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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
"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.
Like many a horror movie knock-off, Cry Of The Banshee is a hopeless mish-mash of inconsistancies; and while Vincent Price has saved many such films by his mere presence alone, he does so here almost grudgingly, as if his heart really isn't in it. At the beginning of the film, he's presented as a heartless Witchfinder General soft of fellow, but at the first sign on any real witchery he at first scoffs at it, feeling that any real proof of witchcraft might "undermine his authorty". How such a vindication of his efforts could harm his character in the eyes of the people is never explained, since he's more than willing to torture innocent villagers. Eventually he does manage to get on the real witch, Oona's bad side, however, and she curses him and all his family to die. We try to like her at this point, and sympathize with her vengeance; but she is the very Evil that Vincent has vowed to destroy. So, since both sides are evil, only the victims are innocent; and when Vince makes a last minute bid to save his daughter and escape the fate of their accursed house & name, we're left to wonder why he ever placed himself in such a position in the first place since suddenly he comes off as a caring father and nothing more... It's worth seeing, but see The Conqueror Worm first...
Granted that the story line is fuzzy, the ending nasty, and Vincent Price as cheesy and over the top as ever. But the fact remains that the female leads in this confused mess are radiant. Hillary Dwyer in particular is the perfect English rose -- demure, yet oozing understated sex appeal as the headstrong, cheerfully promiscuous aristocrat who knows her own mind and doesn't mind getting her petticoats dirty in romping with the servants. The dismally depressing ending and the garbled, incoherent script make this movie difficult to watch all the way through, but Hillary Dwyer and Essy Pearson are both luminous and compelling enough to make it worth an occasional viewing.
Lord Edward Whitman(Vincent Price) is a wicked magistrate who why while
not believing in Witchcraft, delights in accusing peasants of the
crime. The punishments he dishes out are not always within the law
though. Working On a tip off, his men kill many within a coven of
witches, the witches leader Oona swears revenge and pleads with Satan
to send her an Avenger who will smite him and his family. Such an
avenger is the mild mannered stable hand Roderick(Patrick Mower), who
was found as a child in the woods and brought up by the Whitmans,
around his neck he wears a strange and ancient medallion of unknown
Gordon Hessler has a mixed filmography in Horror, this on the face of it, is a production designed to take advantage of Michael Reeves's Witchfinder General, as wonderfully hammy Vincent Price and the beautiful Hilary Heath, both return, as does DP John Coquillon, who adds oodles of atmosphere and energy with his ever moving camera which captures the location work beautifully. Hessler learnt his trade with Hitchcock and to some extent it shows in this film, he knows when and where to provide the scares. The film itself was much rewritten and Hessler found himself getting further away from the theme of the title which had already been sold as a Banshee film before filming began, but he was reigned back in by the producers, the meddling doesn't quite ruin the film but it does have a lot going on plot-wise, as a result. The witches coven send a "Sidhe" an ancient derivative of the banshee in the form of Patrick Mower, (his make up none to convincing) to kill one by one, members of the Whitman family, not all of which are bad, some are very decent people, this effective ploy is also used with the witches, making it hard to take sides or see who the really bad guys are. Fans of period Brit Horror shouldn't be disappointed, there's copious nudity and plenty of buxom wenches that make for pleasant viewing, there's also an excellent sting in the tale.
I'd seen two films from director Gordon Hessler prior to seeing this
one, and they're both wildly different. One was the excellent Gothic
horror The Oblong Box, while the other was the uneven and mostly
terrible waste of a great of a cast, Scream and Scream Again. This film
falls somewhere in the middle in terms of quality. Cry of the Banshee
actually reminded me a lot more of the classic film Witchfinder General
than either of Hessler's previous efforts, although it is nowhere near
as good as that one. The plot features themes of witchcraft and witch
hunts, as we focus on the evil Lord Edward Whitman, slaughterer of
peasants and a man with an on-going war against a coven of local
witches. He opts to murder a number of them in front of leader; a witch
named Oona. However, this turns out to be a poor decision as Oona uses
her magic powers to call up a magical being known as a 'Banshee', whom
she uses - along with some members of Lord Whitman's own family - to
bring a curse upon his entire household.
