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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hammer Horror Classic!
Despite being made more than forty years ago, this is quite a recent outing for actress Joan Fontaine in terms of her long and outstanding career - and in terms of how little she's done since. This film is an oddity for many of its cast - not least for Alec McCowen and Kay Walsh - to mention just two.

The film gets off to the classic start of strange and...
Published on 25 Mar 2007 by FAMOUS NAME

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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An intriguing near miss
The Witches aka The Devil's Own is an interesting but ultimately unsuccessful attempt by Hammer to make a serious(ish) movie about witchcraft. Nigel Kneale's screenplay displays some of his customary intelligence, but here he seems hindered by working not from an original story but by adapting Norah Loft's novel. A deathly pale Joan Fontaine is the schoolteacher...
Published on 27 Nov 2006 by Trevor Willsmer


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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hammer Horror Classic!, 25 Mar 2007
By 
FAMOUS NAME (UNITED KINGDOM) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Witches [DVD] [1966] (DVD)
Despite being made more than forty years ago, this is quite a recent outing for actress Joan Fontaine in terms of her long and outstanding career - and in terms of how little she's done since. This film is an oddity for many of its cast - not least for Alec McCowen and Kay Walsh - to mention just two.

The film gets off to the classic start of strange and puzzling incidents, but somehow, despite the big build up, the viewer is left feeling rather 'let down' when reaching the climax. It is unsure what is to be expected, but one is somehow surprised/disappointed at the end. There's a surprise appearance of a young and good-looking Leonard Rossiter (Rising Damp) in one of his rare straight roles, and there are many other familiar faces, including Michelle Dotrice and Carmel McSharry.

Very much typical of the 1960s Hammer material that was turned out - but enhanced by a great performance from Fontaine. (some might find her acting style a little dated in this)

Was a long time coming out on DVD in the UK.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An intriguing near miss, 27 Nov 2006
By 
Trevor Willsmer (London, England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Witches [DVD] [1966] (DVD)
The Witches aka The Devil's Own is an interesting but ultimately unsuccessful attempt by Hammer to make a serious(ish) movie about witchcraft. Nigel Kneale's screenplay displays some of his customary intelligence, but here he seems hindered by working not from an original story but by adapting Norah Loft's novel. A deathly pale Joan Fontaine is the schoolteacher recovering from a nervous breakdown who takes a job in an outwardly idyllic English village only to gradually suspect that there are darker forces at work - although this could just be in her own imagination. Of course, we know that she's clearly bonkers after her horrible offscreen experience at the hands of witchdoctors in Africa (well, a soundstage in Bray) while the credits were running, but we also know that just because she's had one turn of the screw too many doesn't mean there aren't real witches at work...

It's good at the unpleasant undercurrents in ostensibly beautiful small country towns and also looks at the attraction witchcraft has for women of a certain age (it's a power thing, apparently, with magic as a substitute for waning sexual power). Unfortunately, it goes downhill pretty fast once the cat is, quite literally, out of the bag and the last reel orgy plays more like a bad amateur modern dance performance that goes on forever than a terrifying pagan ritual (the silly costume doesn't help, although it's probably the only 60s film to feature faecophiliacs at play if that's your thing).
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A gem from the Hammer archives, 30 Jun 2008
This review is from: The Witches [DVD] [1966] (DVD)
I bought this on the strength of Hammer, witchcraft & mid 60s, then I read reviews & felt foolish as they all seemed to say it was dull, duff stuff. But not so. I saw it last night. The African set at the start is clearly a model but then it gets going and the colour photography is amazing: Wonderful, rich, sharp colours - the Berkshire countryside and villages are beautiful - it's great to see the world of my childhood alive again. In mid section it's rather like an episode of the Avengers from '66/67 set in High Summer England with Joan Fontaine doing a tolerably good, rather decorous, imitation of Diana Rigg. The sets are as good as ever Hammer did in this period - which is v good & v English. Good acting (lots of weird & lots of gin neat which always helps, not to mention lots of pills). Nice pace and the ending was, frankly, a total surprise (probably because I'd been expecting something more along the lines of The Wicker Man... there are lots of similarities). Also a nice touch mid way with an attack by savage, frenzied sheep (I saw 'Black Sheep' last month so that really worked for me). Overall this is really rather a good film - see it if you have the chance.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Minor classic, 6 Aug 2009
By 
S J Buck (Kent, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Witches [DVD] [1966] (DVD)
Apparently this was not a success at the time of its release. I don't understand this at all because what Hammer have done here is produce a minor masterpiece in their substantial range of films. The plot needs little explanation as the title tells you everything.

