Firmly wedged in the ‘rarely seen’ category when it comes to Hammer flicks, Demons of the Mind is an interesting offering, if fatally flawed.

Both an intriguing psychological horror and a right royal mess, Australian director Peter Sykes saw his film pretty much buried when it was released, forced into a support feature slot by unhappy distributors.

And, taking this movie in, it is pretty easy to see why, with sluggish pacing, acting that leaves a lot to be desired and a confused narrative.

This is about as far removed from the by-the-numbers Dracula efforts the studio was releasing at that time (Dracula AD 1972 anyone?), but that equally does not mean it deserves to be ignored.

Demons of the Mind tells the tale of Count Zorn (Robert Hardy), who locks his son and daughter away in their country mansion for fear of them being insane.

Turns out there are some murky secrets in Zorn’s past involving his wife, and he remains convinced that the insanity is hereditary and will pass through his bloodline.

To try and solve the problem, the Count calls on disgraced psychologist Falkenberg (Patrick Magee) and before you know it we have dodgy experiments, talk of incest and sexual desires, suicide and a couple of local murders.

It all builds to a pretty hysterical climax, that in all honesty is likely to have you chuckling more than anything else.

There are some good points here – the performances of the siblings Emil (a debut role for Shane Briant, who went on to star in a clutch of Hammer films, including the similarly offbeat Straight On Till Morning) and Elizabeth (GillianHills) are strong, and their onscreen chemistry works.

The less said about the rest of the acting the better, with Hardy and Magee seemingly indulging in a ham acting duel in their scenes together, drastically reducing the film’s impact.

A mention must also go the venerable Michael Hordern, who plays a rambling, raving priest who keeps popping up to babble on about ‘destroying the demon’.

For a Hammer film there is a bit of blood flying around (although nothing too graphic), and there is a copious amount of female nudity – full frontal no less.

Filmed inSurreythe locations look good, and the cinematography lends a sheen to the film it probably does not deserve.

I would say Demons of the Mind is probably for Hammer completists only, as with a promising premise it is a real shame it did not deliver.

 

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.