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 <email@example.com>
The interiors were filmed in two specially converted aircraft hangars near Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk, which were leased for £1,500; this cost-measure resulted in much of the dialogue having to be re-recorded later, because the tin roofs of the hangars caused an echo. The exterior shots range from the Dunwich coast (for the scene with the fisherman) to Langley Park outside London (for the scene where Stearne escapes capture). The tracking shot of the ambush after the opening credits was filmed at Black Park in southeast Buckinghamshire, a location frequently used by Hammer Film Productions. Lavenham Square (in Lavenham, Suffolk), site of the witch-burning scene, was the real Lavenham Market Square; the crew lowered TV antennas and telephone wires and producer Philip Waddilove hired a cherry picker from a local utility company for £10, because the unit couldn't afford a camera crane. The countryside vistas seen in the chase scenes on horseback were shot on the Stanford Battle Area near Thetford, Norfolk--the producer, through connections with the government, was able to lease parts of the area. The church used in the film is St. John The Evangelist in Rushford in Norfolk. The moat drowning and hanging scenes were filmed at Kentwell Hall, in Long Melford. The climax of the film was shot at Orford Castle, on the coast of East Anglia, which is an English Heritage property. Filming wrapped as scheduled on 13 November 1967. The production went relatively smoothly, except for the unrelentingly antagonistic relationship that developed between director Michael Reeves and Vincent Price. Reeves kept it no secret from everyone associated with the production that the American actor was not his choice for the role, and the director's comments had reached the actor back in the US. Reeves refused Price the courtesy of meeting him at London's Heathrow Airport when he arrived in England, a "deliberate snub calculated to offend both Price and AIP". "Take me to your goddamn young genius," Price reportedly said to co-producer Philip Waddilove, who greeted the actor at the airport instead of Reeves. When Price went on location and met Reeves for the first time, the young director told the actor, "I didn't want you, and I still don't want you, but I'm stuck with you!". According to Kim Newman in his book "Nightmare Movies", when Reeves made a suggestion on the set, Price objected and told the director, "I've made 87 films. What have you done?" And Reeves responded, "I've made three good ones". Price later recalled, "Reeves hated me . . . He didn't want me at all for the part. I didn't like him, either. It was one of the first times in my life that I've been in a picture where the director and I just clashed." Price felt that all the actors on the set had a difficult time with the director, explaining: "Michael Reeves could not communicate with actors. He would stop me and say, 'Don't move your head like that.' And I would say, 'Like what? What do you mean?' He'd say, 'There--you're doing it again. Don't do that'." Price reportedly became so upset with Reeves that he refused to watch the film's dailies. See more »
The film depicts Matthew Hopkins as being killed in 1645 whilst witch-hunting. In fact he lived until 1647, dying of natural causes, by which time he had retired from that 'profession'. 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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European release versions use alternate takes of the tavern scenes, including some nudity. The wenches are played by different actresses in the clothed and unclothed versions. See more »
Genuine horror, from a film that's NOT a horror film!
I have a copy of Witchfinder General from many years ago. Recently, whilst re-organising my collection, I happened upon it and watched it once more. This film still manages to induce general feelings of horror on account of its violence, even though it is not really a 'horror' film as such. Watch it for its superb cinematography which lends it an appearance of freshness that belies its 35 years. It still looks as if it could have been made yesterday. Some of the more violent scenes will make you squirm. The cruelty of the period portrayed can only be imagined and the cheapness of life comes across as truly shocking. Vincent Price is excellent as Hopkins (though maybe a bit 'mature' to portray him, since he was witchfinding in his late twenties and died in his early thirties). To think that this evil man really existed and operated unchecked for several years leaves one cold. A minor masterpiece that all lovers of the macabre should enjoy.
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