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Witchfinder General

93 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Vincent Price, Ian Ogilvy. A 17th-century British witch hunter during the time of Cromwell's reign travels the English countryside as he does his dirty work for the strict purpose of lining his pockets. Completely taking advantage of the civil strife, he terrorizes people and bends them to his will, forcing confessions from witches" until a military officer risks treason to seek revenge against him. 1968/color/86 min/NR.

By consensus, Vincent Price's finest performance among his gallery of horror-movie rogues comes in Witchfinder General, the intense 1968 film that erased any hint of camp from the actor's persona. Price plays Matthew Hopkins, a sadistic 17th-century "witchfinder" who uses barbaric methods to identify (and invariably execute) supposed witches. Along with Price's disciplined work, Witchfinder is also the best film by the talented and ill-fated director Michael Reeves, who was only 24 when he shot the movie. Blessed with a great feeling for English landscapes and an eye for blackly telling details (peasants roasting potatoes in the ashes of a burned witch), Reeves was clearly a promising filmmaker, who died in 1969 from a drug overdose. The most vivid thing about Witchfinder General is the way it explicitly links paranoia and witch-hunting to misogyny, and how female sexual energy is seen by the ruling order as a threat. The final sequence is perhaps the most harrowing fade-out of any Sixties horror picture, and offers no comforting resolution.

Included on the Witchfinder package is a disc of three featurettes: a half-hour bio, the 12–minute Art of Fear that looks at his horror work (with the expected focus on the other films in this box set), and a 15–minute piece on other actors working with Price (although these actors are not interviewed, just the gallery of experts who speak in the other docs). The Witchfinder disc includes a valuable backgrounder on the movie, including the story behind the original U.S. release of the film, titled The Conqueror Worm (to cash in on Price's connection to Edgar Allan Poe works, which this is not), plus a commentary with producer Philip Waddilove and Michael Reeves' favored leading man, Ian Ogilvy. --Robert Horton

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Vincent Price, Ian Ogilvy, Rupert Davies, Hilary Heath, Robert Russell
  • Directors: Michael Reeves
  • Writers: Michael Reeves, Louis M. Heyward, Edgar Allan Poe, Ronald Bassett, Tom Baker
  • Producers: Arnold L. Miller, Louis M. Heyward
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • DVD Release Date: September 11, 2007
  • Run Time: 86 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000RO9PUU
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #53,943 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Witchfinder General" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

77 of 82 people found the following review helpful By Chip Kaufmann on September 13, 2007
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Every lover of film has had a pivotal film experience, the movie that made such an impact on them that they have never forgotten it. For me WITCHFINDER GENERAL is that film. I first saw it in 1969 as THE CONQUERER WORM (AIP's American release title designed to cash in on the Vincent Price/Edgar Allan Poe series although the movie has nothing to do with Poe). I was 17 years old, just about to complete my junior year of high school in Greenville SC, and was a big fan of the Roger Corman/Vincent Price Poe series. I had seen very few films that would not qualify as G rated. The ratings system had just been introduced the year before and this film was rated M (for mature audiences, later GP then PG). It was a complete shock to the system in every way. It was the first time I had seen nudity/lovemaking before and the violence was painful and ugly. Vincent Price was cold and hard without a trace of his usual mannerisms and therefore not sympathetic in the least. To top it all off there was no happy ending and people were worse off than they were before. Of course these things had been in films since the silent era but it was the first time I had seen them and we always remember our firsts.

I have seen just about everything in the movies since then but seeing WITCHFINDER nearly 40 years later I'm amazed at how well it holds up. I am happy to report that after years of substandard VHS and Region 2 DVD editions this version features the original director's cut and restores the original soundtrack which was not available in America. An added bonus is the commentary which features star Ian Ogilvy that fills in the background of the making of the film. For those who don't know, the film is set during the English Civil War and pits two young lovers against a sadistic Puritan witchfinder.
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46 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Movie Crazy CT on September 7, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
The Conqueror Worm is a textbook example of a movie's potential prospects as an acknowledged classic being wrecked by the stupidity of critics and the cynical manipulations of a distributor underestimating the intelligence of American viewers. Distributed by AIP in America as "The Conqueror Worm" and purportedly "based on the writing of Edgar Allan Poe", the film got buried by disinterested US critics who incorrectly passed it off as simply another addition to the increasingly tiresome Poe fare being churned out by AIP, Roger Corman and others. The casting of Vincent Price, of course, only strengthened this unfortunate and lazy critical impulse. For this, the distributor is as much to blame as the critics, by consciously pursuing a marketing strategy which implied precisely what critics chose to believe. And by tampering with the film itself to contrive to provide a Poe connection (by adding prologue and epilogue commentary by Vincent Price quoting from Poe's poem) AIP hung its sinking critical reputation around the neck of this great movie. In fact, The Conqueror Worm has nothing to do with Edgar Allan Poe and was not even made by the AIP studio either. And when US critics began hearing European buzz about a great little horror movie called The Witchfinder General by an innovative young Brit director, Michael Reeves, how were they then to know it was the same movie they had so flippantly disregarded? By the time The Witchfinder General was rereviewed as the stand alone original it is, it was too late. The movie's moment had passed amongst the moviegoing mainstream. It is only through its devoted cult following that memory of it and its tragic young director (who died in mysterious circumstances at the age of 25) has deservedly been kept alive.Read more ›
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By OverTheMoon on October 16, 2005
Format: DVD
... or maybe the best horror western ever. What you make of this will depend on two things. How much you like old British horror and how much you know about the production of this particular film. When you realize that this is the last production of a young talented Director, Michael Reeves, who died (25 - accidental overdose) on the path to being one of the all time greatest film directors, and that this is his third, last and best film, you will under its value (as an example of his talent watch the shot in this film of young children cooking potatoes in the ashes of a `witch' that has just been burned). It is a notch above your average late 1960s early 1970s horror films. In fact it is a notch above nearly every British film making it one of the British modern classics.

The story is based on the real life times and crimes of the lawyer and Witchfinder General - Mathew Hopkins, who set about destroying alleged witches across England with the full power of the law. This film depicts the various acts of torture and trials conducted on witches making it an extremely important historical document (as a note the Western influence comes from the gallant long countryside horseback riding shots, mobs in the villages and things like gallows being erected in the same vein as the cowboy movies in the USA of that era. It WORKS extremely well!) It is also certainly the best rendition of such grim persecutions to date on the screen (US viewers should think Salem Witch Trials x 100).

There is an interesting plot involving a young soldier whose fiancée's father - a priest, is put on trial for witchcraft while the soldier is away.
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