An aged Minister (Patrick Magee) addresses his congregation to deliver one of his customary sermons on the perils of sin. His energetic hyperbole culminates in the baptism of a young boy while the churchgoers sing a spirited rock prayer: "wash me in His blood" ...

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the city of London, a pretty blonde prostitute is chased into a back alley by an unseen assailant wearing black leather gloves. She is knocked unconscious, stripped and given an involuntary baptising of her own.

The following morning, security guard Kenny (Tony Beckley) beats off youths attempting to break into the site he’s protecting. When the police arrive, they tell him he’s lucky that that’s all he had to contend with: there was "another" murder the previous evening, just nearby ...

Kenny lives with his nervy mother Birdy (Ann Todd), a religious nut who plays the organ at the Minister’s parish and is very much a part of his "brethren".

She has issues with modern women and their attire, questioning their loyalty to God. We witness this explicitly when District Nurse Brigitte (Madeleine Hinde) turns up at Birdy’s house to tend to the old woman’s needs. Her youth and prettiness are met by brazen disdain.

Unfortunately, the old woman’s puritanical ways – further cemented by the Minister’s zealous rhetoric, filtered into their home via speakers on the living room wall – have raised Kenny to be a jittery creep who in his spare times likes to disappear to his bedroom and listen to taped recordings he’s made of the dying screams of the ‘sinful’ women he murders.

It doesn’t take much to set Kenny off. One afternoon, for example, he poses as a pool attendant at an outdoor swimming pool and berates a startled bather for lying chest-down on a sun-bed with no bra on. Shortly afterwards, he offers to make amends by giving her a lift home. While this particular sequence may not end as you’d expect, Kenny’s sense of revulsion is sufficiently aroused that he feels the need to sate it later that evening.

Pity the poor working girl that comes across him, then, meeting a violent end in a controversial scene that implicitly mirrors the fellatio we’ve just witnessed her completing on a customer.

As Kenny’s dementia grows, so does Birdy’s concern. But, with the police sniffing around the area and Brigitte making her suspicions known to her sister, investigative reporter Paddy (Suzanne Leigh), how long can the Minister maintain his grip over this psychologically damaged couple?

Robert Hartford-Davis’ enjoyably overwrought THE FIEND was originally filmed as BEWARE MY BRETHREN, and appears under that title here. It’s a dated time capsule of Britain in the early 1970s, chock-full of wide-bottomed trousers, flowery dresses and very English accents.

Better than that, the film is acted feverishly throughout. Anything with Magee in always promised some agreeable overacting, and he’s no different here. The rest of the cast up their ante to deliver performances as outlandishly intense as his. It makes for a curious blend of melodrama which makes THE FIEND watchable even when it’s slow (as it is whenever Beckley’s not on the screen).

There are more facets that, taken in isolation, shouldn’t work: the Minister’s congregation rocking out to gospel songs despite the fact that no organ at that time could muster the big band sounds of the film’s soundtrack; the juxtapositions of sex, religion and death being so overplayed so as to render them insultingly obvious; the lack of fleshed-out heroes to root for, robbing the film of any tension.

But, viewed as a whole, THE FIEND is an unfathomably entertaining mess of squalid religious battery, bad acting (in the best sense of the word) and jarring occasional images of female corpses stripped nude.

The pre-credits sequence, it has to be said, is a masterful threat of what’s to come. It climaxes with a gorgeous scene of a naked corpse floating tits up in the midnight river. Alas, the remainder of the film can’t fulfil on this opening 10-minute gambit – but is definitely a worthwhile proposition regardless.

Odeon Entertainment have done a fine job of bringing THE FIEND to UK DVD with all previously censored footage intact. The film is totally uncut, containing over a minute of footage missing from the infamous pre-certificate video release of many moons ago. The film is presented in anamorphic 1.78:1 and looks good. Images are a tad soft but overall the transfer is bright, clean and natural-looking. It’s a lot clearer than previous variants.

English mono audio isn’t great but is serviceable.

The disc opens with a marvellous animated main menu page utilising the film’s sensational score along with exploitative clips to create the right impression. From there, an animated scene-selection menu allows access to the main feature via 6 chapters.

Bonus features proffer a stills gallery of monochrome lobby cards and photographs, including uncut footage. The singular colour still is a reproduction of the excellent pre-certificate video artwork.

The original theatrical trailer runs at just under 2 minutes in length. Despite being slightly cropped, it’s an effectively demented slice of vintage trailer schlock, bearing the title BEWARE MY BRETHREN.


Booklets are always a welcome addition to any DVD package and the one provided here is no exception. It benefits from excellent notes by Steve Chibnall, co-author of the recommended book ‘British Horror Cinema‘. Among other things, he tells of how many participants of the film now look less than favourably upon it, discusses material that was previously censored and muses over the similarities between the killer here and that of Michael Powell’s PEEPING TOM. Most fascinatingly, he draws comparisons between THE FIEND’s detail and the notorious real-life ‘Jack the Stripper’ killings of the 1960s.

THE FIEND is a bleak and sleazy entry into 1970s British horror-thriller territory and, despite the seemingly innocuous 15 certificate awarded to it by the BBFC, contains enough lurid characterisation to maintain a healthy level of potency.

A good disc for a very interesting film.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Odeon Entertainment
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review