Witchfinder General (UK, 1968)

Taciturn evil

Entitled Conqueror Worm, apparently, in USA; Witchfinder General is better. Director Michael Reeves, who died aged 25 after this, his fourth, feature was obviously talented and a sad loss to British cinema (if it had been able to retain and sustain him). There a few films – if any – of the era that manage to convey the terror of the times (English Civil War) of the arbitrariness of witch hunting. I watched the restored version and this certainly shows the film to be a precursor of ’70s gore movies but without the gore though showing the cruelty. However, here the violence is not gratuitous though the ‘breast’ count probably is so I guess it’s half an exploitation movie.

Vincent Price’s performance might be an example of an actor sleepwalking a role or simply brilliant. His taciturnity is perfect but – obviously – leaves little room for expression. I wouldn’t say Reeves’ direction is particularly striking, however he does ring the cruelty of the time true.


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