RITUAL OF EVIL (1970) Reviews and Blu-ray news

  

Kino Lorber Studio Classics is releasing a double-feature special edition Blu-ray that includes new 2K restorations of Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel Ritual of Evil (1970), both starring Louis Jourdan (Octopussy; Swamp Thing; Count Dracula). Street date: October 20, 2020. Order via Amazon.com

Special features:

Brand New 2K Master
New Audio Commentaries by Film Historian/Screenwriter Gary Gerani
Image Gallery
Fear No Evil and Ritual of Evil Trailers
Newly Commissioned Art by Vince Evans
Dual-Layered BD50 Disc
Optional English Subtitles

Meanwhile, here is our previous coverage of Ritual No Evil:

Ritual of Evil is a 1970 American made-for-television horror 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 and Wilfrid Hyde-White.

Plot:

Psychiatrist Doctor 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…

Review:

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.

Ben Spurling, MOVIES and MANIA

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

” …it feels padded and unfocused. I also think Wilfred Hyde-White’s mentor character is used a little too sparingly, and that he’s kept too much on the outskirts of the story; I’d like it more if he was on hand for the main action. As it is, I was disappointed by this sequel, though it’s a shame that it marked the end of the series.” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

“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.” 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 23rd 1970, on NBC.

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