Ritual of Evil – USA, 1970

Ritual of Evil is a 1970 American made-for-television horror feature film directed by Robert Day (The Initiation of SarahFear No EvilGrip of the Strangler) from a screenplay by Robert Presnell Jr., based on characters created by Richard Alan Simmons. Produced by David Levinson, the Universal movie stars Louis Jourdan, Anne Baxter, Diana Hyland andWilfrid Hyde-White.


Psychiatrist Dr. David Sorrell (Louis Jourdan) treats young heiress Loey Wiley (Belinda Montgomery), whose parents have died under mysterious circumstances. His investigation uncovers a cult, led by a powerful witch, Leila Barton (Diana Hyland). Things grow complicated as Sorrell and the witch begin to fall in love…


While lacking the feverish Dutch-angled scenes, creepy cinematography, and phantasmal script of director Paul Wendkos’ Fear No Evil, as well as the substantially sinister performance of Carroll O’Connor as Myles Donovan, director Robert Day’s Ritual of Evil still packs a punch, benefitting from composer Billy Goldenberg’s unearthly ethereal score and Anne Baxter’s eccentric channeling of Phyllis Diller in her portrayal of a stewed Jolene Wiley, mother to Loey Wiley (Belinda Montgomery) and Aline Wiley (Carla Borelli).

Its plot of occult detective battling a woozy jumble of sinister forces at the root of multiple deaths is typical of American TV horror film production of the time, and appropriately so, considering the silly ballyhoo of marketing mountebanks like Anton LaVey, Carlos Castaneda, and Timothy Leary; with them, witchcraft mingles with satanism which, in turn, becomes indistinguishable from ESP, reincarnation, ghostly communications, and paganism.

The main thrust, if you will, of Ritual of Evil is that a coven of satanic witches is performing sacrifices to Priapus, an ancient Greek fertility god who would normally be depicted with an enormously erect phallus, but in this case, is limited to representation by a vaguely sensual and smolderingly malevolent Satyr-like statue which could easily be passed off as one half of a set of macabre bookends. The sterilisation, of course, was due to the Federal Communications Commission’s regulation and definition of unacceptable content at the time, which has fluctuated along with common opinion since its inception.


Other reviews:

“The music (again by Billy Goldenberg) is highly reminiscent of the themes used in Fear No Evil, heavily borrowing the sonic tone and mood of the first film. Sadly, editor Byron Chudnow did not return for the sequel, as it could have used his master touch. The film commits the gravest sin (no pun intended) for a horror film, feature or TV-wise: it’s just plain not scary.” Conjure Cinema

“The story touches on a few themes pertinent to the time period but in ham-fisted fashion with laboured speeches. Day stages the spooky moments with a similar bludgeoning lack of subtlety. The protagonists are also far less interesting this time around: shrill, self-absorbed soap opera types straight out of an Aaron Spelling production about whiny rich people.” Andrew Pragasm, The Spinning Image

Cast and characters:

  • Louis Jourdan … David Sorell – Swamp ThingCount Dracula 1977; Daughter of the Mind
  • Anne Baxter … Jolene Wiley
  • Diana Hyland … Leila Barton
  • John McMartin … Edward Bolander
  • Wilfrid Hyde-White … Harry Snowden – The Cat and the Canary; Fear No Evil; Chamber of Horrors
  • Belinda Montgomery … Loey Wiley – Phantom Town; Silent Madness; The Devil’s Daughter
  • Carla Borelli … Aline Wiley
  • Georg Stanford Brown … Larry Richmond
  • Regis Cordic … The Sheriff
  • Dehl Berti … Mora
  • Richard Alan Knox … Hippie
  • Johnny Williams … Newscaster
  • Jimmy Joyce … 1st Reporter
  • James LaSane … 2nd Reporter
  • Clarke Lindsley … Chris [uncredited]

First broadcast:

February 23, 1970, on NBC.

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Horror of the Blood Monsters (1970) – Trailer – Trailer Video

1DwNeqOzIUA.jpgTrailer: Horror of the Blood Monsters (1970)
In the near future with a intergalactic vampire plague threatening earth, an expedition is sent to a distant galaxy in hopes of discovering the plague’s source. Landing on a mysterious planet they discover that Spectrum radiation has turned the atmosphere into a one-color tint. Exploring further, the group […]

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Assault aka In the Devil’s Garden – UK, 1970

‘If you go down in the woods today…’

Assault – aka In the Devil’s Garden – is a 1970 British horror thriller feature film directed by Sidney Hayers (Deadly Strangers; Night of the Eagle; Circus of Horrors) from a screenplay by John Kruse (Revenge), based on the novel The Ravine by Kendal Young.

The movie stars Suzy Kendall, Frank Finlay, Freddie Jones, Tony Beckley, Lesley-Anne Down and James Laurenson.


This is a gorgeous restoration of a British ‘giallo‘. Well, if it was Italian they’d be calling it a giallo. It’s from the right period, has a faceless maniac who rapes and kills, and they wear black leather gloves while they’re doing it. There’s no J&B but hey –  you can’t have everything.

