfort.

   As a direct competitor to the horror films being made in England by Hammer Films and others at and around the same time, the early to mid-1960s, this mishmosh combination of devil worship, vampirism, witchcraft and necromancy — whatever’s convenient for the plot line at the time — simply has no legs to stand on.

   Webster: mishmosh: a confused jumble, a hodgepodge.


   American actor William Sylvester plays Paul Baxter, a stalwart British, almost professorial type whose vacation in Brittany is interrupted by three strange deaths of three fellow Englishmen (two male, one female) in conjunction with an isolated village’s unusual rites in a local cemetery.

   His suspicions aroused, when he returns England planning to investigate further, but when the three coffins making the journey back with him mysteriously disappear, it makes his task all the harder.


   Unknown to him, by the way, is the talisman that he found and now has in his possession. Belonging to Count Sinistre (Hubert Noel), the leader of the cult of devil-worshipers, the latter wants it back in the worst way.

   And in vampire films, we know what that means.

   From what I’ve learned about this film, it may be the first British vampire film to take place in modern times. And if this means including a scene of with many assorted mod people doing the Twist or Watusi in a garishly decorated apartment filled with smoke of many sorts, then so be it.


   It makes them easy converts to cult activities of a more sinister sort, one supposes, including the wearing of red hooded robes and uttering various chants of servitude, standing in a circle in some grand manor’s basement.

   Carole Gray and Tracy Reed play rivals for the Count’s hand, the former in a fine gypsy rage, the latter (a redheaded cousin of Oliver Reed) largely in a trance, although strictly as demanded by the script mind you. (She was high in the running to replace Diana Rigg in The Avengers. I’d have rather she had.)


   It’s a talky affair, unfortunately, and surprisingly enough, even the inspector from Scotland Yard (Victor Brooks), seems all too willing to accept the supernatural at work, once he’s gained Baxter’s confidence and the latter reveals what he knows.

   A couple of scary moments are to be found in this not very scary movie, no more. A rating of PG could easily be appropriate.

   In summing up: pretty cheesy stuff, indeed, one designed perhaps for beginners in the genre, not long-time fanatics. The actors are fine. It’s the indecisiveness — and incoherence — of the story line that lets them down.