Devils of Darkness (1965) - This was a strange film that throws every possible genre trope at the audience and then disappoints by failing to resolve the conflict of the film in a compelling way. It starts with a graveyard scene where a red caped man carries a black candle to a grave. The sculpted bat on the grave is the symbol we will all see again. Some supernatural weather event just happens and the crypt breaks open.
Tania (Carole Gray) a gypsy girl dances for her future husband Bruno (Walter Brown). It is a happy day, their wedding day and the village is thrilled and in celebration. Unfortunately nearby from the broken grave, a large bat flies into the sky. When the gypsy villagers see it there is screaming and terror and mumbling about curses, poor Tania falls dead at the sight of it. Immediately we go into a scene of the mourning of Tania as the funeral procession moves through the forest to her burial sight. A supernatural force effects the weather and kills the priest sending the villagers scattering. Sinistre (Hubert Noel) the evil vampire opens the coffin and raises Tania from the dead to be his bride for eternity.
This is the setup that does not really begin to get into the complicated story to follow. It sets up Tania and Sinistre as the "bad guys" and then jumps to 1964 and starts in on the main plot. Our main body of characters are visiting Brittany in France. A couple guys are going spelunking and there relatives are staying at the local estate. The men in the cave scenes are cut with the relatives and local villagers doing a "All Souls Day" celebration. We are not sure if the celebration is the reason that Sinistre and Tania are suddenly on the scene, but unfortunately for the spelunkers come across the coffins in the caves. One empty and the other with Tania in it. A flash behind one caver like magic and hands grab him from behind. They are dead and the officials are saying it was an accident. Paul (William Sylvester) and one of the spelunker's sister Anne (Rona Anderson) are distraught and can not believe it even after a gypsy in the forest told them they are under the sign of the "Black Death" and the "evil eye". This was a foreshadowing that was way too much right before Keith's dead body was pulled from the cave. They really did not hold back on the tropes we have seen before.
Sinistre and Tania are suddenly in the picture at the estate. It is confusing at this point but makes a bit more sense later on. He targets Anne and takes her from the estate. When she goes missing this starts Paul on a journey trying to understand the mystery the events of those days. He hears her scream does not find her, but does find a small bat medallion where she was taken. It is not a straight line in this film though. Anne's body is found and the Inspector of the small village says it is suicide. Paul can not accept this and wants the bodies shipped back to England for a second opinion. When the bodies vanish in transport Paul suspects that there is a serious mystery. We also know that Sinistre and Tania are looking for a way to get the powerful talisman back, they suspect Paul has it but can't seem to find or get it back.
Paul tries to figure out the meaning of the bat medallion and everything else but there is a sinister cult behind it and it is not so easy to crack. He visits his friend Madeleine (Diana Decker) but she seems suspicious, not to him but certainly to the viewer. She seems to be trying to distract him at every turn. At her party he meets the lovely Karen (Tracy Reed) who suddenly becomes a focal point for Sinistre also. In fact the vampire who raises the dead is totally infatuated with her and there is the possibly that the equally lovely Tania may be on her way out as his main squeeze.
The story twists and turns its way through finding out who the cult members are and Sinistre's desires and plans. It spends the time to identify everyone even though the story when it climaxes does show in a very anticlimactic way. In fact the second half of the movie is totally off the rails from what the set up is. Paul eventually has to try to save Karen but does so without actually doing anything. In fact the final outcome for the villain is so ridiculously flawed that the viewer is left disappointed. It all makes sense but the resolutions could have been more exciting. It was like there was never really anything at stake for Paul. Here is this guy who loses some of his best friends early in the film but never really seems to deal with the grief that came with it. So he just moves on without any emotion and the plot swings him into the hide the bat medallion section. He never really finds out about what is going on other than to do some research into the occult origins of the piece. There is no feeling so the transition is hollow. Then when Karen becomes the focus it really does not carry force because really he does not know her too well but behaves like he has known her for years. I guess I was just disappointed with it in the end I think the problem is the characters were never quite developed enough to create empathy.
Rating (3.9) 5.0 and up are recommended.