By Steve Vivona
Were it not for Anchor Bay there would be no classic horror films from Hammer Studios available in this country on DVD. It's that simple.
All the major studios have ignored their Hammer catalogue, but Anchor Bay has licensed a large number of titles directly from Hammer, and treated them with the appropriate respect.
I would venture to guess that even were the majors to release titles from their Hammer catalogue they would do so with no special features whatsoever (except perhaps a trailer which is standard).
Anchor Bay has sought out many of the surviving cast and crew from these productions and recorded audio commentaries that will be of great historical value in the future.
Nearly all of their Hammer titles come packaged with episodes from the excellent British documentary series, "The World of Hammer." The majors could take a lesson from Anchor Bay (and if they won't they should at least license their titles to them!)
"The Devil Rides Out" is perhaps Christopher Lee's finest film for Hammer Studios, and for once he plays the hero of the piece. Lee is the Duc de Richlieu, a brilliant man who is skilled in the ways of the occult. The Duc and his friend Rex learn that their young charge, Simon is about to be baptized into a cult of devil-worshippers.
The Cult of the Mocata is a powerful force and they have the ability to control minds and make others do their bidding. However Richlieu is not without his own conjuring abilities, and he and his friends help protect Simon from the coven. While he manages to thwart them initially the Mocata kidnap one of his friend's children setting the stage for a hair-raising climax!
Lee has such an amazing presence that it's a shame he wasn't tapped more often for roles of this sort. While as Dracula he conveyed more just in his piercing, hypnotic glances, here he's allowed to let loose the full range of his acting abilities. "The Devil Rides Out" is one of the most intelligent and suspenseful films ever crafted by Hammer.
Anchor Bay's DVD is a revelation if you're used to old prints shown on late-night television. Colors are strong and the widescreen image is razor-sharp. Happily it's also been enhanced for 16 x 9 televisions. I'm so used to seeing these films on television with washed-out prints that this is like experiencing them for the first time.
"Devil" co-stars Lee and Sarah Lawson provide an illuminating commentary that is really fascinating. Lee is a truly knowledgeable and well-read actor, and the amount of information he provides is overwhelming.
Two trailers and a "World of Hammer" episode have been included as well.