Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Witchfinder General

"Witchfinder General" (1968, Tigon British-American International, Michael Reeves) is a British witch trials-centred horror starring the horror master, Vincent Price.

Price plays The Witchfinder, Matthew Hopkins (an actual man in British History, who was responsible for many atrocities in his time, but wasn't sanctioned by the government or church, unlike this tale).

The year is 1645, the time of The English Civil War, and law and order are virtually non-existent. Belief in witches is rife, and the scapegoating of women for everyday ills and unfair treatment is commonplace. Hopkins spends his life travelling the length and breadth of the country 'hunting', torturing and exacting justice on 'witches' with his team of followers.

Vincent Price is terrifying in this film, even by today's standards. Hopkins is insane, determined, evil minded and has the power of 'god' behind him... The church of the day supported this kind of behaviour, so no one was safe.

A lot of screaming goes on in this film. A lot. It's virtually a screamfest. I had to turn it down to avoid annoying my neighbours!

Despite there being pretty much no gore at all, the tense, suspicious feeling this film creates is tangible. There are also some hanging scenes which are disturbing in their simplicity.

Being a later film of this type, they felt the need to bring in some boob shots and a lot of shots of the whoring and activities of the menfolk. And we all know the priest's neice is in for some trouble after her pre-marital sexcapades with her betrothed! Also there's some rape. Thankfully off camera, but rape nonetheless.

Hopkins rolls into town to accuse the Priest of being in league with Satan (and all his little wizards if you watch 'Blackadder'). His neice is distraught and bargains for his safety with her virtue (little does Matthew know she's not actually a virgin...). When her soldier fiancé finds out, he races back to save the day!

As I mentioned, a lot of screaming and hangings (and other real witch finding tortures; pricking with needles, dooking in water, the ladder over fire....). There's little gore, but some very red blood. The story is simple and effective (I have never read the novel, so can't comment on trueness to plot) and as I mentioned, Price is an excellent villain in this piece! Even his own men hate him!

A surprisingly brutal film, with some remarkably true points on witch hunting in Britain in this era, as well as a good yarn. Oh, and no actual witches. This isn't a supernatural film!

[Picture: Tigon British-American International]