‘A chill-filled festival of horror!’
The Blood on Satan’s Claw is a 1970 British supernatural horror feature film directed by Piers Haggard (Quatermass TV serial ; Venom ) from a screenplay written by Robert Wynne-Simmons, with additional material by Haggard. Released in January 1971, it was promoted as Blood on Satan’s Claw and was also issued in the US as Satan’s Skin.
The movie stars Patrick Wymark, Linda Hayden, Barry Andrews, and Michele Dotrice.
In early 18th century England, Ralph Gower (Barry Andrews) uncovers a deformed skull with one eye and strange fur on it while ploughing a field. Ralph insists that local judge (Patrick Wymark) look at it, but the skull has vanished and the judge disregards Ralph’s supernatural fears.
Later, many people in the village become affected by its supernatural power, including a young woman (Tamara Ustinov) who sprouts a claw, and children who find a strange claw and then behave oddly and grow patches of fur on their bodies.
Peter Edmonton (Simon Williams) rides to a neighbouring town to find the judge and bring him back to eradicate the evil. After doing some research in a book about witchcraft, the judge returns. The judge learns that the evil children in the village will gather nearby…
On 27 May 2019, Screenbound Pictures is releasing The Blood on Satan’s Claw (using its full title) as a 4K remastered edition with new extras, limited to 4,000 copies.
Underneath Satan’s Skin: Interview with Piers Haggard (Director) and Robert Wynne-Simmons (writer)
Commentary with Piers Haggard, Robert Wynne-Simmons and Linda Hayden
Commentary with Mark Gattis, Jeremy Dyson and Reece Shersmith
Touching The Devil – The Making of Blood on Satan’s Claw
Interview with Director Piers Haggard
A 20-minute preview of the audiobook by Mark Gatiss
Interview with Marc Wilkinson (composer)
Interview with Tony Dawe (sound mixer)
Interview with Simon Williams (actor) 16-page booklet, written by Mark Morris
This seminal British folk horror film is in many ways an unofficial follow-up to the same producers’ 1968 classic Witchfinder General, which had delivered a slap in the face to cosy Hammer horror and influenced a number of similarly-themed films at the time (amongst them Mark of the Devil; Cry of the Banshee and The Bloody Judge).
Like Witchfinder, The Blood on Satan’s Claw is a rural tale of witchcraft and corruption, but whilst Michael Reeves’ earlier film had shown the brutality of witch-hunts where innocents were tortured and murdered, this film has a more overtly supernatural slant.
The plot skillfully interweaves a few different tales, all taking place in a small country village during the 17th century after the discovery of a skull – with eyeballs intact – in a local field. The Devil is soon at work, corrupting the local children (led by popular exploitation queen Linda Hayden) who eagerly take to sexcapades and even murder before the local magistrate (Patrick Wymark) finally arrives to put an end to the satanic influence.
The Blood on Satan’s Claw still looks fresh today thanks to authentic locations and a series of images which still have the power to shock. Performances are generally excellent, with Linda Hayden excelling as the seductive Angel Blake. Her full-frontal scene in the church remains one of British horror’s most unnervingly sensual moments. With some deliciously ripe dialogue (“I scarce can tell it, I was so afeared”), this is a unique movie to savour.
David Flint, MOVIES and MANIA
“… when watching Satan’s Claw, the viewer is left wondering how much more terrifying it would have been if the monster was never seen, and it was left ambiguous as to whether there were supernatural events afoot (or a-leg), or if it was just some form of mass psychosis on the part of the children, being led by a homicidal girl called Angel.” British Horror Films
“The Blood on Satan’s Claw is, amongst other things, a classic example of the filmmaking of its era now much fetishized by genre fans, with a lustrous yet gamy physicality in the cinematography and unvarnished production style that seems unreproducible with today’s so-slick ways of shooting and editing films.” Ferdy on Films
“The Blood on Satan’s Claw is not just an exploitation-in-the-English-countryside vehicle in the Hammer horror tradition, or an example of the demonic-possession sub-genre that was enjoying a fruitful run-up to The Exorcist, but also a member of the evil-youth sub-genre… ” Deep Focus
2012 Interview with Director Piers Haggard
Audio Commentary with Piers Haggard, Linda Hayden and Robert Wynne-Simmons
Audio Commentary with Mark Gatiss, Jeremy Dyson and Reece Sheersmith
Touching the Devil – The Making Of Blood on Satan’s Claw
Linda Hayden: An Angel for Satan
Ralph Gower: “But it weren’t human sir, there were fur!”
