Three For Thursday: Occult Detective Movies

Top Three Occult Detective Movies

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NUMBER THREE

When the Duc de Richleau (Christopher Lee) and Rex Van Ryn (Leon Greene) arrive at a fashionable party thrown by de Richleau’s protégé, Simon Aron (Patrick Mower), they soon realize that the party is in fact a gathering of a Satanic cult, led by the high priest Mocata (Charles Gray), that plans to initiate the beautiful Tanith (Nike Arrighi) that night. It’s up to de Richleau and Van Ryn to defeat the devil-worshiping Mocata and save innocent young Tanith and the others from a terrible fate.

Based on the novel by Dennis Wheatley. Screenplay by Richard Matheson. Directed by Terence Fisher

I fell in love with this movie when I caught it at the drive-in as a kid, though it was titled The Devil’s Bride. It was part of a triple feature that included two Christopher Lee vampire films, Dracula Has Risen From the Grave and The Satanic Rites of Dracula. It’s a solid adaptation of Wheatley’s novel, and the acting, particularly from Lee and Gray, is superb.

NUMBER TWO

Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke) is a private detective contracted by Louis Cyphre (Robert De Niro) to track down the iconic singer Johnny Favorite. However, everybody that Angel questions about Favorite seems to meet a tragic demise. Eventually the trail leads Angel to New Orleans where he learns that Favorite had dabbled in the black arts. As Favorite’s whereabouts and true identity become clear, Angel learns that being hired by Cyphre was not a random choice.

Based on the novel by William Hjortsberg. Screenplay by Alan Parker. Directed by Alan Parker.

I saw this in the theatre opening weekend. Wow. It just blew me away. The direction was outstanding. The atmosphere was palpable. And my goodness, Mickey Rourke was brilliant. His delivery of “I know who I am.” still chills me to this day.

NUMBER ONE

After a supernatural experiment leaves him with a serious heart condition, occult criminologist William Sebastian (Robert Culp) recruits his skeptical friend, Dr. “Ham” Hamilton (Gig Young), to aid him with a new case. Their assignment: to investigate Geoffrey Cyon (Majel Barrett), a British businessman allegedly flirting with the dark arts. As William and Ham learn more about the suspicious Cyon family, they have to fight to survive against a powerful demon and an evil cult.

Story by Gene Roddenberry. Screenplay by Gene Roddenberry & Samuel A. Peeples. Directed by Richard Donner.

Ah, nostalgia. This pilot debuted on May 21, 1977, but I was obsessed with it two months before it aired when I received the Lincoln Enterprises newsletter announcing it. I mean, come on, I was 11 years old and obsessed with magick and the paranormal and here they were delivering a tale steeped in both, and from the creator of Star Trek. Yes, I realize it’s dated. It has shoddy production values and some of the lore is wonky, but the story itself, and the acting… Robert Culp as Criminal Psychologist William Sebastian is the quintessential Occult Detective. I love it, and if you’ve not seen it, I think you will too.

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