Obviously, my main reason for seeing this film was because of the fact that it features a starring performance from the great Vincent Price. This is not Vincent Price's greatest performance, but he still completely owns the film in every sequence that he's in (and he's in most of them). The character he plays in Cry of the Banshee isn't the most rounded character he's ever played, and therefore it isn't the most interesting - but hey! It's still Vincent Price. The way that the plot plays out is mostly good enough to hold the audience's interest; there isn't a great deal of suspense in the film, but director Gordon Hessler does a good job of creating the right atmosphere and setting up a suitable 'feel' for the film. The banshee isn't what you'd usually think of when that word springs to mind; which gives the film an element of memorability. The ending is decent enough, although it is rather predictable and overall, it has to be said that Cry of the Banshee is a more than passable. Sure, it's not brilliant - but Vincent Price fans are likely to enjoy it, and it gets a recommendation from me.
You always know what to expect from this genre of low-budget
supernatural-historical movies ... peasants with one brain between the
lot of them, fine wenches being treated very, very badly, and plenty of
over-acting from men wearing tights and funny hats.
Cry of the Banshee has all of these elements, and is fairly representative of the genre. It isn't on the same level as cult movies like "Witchfinder General" (also starring Vincent Price), but it does have it's moments. Here Vincent Price plays a wicked lord with a very strange family. He takes great pleasure in finding, mistreating and executing young witches, until he messes with the wrong coven and his entire family is cursed. They soon begin to get gruesomely killed off one by one by a seemingly unstoppable monster. That'll teach 'em.
Vincent Price gives a fairly memorable performance here as the evil, sadistic lord of the town. He does the best he can with the script, anyway, which is all a great actor can ever do. Nobody else on the cast is particularly noteworthy, but on the whole it's a fairly competent movie as far as the acting is concerned. On the subject of the script, it does seem to be thing that everyone involved struggled with. The movie had already been sold to the distributors, which meant that the director, re-writers and so on couldn't change it as much as they would probably have liked to, so they didn't necessary end up making the movie they wanted to make.
This accounts for the way that some aspects of the film are so much better than others. In some scenes the actors themselves seem pretty bored with it, whereas in others the relish in the opportunity to show their full talent. The scenes involving the witches coven are pretty interesting, and some of the climatic moments are particularly well-shot. Also, the opening credits sequence is instantly recognisable as the work of Monty Python's artist Terry Gilliam, which is pretty neat. However, there aren't enough great moments to elevate it above most other movies of it's kind.
If you're a fan of Vincent Price, or of those trashy period movies of the sixties and seventies, you might want to give this one a look. Otherwise, it probably won't appeal to you that much.
This film has one of the most depraved, heartless, cold centers of any film I have seen in a long time. None of the characters are likable. I mean you will not care what happens to anyone. They are one dimensional characterizations that embody this repulsiveness aforementioned. Even Vincent Price...typically a wonderful villain who can make you like him despite his evil ways...is nothing more than an atypical English aristocrat who kills for no reason at all. The film bears a striking resemblance to The Witchfinder General, but this and that film, although in spirit have much in common, are very, very different films. The Witchfinder General was well-written, had excellent direction, and , at least, some depth of characterization. You can tell director Gordon Hessler feels the film lacks depth because of his repeated need to show totally unerotic nudity. No fewer than six breasts can be seen in the first fifteen minutes of the film. Each pair in a different scene. Each dealt with in a style that only the Marquis de Sade could possibly enjoy. I guess I am giving this film a negative review. I was filled with disappointment after seeing it, because I had liked The Witchfinder General a great deal and love Vincent Price in almost every vehicle he appears. Price has a couple moments in the film where he sparkles, but they are unfortunately few and far between. Cry of the Banshee is really much more of a test....a test to see how much of it you can sit through without getting up and turning it off.
The film is set in Elizabethan England and revolves around a wicked
magistrate who tries to kill all the members of a coven of witches.
This makes the leader of the coven, Oona, sworn enemies of the lord and
his family. To get revenge Oona calls up a magical servant, a "sidhe",
to destroy the lord's family. The titular "cry of the banshee" is the
signal that someone will die.
