Part of the short lived pagan/witchcraft sub-genre of British horror that surfaced in the late 60's/early 70's, or as Mark Gillis labeled it in the BBC documentary A History of Horror "folk horror",that also included Witchfinder General (1968), Cry of the Banshee (1970) and The Wicker Man (1974).
The Blood on Satan;s Claw was produced by Tony Tenser's Tigon British Film Productions in 1970, released in 1971 and directed by Piers Haggard (who also worked on the script). This is a beautifully made film, with well written characters, a haunting musical score by Marc Wilkinson and gorgeous cinematography by Dick Bush who also shot Hammer's Twins of Evil from 1971 and Dracula A.D. 1972. Set in the English countryside of the 1600's, it has a wonderful "earthy" look to it, with lush greens, and misty backgrounds. There is also great use of dirt (as it were) - the plowed fields, roads and tracks thru the woods all have a rural medieval feel to them. The dirty hems on the women's dresses, the muddy boots and nicely detailed set decorations all add to the atmosphere. There are several times when you want to freeze the DVD, to examine the interior of houses, articles on tables and such.
The movie starts off when a young field hand played by Barry Andrews (Dracula Has Risen From The Grave 1966) unearths a rotting beast/figure while plowing which then sets in motion the demonic procession of the villagers (particularly the children). Starting with a young woman who hand turns into a claw and then some truly unsettling make-up effects showing the fur or "devil skin" appearing on characters (particularly, a scene showing the removal of some skin). The demon figure when shown, is shown hooded or kept in the shadows for the most part. We see a claw and a mis-shapen nose, but the make-up is hidden for the most part, allowing us to imagine something much worst.
The cast includes Patrick Wymark (Where Eagles Dare 1969) as the local judge. Wymark, a wonderful English character actor died before the film was released. However it is Linda Hayden who is the real star. Just 17 at the time of filming, she brings a truly creepy & evil childhood presence to the character of Angel. Although she does have a child's innocence about her,from her first appearance in the movie you just know somethings lurking beneath the surface there. When she dis-robes and attempts to seduce the village priest, its one of the most chilling erotic scenes in a horror movie. Also the same year she was in Hammer's Taste the Blood of Dracula and earlier did Baby Love (1968) and would later appear in Madhouse (1974) and Expose (AKA House on Straw Hill 1976).
The score by Marc Wilkinson (available on CD) beautifully complements the film, especially it main theme with its gently descending chords almost sounding like a child's nursery rhyme. One of my favorite 70's horror films and one that unfortunately has been rather hard to see in the U.S. (an MGM release as part of their Midnight Movie collection was rumored) as its only release on home video was on VHS. There have been a couple of British releases on DVD, each with their own pluses. The first one released by Anchor Bay in 2003 is non anamorphic, but does include an informative commentary with Piers Haggard, Linda Hayden and writer Robert Wanne-Simmons and a neat little featurette on Hayden titled An Angel for Satan. The next release by Oden in 2010 contains a beautiful re-mastered anamorphic transfer, but doesn't port over any of the extras, just some trailers and a still gallery. Oden have said for the past couple of years that a blu-ray is in the works. Plus,with Shout Factory's recent deal with MGM, hopefully this will get a long needed blu-ray collectors edition.