In Elizabethan England, a wicked lord massacres nearly all the members of a coven of witches, earning the enmity of their leader, Oona. Oona calls up a magical servant, a "banshee", to ... See full summary »
England is torn in civil strife as the Royalists battle the Parliamentary Party for control. This conflict distracts people from rational thought and allows unscrupulous men to gain local power by exploiting village superstitions. One of these men is Matthew Hopkins, who tours the land offering his services as a persecutor of witches. Aided by his sadistic accomplice John Stearne, he travels from city to city and wrenches confessions from "witches" in order to line his pockets and gain sexual favors. When Hopkins persecutes a priest, he incurs the wrath of Richard Marshall, who is engaged to the priest's niece. Risking treason by leaving his military duties, Marshall relentlessly pursues the evil Hopkins and his minion Stearne. Written by
Ed Sutton <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The real Matthew Hopkins was only in his mid 20s in 1645 and died before he was 30. Vincent Price's character is middle-aged, like the actor himself. Hopkins and Stearne executed more than 300 people, mainly women, during their two or three years of '"witch hunting". Considering that 500 people in total were executed for witchcraft in England between the late 15th and late 18th centuries, it means that Hopkins was responsible for two-thirds of these executions during a period of three years. See more »
The end titles conclude with the familiar, "All persons depicted... entirely fictional... any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is entirely coincidental" - and yet, not only was the title character a real person, but also the film features an appearance by Oliver Cromwell. See more »
[United States Conqueror Worm versions]
LO! 't is a gala night/Within the lonesome latter years./An angel throng, bewinged, bedight/In veils, and drowned in tears,/Sit in a theatre to see/A play of hopes and fears,/While the orchestra breathes fitfully/The music of the spheres."
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Without the use of monsters or other worldly apparitions Vincent Price in Witchfinder General created a fabulous portrayal with Matthew Hopkins. The demons that were within Hopkins are those we struggle with every day when others tell us how and what to think. And religious fundamentalism with the power of the state to enforce it is still a force to be reckoned with. Even here in the USA.
The setting is Great Britain of the civil war era with Roundheads and Cavaliers battling for control. The Roundheads being Puritans were the ones doing the inquisiting there and Price is only a person too glad to offer his services.
In fact in every society when one wants an orthodoxy enforced there are always people psychologically deranged enough for such work. Price works with a partner in Robert Russell who's a little bit more honest about the fact he's a sadist. He grates on Price a bit, but the two find a lot of mutual satisfaction.
A lot of the same themes can be found in the Tyrone Power classic Captain From Castile only it's the Catholics enforcing their doctrine in that one.
Here Price in his work debauches the girlfriend of Roundhead soldier Ian Ogilvy and when he finds out he becomes a man with a mission.
Witchfinder General is a study in sadism and with an eternal message about the mind of humankind being unshackled. Delivered with a really special performance by Vincent Price.
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