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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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The wicked and powerful magistrate Lord Edward Whitman (Vincent Price)
is a witch hunter with his cruel sons Sean (Stephan Chase), Burke
(Michael Elphick) and Bully Boy (Andrew McCulloch) in a small village
in England. His wife Lady Patricia Whitman (Essy Persson) is deranged
with the wickedness of Edward. His daughter Maureen (Hilary Heath) is
secretly in love with her stepbrother Roderick (Patrick Mower), who was
an orphan found by Edward wandering on the fields.
Edward's son Harry (Carl Rigg) returns home after graduating in the university with Father Tom (Marshall Jones) that is assigned to the local parish and he is surprised with the behavior of his father and brothers. Edward hunts down the witch Oona (Elizabeth Bergner) and her harmless followers and kills many of them. Oona summons Satan seeking revenge against Edward and the Whitman family. Satan's emissary surprisingly is Roderick, who has power to control animals and was born by fire. Will Roderick be capable to harm his foster family?
"Cry of the Banshees" is a cruel horror movie one of the best performances of Vincent Price in the role of a cruel magistrate. The sets and costumes are realistic and a good replica of a medieval village. The creature looks like a werewolf and not a banshee. Oona's followers seem to be in a bacchanal and not worshiping the devil. The plot begins showing the cruelties of Edward and his sons with the poor women in the name of God but in the end it seems to support their abusive behavior showing the victims as Satanists. My vote is eight.
Title (Brazil): Not Available
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.
Medieval madness over witchcraft is how I would sum up the film.
I quite liked Vincent Price in this film, he was evil and nasty as the character is suppose to be. He's a very unlikeable fellow in this film.
As far as the rest of the cast: they were good as well. No it may not have been first class acting (including Mr. Price) but everyone played their roles quite well.
The costuming, set and scenery is outstanding! I felt I was brought back to medieval times.
The Banshee itself? The viewer really does not see clearly - instead it is left to your imagination as to what The Banshee completely looked like.
The story really is a little bit sketchy because it leaves you with a few questions unanswered but that is what keeps you pondering the film. There was an opening for a part two left in this film if they wanted to make it. A part two could have answered the questions the viewer was left with and (maybe) it could have been the end of The Banshee as well.
I will have to rate this film 8/10
This is a nasty bit of business made by AIP during that dreary period where the colorful, fun horror movies of the '60s were giving way to the darker, grittier movies of the '70s. It stars Vincent Price, easily the biggest name in horror in the '60s. Despite the title, there's no banshees in this movie. It's about an evil magistrate (Price) who abuses and kills people in his village in the name of witch hunting. Similar at this point to another (better) Price vehicle from around this time called The Conqueror Worm. But the similarities end there as the main plot is about some witches summoning a demon or something to seek revenge on Price and his wicked children. No banshees to be found. Lots of sexual stuff, though, and not all of it consensual. There's even a song about rape in the movie. So...yeah...more banshees and less rape, please. This is an ugly, cheap, and unpleasant exploitation movie. It's not fun enough to be entertaining and, as for horror, it couldn't scare a five year-old. One interesting little bit of trivia is that Terry Gilliam did the opening credits. They're done in that same style Monty Python was famous for.
Gordon Hessler's "Cry Of The Banshee" of 1970 is certainly one of the
weaker films with the great Vincent Price, but it is still a pretty
good horror flick, and certainly way underrated. I must add, however,
that Vincent Price is my favorite actor of all-time and my personal
opinion is that you can never go wrong with a film with Price in the
Price stars as Lord William Whitman, a sadistic despot in Elizabethean England, who wants to terminate superstitious beliefs by brutally massacring followers of the 'old religion', a bizarre hippie-style witch cult lead by an old woman called Oona (Elisabeth Bergner). Lord Whitman, who lives in his castle with his kind-hearted daughter Maureen (Hillary Heath) his sadistic son Harry (Carl Rigg), his wife, Lady Patricia (Essy Persson), and Roderick, a young man whom the despotic lord let live with his family since childhood, shows no mercy when it comes to the persecution of the pagans living in the woods, and brutal oppression is the everyday situation in his town, where people are tortured and killed for the simple suspicion of being followers of Oona's cult.
Some parts of the movie remind a lot of Michael Reeves' masterpiece "Witchfinder General" of 1968, which also had Price in the lead and which is, of course, incomparably better than "Cry Of The Banshee". Besides Price, the movie also stars Hillary Heath, who also played the female lead in "Witchfinder General". Price is excellent as always, and Heath also delivers a good performance as his daughter. The rest of the acting differs, some performances are better, some worse, but they're certainly not terrible. The movie certainly has a few pretty cheesy moments, but it has at least as many creepy ones. Although the violence in this movie is not comparable to the violence in "Witchfinder General", the movie has some pretty brutal moments and some nudity, which gives the film a nice Exploitation feeling.
"Cry Of The Banshee" is certainly not one of the masterpieces with Vincent Price, but it is certainly not as bad as many seem to regard it. I personally found it very enjoyable, it definitely has some creepy moments, and I warmly recommend it to fans of Horror flicks and Vincent Price. 7/10
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.
The script went through a few revisions. Tim Kelly's script had witches who were all old women and set the story in the 1700s. Christopher Wicking moved the time to the 1500s (more accurate) and made the witches varying ages and genders. Wicking also changed the wife to a stepmother rather than a mother of the Whitmans, which gives her a bit of distance to see the actions of her cruel new family.
Steve Haberman suggests that Wicking's re-write of Kelly was in part inspired by the Manson murders. The witches initially were more peaceful, but under Wicking actually invoke Satan by name. This takes the nature-worshiping cult to a whole new level... from nature to the devil himself. Director Gordon Hessler said he (and Wicking) wanted to get one more draft of the script in, but AIP was rushing the production. One wonders what might have happened with just a bit more spit and polish.
The first thing you will notice when watching this film is that it looks like the opening is from a Monty Python movie. And there is a good reason you think that: it was, in fact, animated by Terry Gilliam, the American member of Monty Python and their animator. Unfortunately, this may be the highlight of the movie.
Vincent Price carries this film, as there are no other big name actors to speak of. Unless you count AIP regular (and Academy Award winner) Hugh Griffith, who plays the drunken grave robber Mickey. Mike Mayo says Price 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. A shame, really. Hilary Dwyer had previously been in both "Witchfinder General" (1968) and "The Oblong Box" (1969) alongside Vincent Price, but is not known outside of the AIP fan niche.
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. Haberman says that this was a song that truly dated to the correct period, so I have to give them credit for that. And it does coincide with a maiden getting attacked by thuggish men... but no castration.
Overall, the film is okay or good, but not the best. Vincent Price has better films where he plays 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.
Scream Factory, as always, has released the definitive version of this film on their Vincent Price box set. They give us both the AIP and unrated versions. So if you want to see a little extra violence, see a few more topless women, and hear the original score before AIP regular Les Baxter was hired to replace it, you now have that ability. Unfortunately, the director's cut does not substantially improve the movie's slow, poorly-conceived plot, and even director Gordon Hessler admits this is not some of his best work. (Amazingly, this was the biggest box office hit of the Hessler-Wicking team, even more than "Scream and Scream Again". Could it have been the misuse of the Poe name?)
Scream also provides a Steve Haberman audio commentary, which is very informative. He not only gives biographical information on the various people involved, but took the time to read both Kelly's and Wicking's scripts, so he knows quite well what went into developing the plot. The disc also has an archive interview with director Hessler, which is well worth checking out.
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