Witchfinder General

DVD Reviews | Oct 10th, 2007

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Starring Vincent Price, Ian Ogilvy, Rupert Davies, Hilary Heath, Robert Russell
Written By: Tom Baker
Directed By: Michael Reeves
Studio: MGM
Buy on Amazon.com link

Witchfinder General, AKA Matthew Hopkins: Witchfinder General, AKA Edgar Allen Poe’s The Conquerer Worm, is a very strange movie… a very strange movie indeed. It’s a more demented and brutal movie than you’d expect to find with a star like Vincent Price. It’s advertised as some sort of witch-infested horror movie but is not. And the colors on the screen are way too bright and cheerful for the subject matter.

The movie begins with a good old-fashioned witch hangin’, then randomly switches to a historical narration as we meet a soldier in Cromwell’s army in the 17th century, who, we learn, is gonna be marryin’ his sweetheart.

But wait! Here comes Vincent Price! And he wants to kill… DA DA DUMMM… witches!

It’s kind of sad watching this movie. It’s pretty damn seedy, much more so than the usual Price fare. Plus, he seems to be sleepwalking through it. I’ve seen some reviews praising his “subtle” performance, but I see nothing subtle about it. It looks like he just doesn’t care most of the time. Meanwhile, his torture-happy sidekick overacts to ridiculous extremes. Sometimes I was expecting him to start foaming at the mouth. Sadly that didn’t happen either. Lame.

But anway. So the film isn’t a horror movie, then what is it? Well, as mentioned above, it starts off as a sort of historical drama/romance movie. Then it becomes a precursor to today’s trendy torture-porn movies. Then it switches again and becomes a precursor to bad 70s/80s Charles Bronson-style revenge movies. It’s an interesting set of ideas but I don’t think the filmmakers really got it to mesh nearly as well as it should – it just seems to jump around rather than flow smoothly.

So, I suppose I can recommend this if you’re an obsessive Vincent Price completist, or if you’re looking for a historical – drama – and – torture – and – murder – and – revenge flick. But on the whole, I’d say give it a pass. It has some pretty nice production values but is otherwise very inconsistent and more than a little depressing to a Vincent Price fan like me.

Witchfinder General: Michael Reeves’ Horror Classic featurette
Audio commentary featuring co-producer Philip Waddilove and star Ian Ogilvy

Dolby Digital mono

1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen

English, French, Spanish

Favorite Scenes: The scene where Price looks incredibly bored while seducing a woman is kind of amusing, I guess.
Rating: NR
Running Time: 87 minutes
Extras Rating:
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