WITCHFINDER GENERAL. 1968. BASED ON THE NOVEL OF THE SAME NAME BY RONALD BASSETT. PRODUCTION COMPANIES: TIGON BRITISH FILM PRODUCTIONS AND AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL PICTURES. DIRECTED BY MICHAEL REEVES. STARRING VINCENT PRICE, IAN OGILVY AND HILARY DWYER. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
This is a perfect film. A perfect film. Don’t try to argue with me on this one, haha. Alongside THE WICKER MAN (1973), it’s probably the best British horror film of all time. I love watching it on BBC2 late on Halloween night or the night before or after. I love watching it anytime, to tell you the truth.
It makes every fibre of my being literally ache with longing for an era of superb British film-making that ended before I was born. THE WICKER MAN has the same effect on me, especially the bit where the giant head drops off into the sea while a blazing sunset paints the sky blood-red and the haunting music that accompanies the end credits gets into its stride. I’m getting shivers just thinking about it. Better move onto THE WITCHFINDER before I get too emotional, haha.
There are so many things that make this film both memorable and, as I may have mentioned earlier, perfect. The tragic death of its brilliant young director just a few months after the film’s release, for one thing. The accusations of tasteless violence and a disgusting level of sadism levelled towards the film upon its arrival into the public eye, for another. Vincent Price’s brilliant performance as Matthew Hopkins, possibly his most evil character ever. The admirable debut performance of the beautiful Hilary Dwyer and, of course, the fact that Ian Ogilvy, surely the handsomest man in England in his day, is playing the romantic lead, and with as much swash ‘n’ buckle as you could ever reasonably hope for…
The year is 1645. Matthew Hopkins is riding around East Anglia with his odious sidekick John Stearne in tow. What are they up to? In the words of indie band BLOC PARTY, the nasty pair are hunting for witches… See what I did there?
Anyway, they hang and burn so-called witches, both male and female, after first torturing them horribly in order to extract confessions from the poor souls. The scenes of torture and execution in the film are chillingly realistic, especially Hopkins’s ‘new’ method of burning ‘witches,’ which is just awful to watch. I meaning, burning someone is quite bad enough without doing it this way to boot.
Sara Lowes’s uncle John Lowes, a priest, is one of Hopkins’s victims. So too is Sara, as the evil Hopkins forces her to submit to sex with him on the off-chance that he might spare her uncle. The dirty rotten liar…! Ian ‘Handsome’ Ogilvy is Sara’s Roundhead lover (well, Roundhead in the sense that he’s a soldier, anyway…!) and he takes mighty umbrage at the rape of his buxom fiancée by both Hopkins and his repulsive lackey Stearne. He vows revenge against the foul pair. They’re surely in for it now, folks…
‘Handsome’ spends a lot of the film riding. I wasn’t actually referring to his swoonsome sex scene with the lovely Sara but since you mention it…! No, I mean riding horses, all the livelong day in search of Hopkins and Stearne, past some of the most glorious autumnal scenery ever committed to celluloid. Does he catch up with the noxious pair and introduce ’em both to The Fist Of Justice and The Riding-Boot Of Retribution And Vengeance? Now, you know I can’t tell you that, you naughty lot…
Roll on next Halloween, which will probably be the next time I get to watch this unmatchable British horror film on BBC2 late at night, which is surely the best way of all to watch it. Luckily, I have it on DVD though, so I can at least watch it that way as often as I like. So remember, don’t be alarmed if you hear blood-curdling screams and the sounds of unimaginable suffering and hell-on-earth issuing spookily from behind my closed doors, folks. It’s only THE WITCHFINDER…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at:
1) ‘… BY A WOMAN WALKING HER DOG…’
2) A WRITER’S JOURNEY
3) ANNA MEETS COUNT DRACULA
4) ANOTHER FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
5) CANCER BALLS
6) CATCH OF THE DAY
7) FIFTY FILTHY-DIRTY SEX-POEMS YOU MUST READ BEFORE I DIE.
8) FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
9) THE DEVIANTS
10) VISITING DAY