Peter Sykes (director)
30 October 2017 (released)
02 November 2017
This Brit-horror is a most unusual entry from the early 70's Hammer canon, then firmly in their Elstree days. DEMONS OF THE MIND (1972) is undoubtedly the most eccentric film produced by Hammer Films – the studio that won The Queen's Award for Industry. However, if the majority of their films had been on the level of this curiosity they probably would never have got off the ground!
Although the opening shot of a horse-drawn carriage thundering through a 'European' forest looks very much like the old favorite location of Black Park in Berkshire, most of the film appears to be shot around (and possibly inside) the Baronial splendors that are Wykehurst Place (used only the year before for ‘Legend of Hell House’). Independent producer Frank Godwin, best known for the 1957 ‘Woman in a Dressing Gown’ (which would explain actress Yvonne Mitchell's presence) somehow persuaded Hammer to take on this project which he also co-scripted with Christopher Wicking (known for his confusing screenplays).
The Zorn Family, headed by patriarch Count Zorn (Robert Hardy having a field day!) are all quite mad you see; that is to say the Count himself and his two children Elizabeth (Gillian ‘Beat Girl’ Hills) and her brother Emil, played by then current Hammer fave Shane Briant who, with his bright-orange ruffle shirt, would have looked better fronting a glam-rock band.
At the beginning of the film, Elizabeth has been taken from a sanatorium by Trustee carer Hilda (Yvonne Mitchell) and is returning to the family home where she is to receive private treatment from Dr. Falkenberg (nutty Patrick Magee - no less), as well as being cupped and bled by Hilda. At least back home she will be united with her incarcerated brother Emil with whom she seems to have an incestuous relationship… it runs in the family. The Baron himself is also receiving treatment. Falkenberg is something of a Mesmer-like figure.
Meanwhile brutal murders are being committed and always in the same spot: a red rose patch in the nearby forest. The victims are young girls from the local village and it shouldn't take a Hercule Poirot to work out who the culprit is. Do you really think that the good Dr. Falkenberg (who seems barmier then the rest) will succeed in curing the Zorn Family? If this hasn't whetted your appetite we have ex-Manfred Mann singer Paul Jones on hand as the anodyne hero Carl Richter, burly baldy Kenneth J. Warren as Zorn's henchman Klaus, while poor Virginia Wetherell (as Inge) has the unenviable role of supplying the gratuitous nudity. Shakespearian thesp Michael Hordern has fun playing nutty priest (another nutty character – how many are there in this film?) uttering “I have been led here, I have work to do… but what?” Would one be giving the plot away to say that the ‘culprit’ is the inherent evil that is the Zorn family? Debatably the film’s original title BLOOD WILL HAVE BLOOD may have been more suitable. The film still has a lot going for it and Peter Sykes' direction makes a pleasant change from usual Hammer director Terence Fisher's tightly grafted work. Here, regular cameraman Arthur Grant outdoes himself while Harry Robinson supplies a good and highly effective score as well.
This restored Double-Play Edition looks very good indeed and offers the new featurette ‘Inside Demons of the Mind’ as one of the Special Features.