What I will say though is that this is well acted, by a fine cast, equally well directed and most important of all its very well controlled. There is a subtle underlying sense of menace going on in this film, which it would be rare to see in a modern film. In fact but for the last 10 minutes, where the inevitable rituals and costumes see the light of day this would have got 5 stars from me. Only the ending lets it down.

Aside from that its highly recommended. Note this is also in the 21 disc Hammer boxed set as well.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A DISTURBING LITTLE PIECE WHICH GETS UNDER YOUR SKIN, 15 Jan 2014
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A great little underrated chiller, actually quite unsettling in a "Wicker Man" sort of way.
I've read that back in the 1966 this was originally awarded an 'A' cert by the BBFC, until Hammer persuaded them to give it the more commercial 'X'.
I doubt very much if the movie,as it stands now,would have been given an 'A' at the time. Apart from the subject matter itself (witchcraft involving the abuse of children) there are some specific sequences which in my view would definitely have been 'X'-rated material back in the 60s.In fact,I'm quite surprised that the BBFC back then allowed one particular shot at all,even with an 'X': that is,14 year old Linda,in a hypnotic frenzy induced by the witches,and immediately prior to her proposed killing and flaying,massaging her own breasts!! (There is a still of this in "The Hammer Story" .. but only the first edition).
My guess is that an 'A' may have been offered but only with extensive cuts; and that Hammer preferred to have the 'X',without the cuts.It's notable that even today the BBFC have given this release a '12' rather than a 'PG' (the 'PG' of course being equivalent to the old 'A').
As for the BR / DVD Combo - well,visual quality is very good,if not spectacular.Sound and aspect ratio seem OK.
My main gripe is the paucity of extras. No commentary, no gallery, not even a trailer. Just one documentary .. "Hammer Glamour", in which Hammer's principal scream queen (Barbara Shelley) gets only a fraction of the time she deserves.But other, lesser names go on for ages. I appreciate this may be down to availability for participation but you do get the impression that Studio Canal is running out of ideas for their extras. Fair enough, but in that case drop the price of the disc! It's for this reason that I give only 3 stars to this release, sorry Studio Canal.
But the movie itself I think deserves a 4.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Nigel Kneale script, 29 Dec 2013
By 
sebquest (Cumbria, England.) - See all my reviews
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Yet another excellent film from Nigel Kneale. I've owned the dvd for some time, however I thought I'd purchase the Blu-ray version having experienced the phenomenal, recently released & restored, Blu-ray version of 'The Mummy'. No such restoration here so I wouldn't recommend purchase for upgrade reasons only. Slightly disappointed that there is only one 'extra', that being the documentary 'Hollywood Glamour'; bringing the viewer up to date on the Hammer actresses over the years. Interesting but an informative film commentary would also have been very welcome.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Oh want a tangled web we weave, 2 Aug 2013
By 
bernie "xyzzy" (Arlington, Texas) - See all my reviews
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Gwen Mayfield (Joan Fontaine) fresh from an encounter with a witch doctor is given an opportunity to recover and a position in a private school in England. There she finds something sis a miss and the discovery of a voodoo doll confirms she is up against someone's wicked ways. As usual everyone is suspect and it is always the last person you suspect. Oh all alright the last person you are supposed to suspect. Will she figure it out in time or will evil have its wicked way. She may even be the target.

The only two things that give the film any credence is Joan Fontaine and that it is a Hammer production. Hammer cannot go wrong in many eyes. The butcher (Duncan Lamont) can be seen again in "5 Million Miles to Earth" (1967).

The DVD I watched looks like a direct VHS transfer and not Blu-ray. There is an extra - World of Jammer "Wicked Women". A U.S Theatrical Trailer "The Devil's Own" and TV Spots

I have to admit that I had a hard time keeping my finger off the fast forward.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Heddaby Dabby Doo., 21 Nov 2013
By 
Spike Owen "John Rouse Merriott Chard" (Birmingham, England.) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Witches [DVD] [1966] (DVD)
The Witches is directed by Cyril Frankel and adapted to screenplay by Nigel Kneale from the novel The Devil's Own written by Nora Lofts. It stars Joan Fontaine, Alec McCowen, Kay Walsh, Ann Bell, Ingrid Boulting, Michele Dotrice and Gwen Ffrangcon Davies. Music is by Philip Martell and Technicolor cinematography by Arthur Grant.

