Blood on satan’s claw
" A FRIEND HAS BEEN SEEN HEREABOUTS..." STEVE O'BRIEN REVISITS A NEAR-FORGOTTEN CLASSIC OF BRITISH FOLK HORROR
The difficult middle child of British folk- horror.
WE PROBABLY HAVE Mark Gatiss to thank for bringing
Blood On Satan’s Claw back into the front row of British horror films. “It was part of that folk horror moment in cinema that
includes The Wicker Man,” he told The Guardian in 2010, on why he included the movie so prominently in his BBC 4 series
A History Of Horror. “But The Wicker Man has been culted to death. I wanted more people to know about this one.”
Blood On Satan’s Claw has now been co- opted into an informal group of films known as British folk- horror. There it is, nestled in the middle next to Michael Reeves’ 1968 Witchfinder General and Robin Hardy’s 1973 The Wicker Man, a triumvirate of movies that took their inspiration from the bleak British landscape and ancient superstitions.
Whereas those two flicks were designed with loftier ideals than the then- current glut of Hammer and Amicus horror movies, Blood
On Satan’s Claw could have so easily turned into a lurid and instantly forgettable schlocker. Although production company Tigon had been behind Witchfinder General, their initial plans for Blood On Satan’s Claw were more nakedly commercial. Spurred on by Witchfinder
General’s success, producers Malcolm Heyworth and Peter Andrews had assembled a modest budget for a 17th century witchcraft-themed movie and had roped in teen star Linda Hayden to flash her flesh.
“They had Linda as their star who was prepared to do nude scenes,” director Piers Haggard tells SFX, “and the economics were quite crude market economics to produce a fairly schlocky film.” Heyworth and Andrews had approached a freshly graduated writer named Robert Wynne- Simmons to pen what was originally conceived as an Amicus- aping portmanteau horror. With Wynne- Simmons’ script in place, they found themselves in a tiny screening room in Soho watching a movie called Wedding Night, and approached its director about their planned horror anthology.
“I read it, and it appealed to me,” reflects Haggard, who was only 30 at the time, and