- Language: English
- Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
- Region: Region 1 (US and Canada DVD formats.)
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.85:1
- Number of discs: 1
- Classification: Unrated (US MPAA rating. See details.)
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (97 customer reviews)
- ASIN: B000RO9PUU
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 197,700 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)
Witchfinder General [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
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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 the VHS Tape edition.
One of the great British horrors --Total Film
Michael Reeves' masterpiece --Empire
An acknowledged horror classic --The Times --This text refers to the VHS Tape edition.
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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 ›
Reeves coaxed a life-time best performance from veteran actor Vincent Price (I'll leave the viewer to discover the delightful anecdote about this in the accompanying documentary), as Matthew Hopkins. No Abominably Dr Phibes here! Price keeps the hamminess in check to deliver a genuinely chilling and convincing performance. His assistant, the utterly egotistical and brutal John Stearne, is superbly played by Robert Russell. Ian Ogilvy and Hilary Dwyer are also magnificent as the young lovers, who have the misfortune to cross the path of the Witchfinder. The tender beauty of their love scene generates a huge amount of empathy with the lovers and contrasts most markedly with the horrors to come.
Some elements of very black gallows humour - the kids roasting their potatoes in the post-execution fire, and a cheeky cameo from 'old man Steptoe', were truly inspired, but Reeves brutally realistic (some would argue pessimistic) view of humanity, leads us to the inevitable jaw-droppingly stark and bleak conclusion.
The DVD presentation is generally good, although the additional scenes from the export version are of noticeably poorer picture quality with apparently no attempt having been made to digitally restore them. This is a shame, as some of the interrogation scenes and the tavern scenes with John Stearne are genuinely compelling. The audio - Dolby mono, is adequately clear, but with the occasional soupcon of distortion.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 ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Menacing tale here starring Vincent Price hunter of witches who will go to any extremes to get his confession so he can be paid. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Colonel Decker
I gave it five stars cos I just love Vincent Price. Much of the film was filmed in my location (Suffolk/East Angtlia). Read morePublished 2 months ago by Nigel Paul
A tale of brutality in the name of righteousness as perpetrated by the real life witch-hunter Matthew Hopkins and his followers during the English Civil War. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Mr N.P.M (U.K)