One of the major qualities one notices about director Terence Fisher’s Phantom is that it is distinctly English. There is no attempt to produce an English-language version of the famous doomed love story set in its original locale of Paris. Rather, the filmmakers opt to transplant the tragedy to the Opera House, streets and underground of dark and gloomy Victorian London. Shillings are mentioned instead of francs, and the cockney accents can be quite heavy at times (thankfully those speaking are limited predominantly to tertiary characters with minimal screentime). While some may argue that the shift is cosmetic, it accomplishes two things.
After the success of Horror of Dracula (1958), it only made sense to make a sequel. The Brides of Dracula tells the story of a young Marianne who happens to stay the night at a baroness’ castle only to discover her host’s dashing son is locked up in an adjacent wing. Feeling sorry for the Baron Meinster, she releases him from his bonds with no clue that she just unleashed a vampire to wreak havoc on all the ladies of Transylvania. It’s a psycho-sexual scenario peppered with mommy issues that Hitchcock would certainly appreciate – his film Psycho was released the same year as Brides.
The original Universal Studios Wolf Man left an indelible mark on film history, particularly in it’s painstakingly specific make-up transformation that turned Lon Chaney, Jr.’s Larry Talbot into the title character. That effect has hung over every werewolf feature since, with films trying to compete with makeup maestro Jack Pierce’s legendary design. 20 years after the first Wolf Man film, Hammer Horror took a stab at the monster, utilizing a script based on A Werewolf in Paris and a barrel-chested Oliver Reed in his first film role.
In the 1950’s, at the birth of the atom age, the content of horror films shifted from the supernatural horrors like Dracula and the Wolf Man, to science-based atrocities. Frankenstein’s monster, which was a patchwork of body parts given life by the mysterious power of lightning, became the Colossus of New York, a giant robot with the brain of a brilliant scientist who goes mad. The gypsy curse that turned Lon Chaney Jr.’s Larry Talbot into a Wolf Man becomes a medical experiment that transforms Michael Landon’s Tony Rivers into a Teenaged Werewolf. The monsters were no longer mythological creatures but scientifically created horrors to reflect the place science had taken in our lives.
Released in the same year as Rosemary’s Baby (1968), The Devil Rides Out was one of a number of British films during the 60’s that touched upon occult matters. Unlike Polanski’s film, Fisher’s film leans more towards melodrama – but the film is so well made – it allows its melodramatic moments to transcend easily into allegory.