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Witchfinder General [Blu-Ray] 
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A classic cult film that is presented for the first time in a new hi-definition remastered blu-ray. Directed by Michael Reeves Witchfinder General is probably Vincent Price's finest performance in this intense 1968 film that sees Price playing Matthew Hopkins, a sadistic 17th-century witchfinder who uses barbaric methods to identify and invariably execute supposed witches. Seventeenth century England is torn by civil war as the Royalists battle the Parliamentary Party for control. This bloody conflict distracts people from rational thought and allows unscrupulous men such as Mathew Hopkins to gain local power by exploiting village superstitions and touring the land to offer his services as a persecutor of witches. Aided by his sadistic accomplice John Stearne (Robert Russell) Hopkins travels from town to town extracting confessions from witches in order to gain money and sexual favours. When Hopkins persecutes a priest, he incurs the wrath of Richard Marshall (Ian Ogilvy) who is engaged to the priest's niece. Risking treason by leaving his military duties, Marshall relentlessly pursues the evil Hopkins and his minion Stearne. 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 an exceptionally talented and 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. A fantastic newly restored HD version of this uncut classic with a new documentary on witchcraft and the persecution of woman by Witchfinder Generals such as Mathew Hopkins, as well as extras on the witchcraft during the English Civil War and an interview with Vincent Price.
Witchfinder General is one of those cult British films that, like The Wicker Man, seemed to herald a renaissance in the fortunes of the British film industry in the late 1960s and early 70s. With only his third film, director Michael Reeves displayed an assured grasp of technique and a confident ability to mix and match genres that marked him out as a homegrown wunderkind to rival the Spielbergs and Coppolas who were just graduating from film school across the Atlantic. Sadly, this promise remained unfulfilled as Reeves died suddenly, soon after completing the film, from a lethal cocktail of prescription drugs; Witchfinder General remains his only significant work
Veteran Vincent Price is wonderfully cast as the titular witchfinder, Matthew Hopkins, whose bloody and usually sexually motivated persecutions across civil war-torn East Anglia are carried out with much relish, graphic fake blood and lots of screaming. Ian Ogilvy, an old school pal of the director's, is the upright new model soldier who swears vengeance against Hopkins for the rape of his betrothed (Hilary Dwyer, who in true Hammer Horror fashion gets to take her top off and scream a lot). Lascivious depictions of burning witches and gratuitous sex aside, what draws the viewer into the film is the setting as Reeves' camera roams lovingly across the East Anglian countryside. The opening-hanging scene, for example, depends strongly on location for its effect, and Ogilvy's quest for revenge takes on a John Ford-style Western aura in the director's hands. Perhaps not quite the masterpiece some seem to think it is, Witchfinder General remains a sturdy piece of distinctively British filmmaking.
On the DVD: This disc allows the viewer to select the slightly extended "Export cut" of the movie, which has a little more graphic blood than the censored UK release, although the restored sequences are of markedly inferior quality. The anamorphic picture and mono sound are decent, even if too many murky nighttime scenes and badly dubbed actors' voices betray the film's restrictively low budget. The major extra is a documentary about the life and short career of Michael Reeves, while other fill-ups include text notes from critic Kim Newman, a music video, trailer, filmographies and stills. All in all, it's a welcome restoration of a genre classic. --Mark Walker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Price plays Matthew Hopkins, a figure who looms large in the British folk memory. The Witchfinder General, a man of infinite infamy. Hopkins was a lawyer from East Anglia, who used the religious mania and political turmoil of the Civil War to prey upon his victims, persuading gullible villagers that various citizens were witches, and putting them to horrible deaths.
Price is totally chilling as the sadistic and cynical Hopkins. There is no hint of his more comedic performances here, he dominates the film and his malevolent presence overshadows every scene. The film follows his visits to several villages and explores his methods and motivations, leading to the deaths of various innocents. The story also follows a young soldier (an impressive Ian Ogilvy) in Cromwell's army, who is driven to revenge after Hopkins preys upon those close to him.
Director Michael Reeves beautifully brings the era of the civil war to life with some impressive location work and cinematography. He directs with a brisk pace, but manages to explore many characters fully and presents them as real people. Sadly, this was to be his last film as he died shortly after. Also worth getting is his only other work, `The Sorcerers', again with Ogilvy and an aged Boris Karloff. He only made two films but both were masterpieces that any director would be proud of.
It is hard to believe that this film was produced by Tigon, a film studio set up as a cheap rival to Hammer. It has a well crafted and well produced feel to it.
This special edition is pretty good.Read more ›
I was 17 years old, just about to complete my junior year of high school in Greenville, South Carolina, 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 (1968) and this film was rated M for mature audiences. Today it rates an R. 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 DVD editions this version features the original director's cut in a beautiful print with the original Paul Ferris score issuing from the soundtrack. An added bonus is the commentary which features star Ian Ogilvy that fills in the background of the making of the film.Read more ›
However the description given here in amazon of THIS edition of the dvd is incorrect - there is only one cut of the film on here, and NO extras at all.
I give the film 4 stars - an absolute classic and still pretty disturbing even by today's jaded standards. It's probably Vincent Price's finest hour too. A classic in every sense.
4-stars for the film, but this is a bare bones release.
Note to Amazon: COuld you please delete the DVD desription as it is clearly inaccurate and misleading - I ordered the DVD because I wanted those extra scenes mentioned.....
Most Recent Customer Reviews
a wonderful blast from the past, Vincent in one of his best roles.Published 2 months ago by terry baxter
A film in which the director despised his leading man, was branded sadistic and disgusting by critics and sensors alike upon release, and had a budget so low as to make most other... Read morePublished 3 months ago by R.M.F.Brown (Author)
Excellent addition to my collection. Delivery & service 1st class, i'm very pleased.Published 3 months ago by Christopher
It's very short and doesn't really tell you very much about the period but it's a pretty okay watch to get a rough idea of the nature of the English Witch Hunts.Published 5 months ago by Jay-Jay
Bought this as a gift for my fiance who LOVES Vincent Price and has always wanted this movie. I posted it overseas and he has only just watched it and as much as he loved the... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Vanessagirl