22 July 2014

Witchfinder General (1968)
87 min.
Directed by Michael Reeves.
With Vincent Price, Ian Ogilvy, Hilary Dwyer, Rupert Davies, Robert Russell, Patrick Wymark, Nicky Henson, Wilfrid Brambell.
Price delivers one of the finest performances of his career in this superior cult horror from the '60s.

The setting is mid 17th-century England. Political unrest abounds, as Oliver Cromwell attempts to overthrow Charles I and his loyalists.

Meanwhile, witchfinder general Matthew Hopkins (Price) scours the countryside in search of Satan-worshipping idolaters.

When he finds those accused of such crimes, he subjects them to outrageous litmus tests in order to determine their level of religious blasphemy. Then, regardless of the results, he executes them without mercy.

Not surprisingly, as with all zealots, Hopkins is totally immoral himself.

He brazenly violates the helpless Sarah (Dwyer), a ward of one of his victims.

But this proves to be his undoing. For he incurs the wrath of her betrothed lover Richard (Ogilvy). Now, Richard is out to kill the maniacal Hopkins...and neither may walk away alive.

This 1968 effort is a masterpiece of witchhunting terror. Witchfinder isn't the sleazefest that is Mark of the Devil (1970), but it's still appropriately bloody, effectively chilling, and uncompromisingly bleak.

Ogilvy and Price are terrific here, while director Reeves (1966's She-Beast) does a superb job of visual storytelling.

Best scene: the perfectly shrill ending.

Also known as The Conqueror Worm.

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