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3.9 out of 5 stars
58
3.9 out of 5 stars
Format: DVD|Change
Price:£66.77+ £1.26 shipping


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A solid blu ray transfer with good sound and video of an intriguing little movie based on the novel "The Devil's Own". This portrayal of black magic, still existent in a tiny English village, (Hambleden in Bucks) is well acted, beautifully photographed and highly enjoyable - if a little disappointing in its last few moments and ludicrously conventional ending.

Adapted by Nigel Kneale from Nora Lofts (writing as Peter Curtis) enjoyable thriller the film perhaps suffers from Kneale's wish to show the practice of black magic to be absurd against the requirements of the production team who wanted a more serious treatment.

It is also more restrained than Hammer's traditional output and the film initially failed to gain the "X" Certificate Hammer so desperately wanted and they had to re-apply.

Headed by vetran actress Joan Fontaine - who also produced the film - the excellent cast deliver a clever and quite convincing story of devilry, conspiracy and even murder with appropriate aplomb and some gentle chills. If the climactic "orgy" is rather comic - somewhat akin to Ambridge succumbing to demonic influences, it's probably from Kneale's standpoint realistic enough for many of the sad souls who engage in such activities but for Hammer fans definitely not up to the midnight romp in "The Devil Rides Out"!

The film also does not have the very effective ironic twist of the ending of the novel either, but that said - the body of the movie up to that point works well, particularly in it's subtle evocation of something nasty lurking in the most idyllic of rural settings.

Although ultimately not rated highly by either critics or Fontaine herself (and led to her going back into "retirement") her performance is both convincing and effective as is that of legendary British star Gwen Francon Davis - ideally cast as a possible local witch and young Martin (The Innocents) Stephens - then 17 - playing a village lad who falls victim to the devilry.

Perhaps too mild for modern tastes - and many Hammer fans of the studios more traditional offerings - for an old romantic like me, "The Wiches" ticks most of the right boxes right up to that last weak and weedy 5 minutes when the "happy ending" is really a bit of a mess!

The blu ray is a very good transfer even if not quite up to the quality of "Quatermass and the Pit", "The Mummy, "The Reptile" and "Plague of the Zombies" but it's still absolutely fine and does not suffer from the ratio issues, horrid grain problems and bad sound that have plagued several of their other Hammer releases.
So highly recommended - if you like this sort of thing!
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on 29 May 2017
Not among the greatest of the Hammers but still worth watching. It is also a reminder of what horror used to be before it became all gore and zombies. And it is played straight and not for laughs as so many modern horror movies are.
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on 26 April 2017
love this dvd
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on 29 April 2017
Nice intelligent British movie!
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on 24 August 2015
I love this film, first saw it on the Horror Channel on Sky, and had to get a copy of it.
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on 9 June 2016
Good film
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on 7 November 2014
This is a Classic British film; Hammer at it's best. The great actress Joan Fontaine would only have chosen to star in something that was quality drama. Think John Wyndham/ English witchlore/Gothic English at it's best. All with a fabulous 'Marple' 60's setting.
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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).

The UK DVD has no extras, but Anchor Bay's deleted US release included trailer, TV spots and episode of the World of Hammer compilation series (and was also repackaged as a two-disc set with the demented Prehistoric Women). The UK Region B-locked Blu-ray only has a single extra, the 42-minute documentary Hammer Glamour (which can also be found on the US Region A-locked Blu-ray of Frankenstein Created Woman).
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on 5 September 2016
Great item great service
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VINE VOICEon 25 March 2007
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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