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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 destroy the lord's family. (The "banshee" of this tale bears no resemblance to the normal usage of the term!) Written by
Marg Baskin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Misleading title, but generally enjoyable classic horror.
Those familiar with the concept of banshees would probably agree that "Cry Of The Banshee" is an interesting title for this film. I think the film-makers probably just decided it was just too good a title to pass up. Nonetheless, those looking for a horror tale containing bona fide Celtic mythology should probably look elsewhere. There is horror to be had here however, and the film still does more or less what it promises.
"Cry Of The Banshee" is set during the height of Middle Ages England, where rampant ignorance and superstition meant anyone could be condemned and burned for alleged witchcraft, and anyone you didn't like could be targeted. However, this being in the horror genre rather than an Arthur Miller play, the local inhabitants' fears are not entirely unjustified. Nonetheless, the greater threat is the Witchfinder General (played by Price) and his family, who abuse their authority and keep the entire local population in their grip. 'Witches' are regularly found, and dispatched in the name of God. The witchfinder gets more than he bargained for however when he annoys a real witch, who decides to take revenge.
Vincent Price is an actor you can rely on to take an average film up a notch, and he does so here. His presence, his voice, his face - he doesn't even have to try very hard. Not that the story is especially bad. It's fairly basic but entertaining enough. Even so, the pantomime acting and thinly-drawn characterisation made it hard to take everything seriously. A melodramatic situation shouldn't mean over-the-top theatricality, but that's what the script and the direction unfortunately settle for.
Fortunately, the horror elements of the film are not so misplaced. Suspense is built up, the 'banshee' of the title is wisely heard rather than seen until the climax, and the end itself is very satisfying. The mood is bleak, the lighting is low, and the score helps the action along without ever being out of place. Like many Hammer Horrors, there's a lot of nudity. just in case everything else isn't enough to draw you in.
Overall, "Cry Of The Banshee" is an enjoyable example of classic horror that fans of the genre should enjoy. It's not brilliant, but it has its moments, and one of the genre's star performers to breathe life into it.
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