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 ... See full summary »
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 camera shadow on the back of one of the villagers on the bridge just before the accused witches are lowered in the moat. 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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Witchfinder General: inarguably Price's greatest ever film
I don't really understand the top reviewer's problem with 'Witchfinder General' is, it seems as though he's almost reviewing real life, as he alludes to Hopkins not meeting his fate as he does in this film.
Well of course he doesn't - this is, after all, a motion picture, and people need to be entertained - not ruthlessly tortured as to how such an evil man basically got away with the deaths of what must surely be thousands of innocent English women, and probably countless American's too. How the man's demise occurs seems irrelevant really as we are treated to an exceptionally extreme portrayal of an individual gone absolutely insane with power; courtesy of horror legend Vincent Price.
As has been mentioned, Price could be a worry for such a serious role, his usually tongue in cheek and knowingly camp performances were the things of legend in B-movies, yet here he takes on a persona which is absolutely bafflingly disturbing. The other actors simply hold on for dear life as Price literally bribes the stage, then has sex with it, before setting fire to it - absolutely stunningly powerful acting that I believe has rarely been bettered.
In a way, his performance as Hopkins when compared with some of his other notable roles such as Henry Jarrod in House of Wax - the camp and stagey villain, mirrors the real life black and white psychology of man, here Price is in seriously disturbed mode, a foul villainous man who oozes menace, malice and distaste for the stupid mortals he often finds himself rubbing shoulders with.
To say that 'Witchfinder' is a horror film in the conventional sense ('a scary or malevolent force that must be overcome') would be accurate, but it would be doing it a wild disservice: just as saying 'Don't Look Now' is a film about a child dying, that 'The Wickerman' is a film about crazy pagans, and so on: Witchfinder General is absolutely not a film about witches, nor is it really a film about witchtrials, descriptions like this undersell the film entirely. Witchfinder General is essentially a story that could be recreated anywhere, the trenches of World War One, in a Dynasty in China, even in the Wild West - it just so happens that the land of dark ages Britain lends itself perfectly to the influence and utter insanity of the witch- trials and the hysteria that surrounded them.
Witchfinder General has been bundled in with other British horror films of the late 60's and early 70's for sheer convenience sake, films like 'Wickerman' (who it conveniently sits next to in my DVD collection!) and 'Blood On Satan's Claw', all being billed as similar films, yet in all honesty, those two pictures would not exist, let alone the serious British film industry as we today know it were it not for a film like 'Witchfinder General'. It completely threw open the doors for what horror could be (remember: up until the 70's it was a jumpy, if not forgettable and often quite silly fare - as in some of the excellent Hammer pictures) a shatteringly powerful psychological examination of the darkest recesses of the human psyche, and though the ending is predictable, deserved, and utterly justifiable, there is no doubt that my last point is proved sublimely by said provocative finale.
See Witchfinder General now: see a (formerly) joke actor reinvent his career in a staggering fashion, see the most malevolent and evil human being ever committed to celluloid, see the insanity of five hundred years ago, or even just stay for the beautiful British country side, all the while beset by the disgusting characters who have soiled and destroyed it.
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