Vincent Price carries this film, as there are no other big name actors to speak of. Mike Mayo says he is "not at his best" but "still fine", and that is a fair assessment. But even at just "fine", Price is more enjoyable to watch than most others of his generation.
The remainder of the cast, as I said, is hardly notable. There is Stephen Rea, who was later nominated for an Oscar, appearing in his first film role (he did a couple of television appearances before that). And there is a man named Guy Pierce in a very small role, but it is not the guy you think it is.
If you are like me, and loved the opening titles, thinking they looked like something out of Monty Python... you would be right. The title sequence was designed and animated by future Python Terry Gilliam. Gilliam, of course, has gone on to do huge things, but his work here is greatly appreciated!
For some reason, there is a happy song sung by a man with a lute about a maiden who is raped by a huntsman, and then gets her revenge on him by castrating him. I do not know how to feel about this being sung as an uplifting ballad.
Overall, the film is good, but not the best. Vincent Price has better films as a witch hunter (including "Conqueror Worm") and better films in general. Still worth seeing, but do not put it at the top of your list. And do not try to find the banshee in this film, because one does not exist. Sorry.
This was the third collaboration (in barely two years time) between director Gordon Hessler, scriptwriter Christopher Wicking and horror veteran Vincent Price, after the wondrously atmospheric Victorian tale "The Oblong Box" and the uniquely bizarre "Scream and Scream Again". "Cry of the Banshee" certainly isn't a bad effort; I for one found it very much amusing at least, but due to its lead actor, periodic setting and subject matter, it will always and automatically get compared with "The Witchfinder General" and come out as the weakest one. This isn't even so much of a disgrace, as that other Vincent Price classic which was released two years prior, is simply a bona fide masterpiece. Perhaps I'm very much biased, because I'm a) a downright fanatic Vincent Price worshiper and b) obsessed with purchasing horror movies that deal with witchery and satanic cults, and therefore I don't think "Cry of the Banshee" deserves all the harsh & negative reviews around here. Honesty does require me to admit that the film contain a couple of severe flaws, however, most notably the underdevelopment of the main characters and the overly exploitative nature. You can somewhat expect a bit of gratuitous nudity and perversion in a movie about burning witches and corrupt magistrates, but the sequences in "Cry of the Banshee" especially those during the first fifteen minutes are quite degrading and misogynist. Price usually didn't star in that type of cinema. At certain moments it's actually noticeable that he doesn't agree with the raw undertones of his dialogs and he tries hard to give his character of sadist magistrate Edward Whitman more depth and background. He's the patriarch of a rich and spoiled family, and abuses his magistrate position to randomly accuse innocent women of witchcraft and subsequently submits them to public humiliation and torture. When he orders to slaughter half a coven of actual Satan worshipers, the lead witch Oona puts a curse on him and his family. Her vengeance is extracted through an acquaintance of the family, the eccentric stranger Roderick who communicates with animals, as he mutates into a banshee overnight. There are really a lot of sub plots with terrific potential, but sadly they're not elaborated. There are a lot of intrigues within the Whitman family, like the oldest son who distanced himself from his father and Edward's third wife feels more affection for Roderick than for her barbaric husband. Personally, I also would have preferred a little more info regarding the banshee itself. It's a fascinating creature, with nicely grim make-up effects and aggressive personality, but we don't know too much about its mythical background. The finale is brilliant, though, and there are several moments of sheer suspense and grisly medieval ambiance.
The Monty Python-esgue opening credit sequence somehow doesn't fit with
this tale about the decidedly NOT benevolent Lord Whitman (the late
great Vincent Price), his quest to kill all those who practice
witchcraft at the shock and horror of his wife, and the cursed fate
that one of the surviving witches put upon him and his family.While
certainly not Price's best work, it still remains very watchable. The
film kinda lulls in the middle, but it starts to pick up again towards
the end. I found the film to be very atmospheric and had good acting by
My Grade: C+
Eye Candy: Sally Geeson, Jane Deady, Quinn O'Hara, and Essy Persson get topless
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