Another of the Anniversary re-masters from Studio Canal commemorating Hammer’s 1957 colour debut, The Curse of Frankenstein, the 1972 release Demons of the Mind is a contrasting affair compared to some of the more Gothic offerings, although set in a similar period to the Cushing and Lee classics.
The recently-deceased Robert Hardy plays Baron Zorn, a widower who is determined to keep his two children, Emil (Shane Briant) and Elizabeth (Gillian Hills) locked up and under sedation in light of his ongoing fear of them losing their sanity in a similar fashion to his dead wife. Meanwhile, in a locality of 19th Century Bavaria, a mad priest (Michael Hordern) and others are gathering. Events are going to also heighten with the arrival of Professor Falkenberg (Patrick Magee) who may hold the key to curing the children of their problems…
Whilst it may not have been as high-profile as other Hammer releases from the time, Demons of the Mind does represent a change in tone, if not a change in genre, for the brand. It’s an intriguing film dealing with the effect of conditioning and medical malpractice on two seemingly healthy and intelligent youths. Patrick Magee certainly had much to be proud of around the time of the original release, as he was also prolific thanks to his key role of Mr Alexander in Stanley Kubrick’s classic 1971 work A Clockwork Orange.
It is certainly a great opportunity to view the film now and in the context of the advancement of medicine and science, it is one that will have much cross-over appeal, not just to fans of Hammer, but also medically-minded cineastes. There are two strengths to the film, with the period setting rendering the concept timeless and it has a tendency to play well alongside some of the more contemporary David Cronenberg offerings like Rabid and Dead Ringers, where sinister ideals and beliefs temper the desire to survive in a strange world.
If you remember Robert Hardy from the likes of All Creatures Great and Small, he is barely recognisable in the lead role as Zorn, but still gives a stirring performance. Another revelation to contemporary fans here in the supporting cast is the late Robert Brown, who took over the mantle of M in many of the later James Bond films which starred the late Sir Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton amongst others. Here he plays a rather rowdy farmer having his wicked way with a local female and is another of the wonderful heritage that Hammer gave classic British actors in their production slate.
Demons of the Mind is a welcome contribution to the series of films and deserving of a new Blu-ray release.
DEMONS OF THE MIND (1972) / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: PETER SYKES / SCREENPLAY: CHRISTOPHER WICKING / STARRING: ROBERT HARDY, SHANE BRIANT, GILLIAN HILLS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW