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 destroy the lord's family. (The "banshee" of this tale bears no resemblance to the normal usage of the term!)Written by
Marg Baskin <email@example.com>
This film inspired the name of the group Siouxsie and the Banshees, as after rehearsals for an upcoming concert the then unnamed band saw this film being shown on ITV. See more »
One of the characters sees a piebald rabbit, which turns into a gray rabbit when it is picked up. When it is returned to the ground and it runs away it has reverted to the original rabbit. See more »
[panicking because everyone is dying]
Lord Edward Whitman:
Light. Light. Sean. Burke. I want this house to shine as bright as noon.
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The end credits are divided into "The Establishment, "Witches", and "Villagers". See more »
The differences between the cut AIP version and the original edit (released on DVD in the US) are significant:
The AIP re-edit repositions the coven massacre scene (that occurs about half an hour into the film in the original version) as a pre-credits scene. The sequence is also slightly trimmed to eliminate some nudity and also remove the shots of Hugh Griffith observing the action.
The original credits are Pythonesque animations by Terry Gilliam. These animations were replaced in the AIP re-edit by stills of some of the winged creatures.
The music score was changed - the new music was composed by Lex Baxter. Wilfred Joseph did the original score.
All topless nudity was removed from the AIP re-edit. This involved trimming several scenes and re-framing others (zooming in on the "unoffensive" part of the frame). This chopped about 3m off the running time.
The death of Essay Persson was abridged
In the middle section of the film some other scenes were re-positioned in the narrative with the intent of bringing forward the appearance of the coven (in order to speed up the narrative). The version on DVD runs 91m whereas the old AIP version runs only 87m.
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 origin.
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.
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