Satan’s Infectious Taint

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

It’s somewhere in the English countryside, somewhere in the first half or so of the 18th Century. (A treasonous Jacobite toast made at one point to “his Catholic Majesty James III” means it must be somewhere between 1701 and 1766.) Ploughman Ralph Gower (Barry Andrews) is tilling the fields when he uncovers a corpse – too human to be an animal, too inhuman to be holy. He rushes to tell the Judge (Patrick Wymark), who’s visiting with Gower’s landlady Isobel Banham (Avice Landone), but when they come back to the field the body is gone.

The Judge puts the nonsense out of mind, and in any respect is too caught up giving moral support to Isobel, who deeply disapproves of her nephew Peter Edmonton (Simon Williams) making plans to marry Rosalind Barton (Tamara Ustinov). And yet, it seems that the thing from the field, or at least a part of it, must have followed Ralph to the Banham house – for when she’s dispatched to sleep in the musty old Banham attic, Rosalind has an encounter with something up there – something which reduces her to shrieking, scratching panic at first. By the morning, she’s eerily silent… and her right hand has turned into a hideous claw.

Rosalind gets taken away by the authorities. But out there in the fields, where Ralph farms for his meals, the local youth turn up another claw, remarkably similar to that which grew on Rosalind. Young Angel Blake (Linda Heyden), who first discovers the claw, becomes the centre of a cult – a cult whose members all undergo physical transformations and changes as a result of their exposure to the strange claw. As the cult sweeps among the local youth, will the Judge discover how to put things aright… or will the area be reduced to teenage wasteland?

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