Throwback Thurday: Witchfinder General (1968)

Posted: January 15, 2010 by Rebecca in Horror Movies, Throwback Thursday
Tags: , , , ,

AKA The Conquerer Worm

Directed by Michael Reeves

“There’s lots of screaming when there’s this much at stake!”

Witchfinder General takes place in the year 1645 in England, during the English Civil War.  It concerns a man  named Matthew Hopkins, played by Vincent Price, who is a lawyer, and witchfinder who has been appointed by Parliament to investigate claims of witchcraft.  He and his partner John Stearne (Robert Russell) travel around the country, torturing those that have been accused of witchcraft until they get a “confession”, and then kill the confessed witches- by hanging or fire.

They come to a town named Brandeston, where earlier we met a woman named Sara (Hilary Dwyer), and her uncle John (Rupert Davies), who is a priest, and her fiancee Richard Marshall (Ian Ogilvy), who is a soldier fighting for Oliver Cromwell, who has just left  the town to return to his regiment.

The uncle has been accused by some locals of being a witch, and so some torture ensues.  When Sara learns that her uncle is being tortured, she agrees to have sexual relations with Hopkins in exchange for the safety of her Uncle.  When Hopkins’s partner finds out about this, he takes the opportunity when Hopkins is away to  chase after her, and rape her.  When Hopkin’s finds out about this, he has the uncle tortured, “confessed”, and hung.

When Richard returns to Brandeston after learning about the witchhunting going on there, he finds Sara, marries her, and vows revenge.

Some quicks facts and tidbits

– Witchfinder General is based on a novel of the same name, written by Ronald Bassett, based loosely on a historical figure named Matthew Hopkins who was a self-appointed witchfinder.

– Donald Pleasance was considered for the role of Matthew Hopkins, but American International Pictures insisted that Vincent Price play the lead.

– This was Vincent Prices 75th film!

– Robert Russell’s voice was dubbed by another actor when the director decided that his naturally high pitched voice was unsuitable for his role as Hopkin’s assistant.

– During Rupert Davies’ torture scene, live rats were placed on his body.

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