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The Sunday Cult film Corner: Witchfinder General (1968)

07 Aug

the gathering of pace on the blog continues…

Now here is a film i was going to include at some point, but I’ve decided to do it this weekend after a conversation with my friend Ragnar yesterday, when in which he said that he’d never seen this picture before. Initially i was a little amazed that he hadn’t, but i am all for educating and furthering a friends knowledge base. so Ladies and Gentlemen (and Ragnar), i give you WITCHFINDER GENERAL.

Made in 1968 and directed by Michael Reeves, Witchfinder General is a horror film set during the English civil war. Religious fervour is rife, as is the fear of witches and “the devil”. Amongst this chaos, a man named Hopkins (played by Vincent Price) takes advantage of the breakdown in social order and appoints himself as “Witchfinder General”, roaming round the countryside, torturing innocent people he has decreed as Witches and demons and creating an atmosphere of terror. But it all pays well apparently, so there.

Amongst this a soldier named Marshall (Ian Ogilvy) has returned from battle to marry his fiance Sara. However Hopkins has deigns on the woman for himself and bribes Sara for sexual favours to save his uncle. This puts him on a collision course with Marshall with shocking and devastating results.

when Witchfinder General was released, it received a fair amount of controversy over its (for the time) graphic scenes of torture and violence which some people thought of as overly sadistic. There were many problems on set between Vincent Price and Director Reeves. Price wasn’t the directors 1st choice for the part of Hopkins and Reeves made it known to everyone, including Price. The pair almost came to blows on more than one occasion and at one point caused the now famous argument with Price screaming “I’ve appeared in 87 films! What have you done?”, to which Reeves replied “I’ve made three good ones!”

Despite the fights and controversy, Witchfinder is often regarded by many as Price’s best film. And it’s easy to see why. He’s tones down a lot of the haminess that he was known for to create a low-key, brooding menacing performance of a morally reprehensible human being. the film itself is a superior piece of “Witch-ploitation”, bleak and unremitting in its depiction of filth and squalor and nastiness.  Alas director Reeves was never able to capitalise on the success of the film, sadly dying of a drug overdose several months after filming.

so let’s some good ol’ fashioned witch hunting done by putting your feet up and watching some proper dark ages torture!

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2011 in Film

 

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