Devils of Darkness, 1965. 6/10

Vampires under a cemetery; gypsies under the forest canopy–sounds like a good horror mash-up premise. A bat floops out of a broken grave, darkening tbe festivities at the gypsy camp. They bury a girl as the bat looks on. So, it’s Count Sinistre/Armond Moliere (Hubert Noel) brooding over the corpse of Tania (Carole Gray).

Back at a French country chateaux, Paul (William Sylvester) is hanging out with Madeleine (Diane Decker), while Keith and Dave (Geoffrey Kenyan and Rod McLennan) are fixing to explore local caves. That evening, there’s a religious procession to the graveyard. Paul goes with Madeliene to check it out. Meanwhile, there’s someone/thing nabbing Keith from behind; sure enough, he soon turns up dead.

Then Armond/Sinistre tries to comfort Anne (Rona Anderson) that Keith’s death had nothing to do with “gypsy legend” stuff. But then, he attacks her. The police talk to Paul about Keith, and Paul discovers that Anne’s dead too. Armond presides over a “pledge of allegiance to our devil master” ceremony, with Anne and another woman chilling in coffins, until, that is, Anne is taken out and apparently burned. Basically Sinistre puts a price on Paul’s head for his snooping around.

Back in England, Paul confers with a scientist friend, Dr. Kelsey (Eddie Byrnes) about witchcraft. The corpses have vanished–aren’t they still in France? (not exactly). Anyway, all the lab animals are going nuts, freaking out Paul. Time out for a swingin’ party.

Paul looks too old to be there, but Madeline introduces him to Karen (Tracy Reed). When he gets home, his place has been ransacked. The police show. Little bats keep popping up, kind of voodoo doll–like. Paul continues to research the supernatural; Karen is modeling for Sinistre, Tania is displeased “you didn’t tell her you had a wife!”

Paul wants to talk to Karen. A book (The Power of Magic) goes missing from the library; guess who has it? Sinistre and Tania, along with assorted coffins, and other devilish paraphernalia. Not surprisingly, the book is about Sinistre’s life–his 16th century life, that is. Karen seems to be under Sinistre’s spell. Meanwhile, a cult-like Little Red Riding Hood group tote some coffins around. Tania takes to burning Sinistre’s book. She wants Sinistre to get rid of Karen. But, no, Karen’s in the penthouse.

Paul discusses Sinistre/Armond with the Inspector. Kelsey’s been killed. Hmm, at Paul’s, Tania, as a vampire, is intent on slashing Karen’s portrait (which bleeds). The Inspector wants to look into our 16th century Frenchman. They go to the antique shop where Madeleine lives–that is, the loft where the vampires have been hanging out. Karen collapses, because of the daylight? A crucifix amulet burns her. Madeleine tells the others that they’ll sacrifice her that night.

Party No. 2. Another murder. Madeleine and Tania compete to doll up Karen. Underground, in the catacombs, the Red Riding Hood procession goes forth; “prepare the circle” says Master Sinistre. Human sacrifice in the offing. If they get through the mumbo-jumbo quick enough, they might get the thing done. But the police have enough time to show up and intervene. Actually, the burn mark of the crucifix helps too.

For some unknown reason, the catacombs start falling apart and burning up. Last scene: Sinistre is dumb enough to waltz through a graveyard just as the sun shines directly behind a huge cross. He’s disintegrated, Karen’s saved by Paul.

This was fairly entertaining. There’s some nice horror touches, especially at the beginning and the end. The middle part is somewhat reminiscent of 1957’s Curse of the Demon, with its emphasis on occult manuscripts and the odd goings on associated with them.

I didn’t see the point of the two settings; the gypsy scenes are pretty cool, and the caves in the French setting, but all that is left behind when things relocate to England. It makes sense for the English characters, but why does Sinistre and his retinue follow? Both settings are workable–but it feels like two different movies. The mod party scenes are pretty cool from a nostalgic angle, but they just underscore the disconnect between the more traditional French and more avante garde English phases.

Karen becomes a major character, but she doesn’t even appear until the first party scene. A consequence of this dual plot is the relatively long run time. The middle part isn’t focused well; who cares about Sinistre’s biography when we could be have more scenes of him with Tania and Karen? Anyway, this is worth a look, but I wouldn’t stay up too late to watch it.

Farmermouse thought the gypsy wagons were cool, so he gives The Devils of Darkness six crucifixes. 6/10.

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