The Judge: “Witchcraft is dead! And discredited! Are you bent on reviving forgotten horrors?”
Cast and characters:
Patrick Wymark … The Judge
Linda Hayden … Angel Blake
Barry Andrews … Ralph Gower
Michele Dotrice … Margaret
Wendy Padbury … Cathy Vespers
Anthony Ainley … Reverend Fallowfield
Charlotte Mitchell … Ellen
Tamara Ustinov … Rosalind Barton
Simon Williams … Peter Edmonton
James Hayter … Squire Middleton
Howard Goorney … The Doctor
Avice Landone … Isobel Banham (as Avice Landon)
Robin Davies … Mark Vespers
Peter Ardran … The Devil (uncredited)
John Ash … Coven member (uncredited)
Peter Avella … Villager (uncredited)
Les Conrad … Villager (uncredited)
Maxwell Craig … Villager (uncredited)
Bill Cummings … Villager (uncredited)
Harry Fielder … Militiaman (uncredited)
Denis Gilmore … Red Haired Coven Member (uncredited)
Hilda Green … Villager (uncredited)
Geoffrey Hughes … Drinking Villager (uncredited)
Godfrey James … Mr Blake – Angel’s Father (uncredited)
Eric Mason … Villager (uncredited)
Andrew McCulloch … Villager (uncredited)
Derrick O’Connor … Member of Mob Chasing Margaret (uncredited)
Yvonne Paul … Dancing Girl (uncredited)
Milton Reid … Dog Handler (uncredited)
Jill Riddick … Coven Member (uncredited)
Lesley Roach … Actress (uncredited)
Roberta Tovey … Coven Member (uncredited)
Joseph Tregonino … Villager (uncredited)
Jason Twelvetrees … Ned Carter – Woodsman (uncredited)
Anna Wing … Villager (uncredited)
Aspect ratio: 1.85: 1
Beasts in the Cellar: The Exploitation Film Career of Tony Tenser by John Hamilton, FAB Press
Buy Beasts in the Cellar: Amazon.co.uk
Bix Bottom Valley, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, England
Black Park, Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, England
Pinewood Studios, Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, England
The Blood on Satan’s Claw was submitted to the BBFC on 21st September 1970 by Chiltern Films Ltd. In order to receive an ‘X’ certificate, cuts were required but there are unfortunately no details available.
Co-production company Tigon is misspelt as ‘Tigron’ on the credits!
In 1970, the heady, carefree days of the sixties were already a distant memory in the horror film world; British horror, in particular, took on a distinctly sideways glance at life and history, what was considered twee, naive and inconsequential was now dark, mysterious and cursed. Piers Haggard’s The Blood on Satan’s Claw – also known as Satan’s Skin – followed quickly on from the sentiments and pastoral bleakness of Witchfinder General, both exercises in the futility of Man against nature and fate.
The soundtrack to The Blood on Satan’s Claw was composed by French-born Australian Marc Wilkinson, already having made a name for himself a couple of years earlier with his score to Lindsay Anderson’s If… On the surface, his score for ‘Claw’ is exactly as you’d expect [though much lovelier] – gentle drifts of woozy woodwind and the early electronic instrument, the ondes martenot. However, the sound of ‘Claw’ features something far more sinister, something that elevates it, perhaps, to being the most horrible of all horror soundtracks.
Since the earliest of times, music has moved humankind and featured heavily in all aspects of divinity and worship. By the 11th Century, great importance was placed upon sacred music and the meanings of melodies and methods of creating it. Following along this train of thought, there was also that which was forbidden; primary amongst these was the ‘tritone’ – a musical interval which spans three whole tones – perhaps what we would write today as C and F# or as augmented fourths or diminished fifths.
