The Blood on Satan’s Claw (Piers Haggard, 1971)


Blood on Satan's Claw
A very interesting oddity, indeed, this one.

Set in a 17th Century village, it opens with farm labourer Ralph Gower (Barry Andrews) discovering a strange skeleton whilst ploughing. Fearing it to be demonic, he reports his discovery to his squire who, reluctantly, goes to the site only to find no bones present. Dismissing Ralph’s concerns as those of a primitive ignoramus, the squire takes no further notice. Soon after, the squire’s nephew Peter (Simon Williams) visits with his intended bride. Tragedy follows and it soon transpires that a coven is growing in power, led by the young Angel Blake (Linda Hayden), and the local priest is powerless to prevent it.

The worsening situation comes to the attention of a judge (Patrick Wymark) who starts to make plans to intervene but, in the village, things are getting desperate.

This was a British Film made during the period of decline of British horror movies, though this is made by Tigon rather than Hammer studios. There are plenty of dodgy dialogue, plotting and acting moments to indicate this might not have been the most expensively mounted film of the period. There is the (admittedly appropriate to the subject) nubile nudity you’d expect from a horror of this time. Some of the special effects are risible, and some of the hairstyles too. And yet…

There is a serious attempt to remain true to the period that is really admirable. I’m sure that historians, or enthusiasts of the period, could tear it apart but, to me, this looked surprisingly consistent in its representation of a particular time and place in English history. And there is both a seriousness in the consequences of the horror to the villagers and a consistancy in the beliefs of the people of that time and the way the horror unfolds that helps drive that suspension of disbelief. I was frequently a little scared, and never bored.