After suffering a breakdown in Africa when she was exposed to witchcraft, schoolteacher Gwen Mayfield (Fontaine) returns to England and takes up a position as headmistress at Heddaby School. All seems to be going swimmingly well in this idyllic village location, but it's not long before Gwen senses all is not as it seems here. Or is she just heading for another mental breakdown?

Kneale wanted to make a satire of devil worshippers in rural England, Hammer Films big wigs and director Frankel wanted to make a chiller, the end result is neither, with each side blaming the other. The film flopped at the box office, Fontaine, who had great faith in the story, was deeply upset and went into practical retirement, and it stands today as an enjoyable enough misfire that isn't all it can be.

The main problems are that it never serves as a horror film in spite of the source material suggesting as such, well that and the quite bizarre last quarter of film that pushes the boundaries of ridiculousness! Yet there's enough to enjoy here if accepting it as being more a safe creeper type of a film. In fact Fontaine preferred it to be known as a detective story with a black magic backdrop, so maybe that's exactly how it should be approached these days?

The performances of Fontaine and Walsh are very much up to scratch, the former still beautiful at 51 and neatly imbuing Gwen with confused emotions, the latter firmly relishing a two fold role that calls for enigmatic dallying and hard nosed leadership. Davies holds the attention very well, McCowen is delightfully odd! While Martin Stephens (child star of The Innocents and Village of the Damned) and Boulting (daughter of Brit film legend Roy) add the requisite teen friendship under duress axis.

When the production comes off the sound stage and out into the village locale (Hambleden in Buckinghamshire standing in for Heddaby), it's all rather splendid to look at, but it is conventional film making. Martell's music is a bit too aware of itself, trying hard to make us think horror exists when none is evident, and in a grand year for Hammer Film blood letting, The Witches is decidedly bloodless.

A story of mental breakdowns and witchcraft shouldn't be a pleasant experience, yet that's exactly what The Witches is! For better and worse... 6/10
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Behind the quaint rural English village...., 7 April 2012
By 
Tim Kidner "Hucklebrook Hound" (Salisbury, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Witches [DVD] [1966] (DVD)
After seeing so many gore-ridden flicks on The Horror Channel, that were so dark and of poor quality, the comparative clarity and light that abounds in this Hammer production, 'The Witches' was a real relief.

Aside of the glowing star Joan Fontaine as the schoolteacher who's only just got over a nervous breakdown (caused by witch doctors making her feel most unwelcome in her last job, in deepest Africa), I recognised the voice of "Betty", the wife of TV's favourite accident-prone Frank Spencer.

Here, though, she sports a west country 'bumpkin' sort of rural accent, as all the villagers do, no doubt adding to their image as feral and uncivilised. The quaint shops, tearooms and winding lanes slowly uncover rather more sinister activities - witchcraft. Noticed by teacher Gwen Mayfield (Fontaine) she dismisses strange activities as being odd but not that important and she wants to impress her new bosses at the school and not to make waves.

After a couple of bodies suffer mysterious but fatal outcomes, the teachers know what's going on but the rest of the village don't and put them down to 'misadventure'.

This being Hammer and a horror, things naturally get rather more unpleasant for our schoolteacher, as she finds a whole cauldron of witchcraft going on under the pretty thatched roofs. Will she escape with her sanity, her life, even? The feeling is of a mood that is sinister and chilling rather than out and out horror and seems rather insipid by today's standards. Many current TV detective programmes verge on this sort of nonsense and are possibly more violent.

I'm no expert on Hammer, nor horror, but this is worth seeing for the familiar faces and some juicy acting. If you're into your Hammer's, I've seen a lot worse and the production values are remarkably high.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic!, 3 Mar 2010
This review is from: The Witches [DVD] [1966] (DVD)
This one of my favourite Hammer films. Eerie feel to it and similar in concept to the Wicker Man. No monsters this around, but real Witches!!
Well performed and atmospheric, for the price it's being sold here for, you can't go wrong.
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