We do, however, have Frank Finlay as a police inspector investigating the rape of local schoolgirl Lesley-Anne Down. (A similar fate would befall Miss Down in the Michael J. Bird-written Out of the Unknown TV episode ‘To Lay A Ghost’ with even more disturbing consequences but fortunately for the actress this didn’t become a trend). The attack has left her mute and an inmate of the local hospital where she’s being looked after by psychiatrist James Laurenson.

When a second girl is found carnally assaulted and murdered the police find they may have an eyewitness in the form of school art teacher Suzy Kendall (yet again saddled with one of the worst wardrobes in 1970s horror film history, and that’s saying something), who concocts an elaborate plan to catch the killer by getting the local newspaper editor (a wonderfully sleazy Freddie Jones) to print a story suggesting her painting of the killer will be revealed in four days’ time. But despite keeping watch will the police be able to stop Suzy being the next victim?

Assault might be considered part of a sub-sub-genre of early 1970s British horror cinema which also includes Robert Fuest’s And Soon the Darkness (1970) and the Assault team’s own Revenge (1971). Assault isn’t quite as grim, gloomy and hysterical as Revenge but you can tell that writer John Kruse, director Sidney Hayers and Carry On producer Peter Rogers are working up to it with their very British attempt at the kind of lurid crime thriller the Italians made their own for the next couple of years. Composer Eric Rogers, also best known for the Carry Ons, provides a music score that’s especially over the top and comes across a bit like Carry on Slashing.

The cast is an interesting mix of familiar British faces, among them James Cosmo in an early role, deliciously sleazy / slightly mad Tony Beckley as the husband of headmistress Dilys Hamlett, Anthony Ainley from The Blood on Satan’s Claw as the head of the hospital, the ubiquitous Marianne Stone as a hospital matron, and a very young David Essex as a biker in need of some cotton wool.

Network’s restoration (in association with the BFI) looks fantastic – there’s no way this film could have looked this good when it played in cinemas. Extras are limited to a trailer and still gallery but this is such a beautifully presented piece of lurid early 1970s British exploitation cinema that it’s worth the price anyway.

John Llewellyn Probert, guest reviewer via House of Mortal Cinema

Buy Network Blu-ray: Amazon.co.uk

Other reviews:

“Ken Hodges’ camerawork is as consistently well-framed and atmospherically-lit as his work on the more claustrophobic Revenge, but Eric Rogers’ score – reportedly recycled from one of his Carry On entries – is more bombastic here. Fans of Kendall’s giallo work may want to track this one down since she has more to do here than play “final girl”, although the subplot romance between her character and Laurenson’s seems merely obligatory.” Eric Cotenas, DVD Drive-In

” …dull in a dry, very stuffy British sorta way which might have had a lot to do with my lack of interest in the film. What I loved was pretty much anything shot in the forest which was well-shot, great atmosphere and creepy – particularly the numerous woodland chase scene with plenty of creepy POV shots.” Ken Kastenhuber, McBastard’s Mausoleum

Buy Network DVD: Amazon.co.uk

” …Assault is unique in that it a completely British giallo, illustrating plot devices made famous by the genre. Sadly, unlike the Italian entries, the cinematography here is staid and unimaginative, and the execution linear and logical.” Stephen Jilks, Red Weed

“The British locations are used effectively here, the opening scene in the woods having an appropriately dire and desolate look to it. We know as Tessa heads out that she’s in for trouble based solely on what the camera shows us about her surroundings – she’s there alone and this is not a nice place for a girl like her to be. The camerawork is nowhere near as flashy or stylish as a typical giallo would be but it gets the job done and ultimately this is one worth seeking out.” Ian Jane, Rock! Shock! Pop!


Cast and credits:

  • Suzy Kendall … Julie West
  • Frank Finlay … Detective Chief Supt. Velyan
  • Freddie Jones … Reporter
  • James Laurenson … Greg Lomax
  • Lesley-Anne Down … Tessa Hurst
  • Tony Beckley … Leslie Sanford
  • Anthony Ainley … Mr. Bartell
  • Dilys Hamlett … Mrs. Sanford
  • James Cosmo … Detective Sgt. Beale
  • Patrick Jordan … Sgt. Milton
  • Allan Cuthbertson … Coroner
  • Anabel Littledale … Susan Miller
  • Tom Chatto … Police Doctor
  • Kit Taylor … Doctor
  • Jan Butlin … Day Receptionist
  • William Hoyland … Chemist in Hospital
  • John Swindells … Desk Sergeant
  • Jill Carey … Night Receptionist
  • David Essex … Man in Chemist Shop
  • Valerie Shute … Girl in Chemist Shop
  • John Stone … Fire Chief
  • Siobhan Quinlan … Jenny Greenaway
  • Marianne Stone … Matron
  • Janet Lynn … Girl in Library

Filming locations:

Black Park, Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, England
Heatherden Hall, Pinewood Studios, Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, England
London Road and Windsor End, Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, England

Production and release:

Principal photography commenced on 6 June 1970. Having been awarded an ‘X’ certificate by censorship body the BBFC on 14 October 1970, Assault was released by the Rank Organisation on 11 February 1971 .

Alternate titles:

The Creepers
Dead Thriller
In the Devil’s Garden
Satan’s Playthings
Terrore al London College
Tower of Terror

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