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Ritual of Evil

“Ritual of Evil” is a slow, methodical, action-free, made-for-TV horror film that fell short of its goal to become a TV series.

A psychiatrist consults a Witch to get to the bottom of one of his patients’ deaths. Let’s dig into 1970’s RITUAL OF EVIL, directed by Robert Day!

As I See It

I have such an aversion to purple prose that I tend to cut away too much fat when I’m writing. I’m such a fan of the feeling of discovering meaning within someone else’s choice of word usage that I remove connective tissue along with unnecessary language. With that, I end up over-editing, and my third pass is usually spent inserting descriptors and actions (hoping I wasn’t too sparse for the reader to comprehend).

This is exactly how I feel about the opening of this film.

There is nothing there except a few actions that lack tendrils. There’s a good reason openings in novels and films are usually so eye-catching. You don’t want to bore your viewer/reader into a coma.

Made-for-TV horror is always watered down. That’s not just to appease censors but also because a general audience isn’t made of the same stuff as us spooky kids are.

Forget about gore; thematic darkness could bring about the ire of the uninitiated.

Ritual of Evil

Famous Faces

Louis Jourdan (Dr. Sorell) is a straight shooter who doesn’t have many genre roles in his CV. Besides this one-two punch of “pilot” films, you can count The Return of Swamp Thing and probably the Roger Moore James Bond film Octopussy.

Anne Baxter (Jolene) is in the same boat with almost no genre credits. It’s worth noting her role as Nefretiri (fashioned after Ramesses the Great’s Queen Nefertari) in Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments alongside Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, and the immortal beauty Yvonne De Carlo.

Of Gratuitous Nature

There isn’t too much flexibility for the racier things in horror when you have a made-for-TV movie.

It was surprising and commendable that they had the wherewithal to write a scene that so clearly commentates on the relations between black Americans and police, especially just six years removed from the Civil Rights Act of 1964.


I’m trying to imagine this being picked up as a TV series and how that would have played out. Dr. Sorell would most likely have had a different love interest in each episode and chosen between the evil he fought and the lust and desire of a wicked temptress.

I think the juxtaposition of an intellectual who can’t control their libido, much like James Bond and his prowess as a spy, is what makes the character interesting and could have gone down as a cult hit TV show.

Ripe for a Remake

At least spiritually, it’s somewhat of a predecessor to the Conjuring universe of films, which focus on charlatans Ed and Lorraine Warren. This has a psychiatrist taking on cases of unusual, supernatural elements. It almost feels like a live-action, adult Scooby-Doo without the colorful cast of characters. For some reason, that description, which seems like a stretch, excites me.


It is a sequel to the 1969 film Fear No Evil, which also stars Louis Jourdan as Dr. David Sorrell. These films were meant as proof of concepts or pilots for a proposed TV series that was never picked up.

Where to Watch

Kino Lorber released a double feature Blu-ray of Ritual of Evil along with Fear No Evil.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 1.5

The Daily Dig brings you hidden genre gems from the 1960s-00s you may have not yet discovered. You’ll get a brief rundown of everything you need to know, including where to watch each title for yourself. Come back each day, Mon-Fri, for new featured titles. CLICK HERE FOR A TIMELINE OF DAILY DIG COVERAGE.

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