A small village full of pitchfork-wielding yokels and busty young ladies is dominated by a local manor on a hill. In the manor, Baron Friedrich Zorn (Robert Hardy) keeps his children, Elizabeth (Gillian Hills, a last-minute replacement for Marianne Faithfull due to insurance reasons) and Emil (Shane Briant), locked up – for there’s a “madness” running in the family and the baron wants to make sure the children don’t succumb to it.
He also forbids them to see each other (there’s incest involved).
Elizabeth escapes for a brief tryst with a local before being recaptured and subjected to a bleeding process to “draw out the bad blood”. Emil keeps trying to escape but is thwarted time and again by his aunt Hilda (Yvonne Mitchell), who runs the house like a prison.
Meanwhile, local wenches are being brutally raped and murdered in the woods, and the superstitious peasants think demons are responsible.
A wandering priest (Michael Hordern) dedicates himself to root out the evil but isn’t taken seriously. Also arriving at the manor house are two more interested parties: Mountebank scientist huckster Dr Falkenberg (Patrick Magee) stands to make a small fortune if his strange apparatus can cure the children of their inherited evil. Carl (Paul Jones, formerly of the band Manfred Mann) simply wants to rescue Elizabeth.
The bizarre climax features the requisite burning torches and pitchforks – with a rather nasty spot of mutilation thrown in for good measure.
Baron Friedrich Zorn
Kenneth J. Warren