Based on historical events and characters, this film charts the travels of Matthew Hopkins, Witchfinder General. This was the third film to be directed by Michael Reeves, the young English director who died a year or so after the film’s release.
Self appointed, Hopkins (Vincent Price) makes it his mission to seek out all that practice witchcraft and punish them by various means. However, many of those who are found ‘guilty’ are usually innocent such is a priest played by Rupert Davies. The priest’s niece is married to a soldier Richard (Ian Ogilvy) who swears revenge on Hopkins after he discovers not only the priest’s death but the sexual assault of his fiancee. The film ran into censorship issues when first released and even today the violence is still shocking.
Price, at this point was known for his camping up in various Poe movies from Roger Corman, but here he plays Hopkins deadly straight and is a deeply unsettling individual.
The blu-ray release from Odeon is a remastered HD print from the MGM archives and is the original version. The film was infamous for losing it’s music score, numerous scenes inserted to pep up the nudity and also for a pointless reading of a poem by Vincent Price to tie it in with his Poe series for co-producers AIP. The alternative title sequences and footage are available as extras on the disc. Other highlights on the disc included a documentary on Reeves which although reasonably short is excellent and a commentary by author Benjamin Halligan and the director of ‘Mark of the Devil’ Michael Armstrong.
Witchfinder General is presented in fantastic digital shape and is simply not only one of the best horror films of all time but also one of the best films of all time.
UPDATE – Now available is the complete musical score by Paul Ferris. It is a wonderful audio experience and essential for all fans of the film.
- Starring Vincent Price Ian Ogilvy Hilary Dwyer Patrick Wymark
- Director Michael Reeves
- Distributor Odeon Entertainment