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Witchfinder General (1968)

Unrated | | Biography, Drama, Horror | 17 May 1968 (USA)
A young soldier seeks to put an end to the evils caused by a vicious witch hunter.

Director:

Michael Reeves

Writers:

Tom Baker (screenplay), Michael Reeves (screenplay) | 2 more credits »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Vincent Price ... Matthew Hopkins
Ian Ogilvy ... Richard Marshall
Rupert Davies ... John Lowes
Hilary Heath ... Sara (as Hilary Dwyer)
Robert Russell ... John Stearne
Nicky Henson ... Swallow
Tony Selby Tony Selby ... Salter
Bernard Kay ... Fisherman
Godfrey James Godfrey James ... Webb
Michael Beint Michael Beint ... Captain Gordon
John Trenaman John Trenaman ... Harcourt (as John Treneman)
Bill Maxwell Bill Maxwell ... Gifford
Paul Ferris Paul Ferris ... Paul (as Morris Jar)
Maggie Kimberly Maggie Kimberly ... Elizabeth
Peter Haigh Peter Haigh ... Lavenham Magistrate
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Storyline

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 <esutton@mindspring.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Vincent Price unleashes a reign of fire and fury. See more »


Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK | USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

17 May 1968 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Matthew Hopkins: Conqueror Worm See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$175,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Eastmancolor) (uncredited)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Director Michael Reeves wanted Donald Pleasence to play Matthew Hopkins, but American-International Pictures, the American distributor and co-financier of the film, insisted that Vincent Price play the title character, and Reeves grudgingly accepted. See more »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

[first lines]
[United States Conqueror Worm versions]
Matthew Hopkins: [voiceover] 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."
See more »

Alternate Versions

All British versions prior to 1996 were cut by 1 min 26 secs by the UK censor on original release. The Redemption Video release restores this material from a U.S laserdisc. See more »

Connections

Remade as Watchfinder General See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Probably not as gruesome as the real thing, but gruesome enough.
27 October 2002 | by Rastacat1See all my reviews

Matthew Hopkins was a self proclaimed Witchfinder who started his career in 1644 in Essex, England. In a three year career he is estimated to have killed between 200 and 400 "witches". The Witchfinder General (The Conqueror Worm) is a movie based on his success as a prosecutor of witches.

Witchfinder General is an interesting movie in that it is part horror, part melodrama, part historical epic. Vincent Price has one of his finest and most effective roles ever as Matthew Hopkins in this 1968 British Classic. The movie was renamed The Conqueror Worm for U.S. audiences to try and take advantage of Price's fame from Roger Corman's Edgar Allen Poe inspired series of movies. Except for reading part of the poem The Conqueror Worm during the ending credits, the movie has nothing to do with Poe.

The basic story is common enough for this sub-genre of horror movies: There is an abusive official who accuses and prosecutes alleged witches for his own personal gain and personal power trips. There are two other fine British films from this time period that deal with the same subject matter, The Devils by Kurt Russell and Mark of the Devil starring Herbert Lom. All three are well made and effective, but Witchfinder General is the darkest of the bunch. The tortures are all brutal and unnerving to watch and there is a lot of screaming in this movie. Price plays Hopkins as overbearing and cold bloodedly cruel. He allows a woman to submit to him sexually to prevent someone from being killed, then tortures and murders the guy anyway, and then later has her tortured and murdered for being a witch. What a guy!

The director of this movie was the young and upcoming Michael Reeves who unfortunately committed suicide in 1969, not long after this movie was released. There was a well known feud of sorts between Reeves and the star, Vincent Price. At one point Price is reputed to have said to the 25 year old director: "I have made over 70 films, what have you done?" with a reply from Reeves: "I have made three good ones". Perhaps the tension between director and star helped to make this the dark and humorless film that it is. Even 34 years after it's release, it still holds up as a beautifully made movie that hardly looks of feels dated at all. The period movies that Price was making with Roger Corman a few years before this film was made, while still excellent in many respects, are obviously a product of the 60's.

Unfortunately this movie has not been released in the U.S. on dvd. There is a British release that includes a documentary on Michael Reeves, but for now in America all we have is the MGM midnight movie video release. This film also appears on AMC now and again, and in fact, I just watched it on that channel yesterday.


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