31 (Revived) Days of Horror: Demons of the Mind

I’d never heard of this one before I stumbled across it on Prime Video. The film’s description read “A physician discovers that two children are being kept virtually imprisoned in their house by their father. He investigates, and discovers a web of sex, incest, and Satanic possession.” How can you go wrong with that?!

Demons of the Mind (1972) is a Hammer production starring B-movie stalwart Patrick Magee as the somewhat shady Dr. Falkenberg. Dr. Falkenberg comes to the estate of Baron Zorn to treat his children, Emil and Elizabeth, both of whom have various issues. Trailing along in his wake is Carl Richter, a young former doctor who met Elizabeth in Vienna where she was undergoing treatment. Richter isn’t convinced there’s anything wrong with Elizabeth and suspects she may be suffering from the projected psychosis of her father, who believes the Zorn bloodline is tainted with madness. While this is all going on, young women keep going missing in the forest around the Zorn estate, leaving the villagers (and the audience) wondering who’s responsible for these crimes.

Demons of the Mind starts off on an interesting note. I thought we were going into psychedelic territory with the movie. There’s little dialog in the few several minutes of the film as Elizabeth is brought home, drugged to keep her calm, and she watches the world pass by the family coach. Here POV shows the world a trippy landscape of soft focus and a warbling soundtrack. Flashbacks intrude, breaking up the chronological order of what we’re seeing, leaving the viewer uncertain of what is occurring and when. It would have been a more interesting film if the movie leaned further into this. Instead, the narrative becomes more traditional soon thereafter and we’re treated to a standard gothic tale of suicide, madness, and murder.

The movie has some interesting touches, like Dr. Falkenberg’s hypnosis device or the “Carrying out Death” ritual in the village. Michael Horden plays a wandering priest who seems half-mad, yet might be serving a higher purposes and the sub-plot involving him makes for entertaining viewing. Originally, Marianne Faithful was cast as the role of Elizabeth, but was recast when the insurance company balked at backing the film with Faithful involved. One wonders what we might have gotten with her in the role.

Demons of the Mind is an average film that could have been much more had it shown a bit more bravery. As a middle-of-the-road movie, I award it the middle-of-the-road score of 2 and a half out of 5 skulls. Check it out if you’re a Hammer completionist or you’ve got nothing to do on a rainy afternoon.

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