The Blood on Satan’s Claw is one of a trinity of “folk horror” movies, the two others being The (original) Wicker Man and Witchfinder General. I found the expression “folk horror” in a great documentary on Prime called Woodlands Dark & Days Bewitched. If you like folk horror, it’s really worth checking out.

It mentioned The Blood on Satan’s Claw and I swore I had seen it, but I couldn’t remember it. This meant I just had to watch it again. I’m still sure I have seen it, but the story was not as I remembered. This made it a great watch. It was made in 1971, and the story is:

In early 18th century England, the children of a village slowly convert into a coven of devil worshipers.

It stars Patrick Wymark, Linda Hayden, Barry Andrews, Michele Dotrice, Wendy Padbury, Anothy Ainley, Simon Willams, James Hayter, and a couple of people I recognise from English soap operas. Peter Haggard wrote and directed with a co-writing credit going to Robert Wynne-Simmons.


The Story

In the 18th century, in a small rural village, a local farmer unearths a ‘fiend’. It looks almost human, but it clearly isn’t. He asks the local magistrate to have a look at it. When they get back to the field, it’s gone. Dun-dun-dunn! The magistrate poo-poos the whole idea and everything goes back to normal.

The magistrate’s nephew brings over his new fiancé to meet the family, but they are dismayed that she is a lowly farmer’s daughter. She stays in the attic at night and is attacked by something. In the morning, the magistrate has her committed and, as she’s leaving, the nephew sees she has a claw for a hand.

Some local children find a claw in a local field and start to, you know, play with it. They didn’t have Gameboys back then or whatever it is kids play with these days.

Strange things start to happen in the village and it all seems to be the fault of the children. One of them in particular, Angel Blake. Angel, who found the claw, starts to take control of some of the other kids and adults while trying to bring back something called Behemoth into human form.

I won’t spoil the rest of it, but it’s a darn good, intriguing story.


Better Over Time

The original reception for The Blood on Satan’s Claw was not good. According to the director:

“It never made much money. It wasn’t a hit. From the very beginning it had minority appeal. A few people absolutely loved it but the audiences didn’t turn out for it.”

Over the years it gained a huge cult following and, as I said, it is now considered part of the trinity of folk horror movies.

As a horror, it was pretty heavy for the time. There is a rape scene that includes murder, there is torture and a scene where the ‘devil’s skin’ is removed from a young lady. I have to say, apart from some dodgy makeup, this scene was really well done.

There is an interesting commentary about beliefs and science. The magistrate is from London, not the local village. He is consulting the doctor about what might be going on and doctor talks about devil worship. Again, the magistrate doesn’t believe in such things, but the doctor says:

How do we know, sir, what is dead? You come from the city. You cannot know the ways of the country.

This really struck a chord with me about superstition and science. It got me thinking about some rural villages, back in the 18th Century, looking at things and believing they were magic. Someone from the cities really would potentially believe more in science, and that everything has an explanation.

The young actress playing Angel, Linda Hayden, is stupidly hot. She was only 18 when she starred in the movie and was lucky enough to keep her youthful looks. So much so, that I had to check on the IMDb how old she was just in case the FBI were watching my computer.

There’s a scene where she tries to seduce the local Reverend and my god, that man must have had the willpower of Superman!

I would punch a puppy in the face just to smell her farts!
I would punch a puppy in the face just to smell her farts!


After this, she goes to the magistrate and says that he tried to rape her. Nice to see nothing has changed since the 18th Century.

The Blood on Satan’s Claw is a classic British horror. It’s creepy, a good story, overall the acting is very good and there are boobs in it. What more could anyone want? It was one of the movies that started the whole folk horror genre, which is still being made today.

I greatly enjoyed this movie, it had a great atmosphere, it was well made and took me back to a time when movies were just about movies. Nice and simple, without any politics getting involved. I will have to watch The Wicker Man and Witchfinder General again now.


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