Sunday, October 28, 2007

"Witchfinder General"(1968)d/Michael Reeves

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
You can imagine how excited I was when MGM released "Witchfinder General" through their Midnight Movies DVD series recently.I've always been a huge fan of Vincent Price,and this film is one of my all-time favorite Price vehicles.It was re-released as "The Conqueror Worm" in the United States to cash in Roger Corman's earlier string of Edgar Allan Poe movies starring Vincent Price,but has precious little to do with the author or his work,only briefly alluding to his poem.Where Price is concerned,this one is an absolute must,and a far cry from the hammy thespian we've come to know and love.There's no shrunken head apple makers here,he's a power-mad prick(roll your tongue dramatically here)who concocts all sorts of on-screen violence in the name of the good lord that had sixties audiences aghast in the aisles.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Vincent Price as Matthew Hopkins,the titular Witchfinder General.
Matthew Hopkins and his bestial associate Stearne are opportunists in the civil war-torn 1645 English countryside,torturing villagers into confessing diabolical acts of witchery,and collecting a fortune from the local magistrates for services rendered.While her lover is away fighting for the roundheads,Sara(Hilary Dwyer),the niece of a parson who is looked upon with disdain by the villagers for his unorthodox ways,encounters Hopkins and Stearne,who gleefully arrest the parson on charges of witchcraft,jabbing needles into his back in search for the "devil's mark" before Sara offers her own body to the Witchfinder in exchange for the old man's life.After Stearne takes for himself what is given to Hopkins,the young girl loses favour in the Witchfinder's eyes,and he resumes torturing her uncle,executing the parson and two women before travelling on to the next town.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Stearne(Robert Russell)tries out his new human pin cushion.
Sara's lover Marshall returns to her town of Brandeston and hears of the lurid details of her time away from him,and Hopkins' dastardly deeds,vowing to kill the men of God.Meanwhile,Hopkins and Stearne become separated when a roundhead patrol tries to comandeer their horses for the war effort,with Hopkins leaving his partner to be captured.Marshall fights with Stearne, who escapes and reunites with his co-conspiritor and warns him of the young soldier's plans for revenge.While separated from Stearne,the Witchfinder works alone,devising new methods for purging the devil out of accused witches,burning them at the stake alive.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Anyone bring marshmallows?
In Lavenham,Hopkins and associate find Sara,who had been sent there earlier for her own protection,and set a trap for Marshall who learns that the witchhunters are in the town.The Witchfinder accuses the young couple of witchcraft and arrest them both,dragging them to a dungeon where the torture commences.Marshall is forced to watch Stearne drive needles into Sara's back,refusing to confess,and instead vowing to kill both men with his bare hands.Marshall's army troop converge on their place of confinement as the young soldier breaks free of his bonds and a fight ensues.Does love triumph over all?Does the Witchfinder live to carry out God's work another day?Buy the MGM dvd and find out the action-packed climax for yourself!
As I stated earlier,this predecessor to "Mark of the Devil"(1970)(another favorite of mine,of course) delivers on solid performances by the cast,unusual amounts of grue for the time period,and strong direction and script.The dvd offers a crisp clear print of the film,and the original trailer,and is most deserving of a place on your shelves if you fancy yourself a Vincent Price enthusiast.The master does not disappoint!
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
A witch gives new meaning to the term "well-hung".
Four out of four B.W.'s

No comments:

Connect with Facebook