The sound is one of dissonance – not unpleasurably, as it may suggest but neck-twistingly alluring and intriguing. Indeed, the theory behind the banning of such a creation by the Church was that it may take the singers, players or listeners of such a sound closer than Man may ever be to God…or otherwise. It was called ‘Diabolus in Musica’; ‘the Devil’s music’ or ‘the Devil’s chord’.
Though shunned and reviled in the Middle Ages – the earliest references go back to the 9th Century – there was enough fear and suspicion around it that torture would be employed against practitioners in some instances, even by the 18th Century it was being used with dubious dedication – baroque composer and violinist Giuseppe Tartini’s most famous work, the notoriously difficult to play ‘Devil’s Trill Sonata’ was explained by the composer as having being taught to him by Satan himself. Tartini’s rumoured six-fingered hand was a possible explanation as to his proficiency in playing it; the tritone made a big return in the 19th Century, used almost exclusively to create a feeling of foreboding and overriding evil; Richard Wagner and Camille Saint-Saens were fond of utilising it. Though now not banned in any sense, the effect it had was still to unsettle any audience.
Wilkinson’s use in his score was to use a descending chromatic scale as the main theme – this was nothing new, as previously seen, a descending scale had been used since the earliest horror scores to signify a descent into musical and visual Hell. Wilkinson’s trick was to omit the perfect fifth, the one-note needed to create stability to the scale; in turn, this highlighted the diminished fifth – it sounds wrong as if you’ve missed a step whilst walking down the stairs or your finger has hit the wrong key at the end of typing a word. There’s something incomplete about it, something fundamentally at odds with what we have been attuned to accept…and yet, it’s perfect.
The Devil’s Interval is used in popular culture regularly now; everything from The Simpsons’ theme tune to Black Sabbath’s self-titled song employs it but ‘Claw’ stands as one of the most poignant. A perfect marriage of the conventional and the dysfunctional, there could scarcely be a better backing to any film, Linda Hayden’s lascivious minx versus Patrick Wymark’s puritan fear, all wrapped up in a curious, entrancing yet truly damned score. Bravo, Satan.
Daz Lawrence, MOVIES and MANIA
The sold-out soundtrack CD is still available to buy from some Amazon.co.uk resellers
Blood on Satan’s Claw is a 2018 British audio adaptation of the 1970 film of nearly the same name by novelist Mark Morris (Cinema Macabre; Doctor Who). The Bafflegab Productions release is available on a CD or digital download.
17th century England, and a plough uncovers a grisly skull in the furrows of a farmer’s field. The skull disappears, but its malefic influence begins to work in insidious ways upon the nearby village of Hexbridge.
First, the cows stop milking and the fruit turns rotten on the trees. Then, an insolent ungodliness takes hold of the local children; mysterious fur patches appear on limbs; and people start disappearing… Something evil is stirring in the woods. Something that is corrupting the village youth, who retreat to the woodland deeps to play their pernicious games.
Hysteria spreads as it becomes clear that the Devil has come to Hexbridge, to incarnate himself on earth. Can the villagers, led by the Squire Middleton (Mark Gatiss) and Reverend Fallowfield (Reece Shearsmith), prevent the Devil gaining human form?
Starring the voices of Mark Gatiss (Sherlock), Reece Shearsmith (Inside No. 9), Alice Lowe (Prevenge), John Heffernan (Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell), Ralph Ineson (The Witch), Thomas Turgoose (This is England), Rebecca Ryan (Shameless), Philip Hill-Pearson (Good Cop) and Linda Hayden (Angel Blake in the original movie).
“Manages to outshine its source material in moments of true terror… a must-buy for any fan of quintessentially English horror.” Starburst magazine
“A charming and chilling audio, perfect for a cold night by the fire.” Sci-Fi Now magazine
“Blood on Satan’s Claw delivers more than two hours of a world going mad from the bottom up, in a production that bristles with fear both ancient and modern and keeps you constantly on edge, waiting for the next episode of ghastly, demonic bullying to come and put you through the wringer” Mass Movement
“A respectful, accomplished and reflective interpretation of the source material, best enjoyed by the listener on a dark cold and windy January night, tucked up in bed at night, headphones on, illuminated by nothing more than the dim glow of a bedside lamp.” We Are Cult