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3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
Format: Blu-ray|Change
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on 10 October 2009
Each of Hammer's horror films falls into one of three categories: good, bad or ugly. Thankfully, the vast majority were good. But The Witches (1966) is one of their few bad ones.

Basically, stories of strange goings-on in a picturesque village have been done so much better elsewhere, such as The Prisoner, The Wicker Man, and countless episodes of The Avengers.

The Witches is not very much typical of what Hammer were producing at the time for several reasons:

- Firstly, despite being about witchcraft, it is simply not scary. And there is none of Hammer's trademark bright red blood. I am baffled as to why this film was giving an X certificate when it was originally released? A small child could sit through this and then sleep quite untroubled.

- Secondly, it doesn't star any Hammer legends such as Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee or Barbara Shelley, not even an appearance from Michael Ripper! Many of the Hammer regulars behind the camera are missing too, such as composer James Bernard, directors Terrence Fisher, Freddie Francis or Roy Ward Baker and scriptwriter Jimmy Sangster. Though Bernard Robinson does handle the production design.

- And also, the film features no Hammer glamour. Not a busty young beauty to be seen anywhere.

On the plus side, Joan Fontaine carries the film well (despite looking like she's been at the sherry). She really throws herself into her part (it was her idea to make this film). Also, fans of 1970's British sit-coms will be pleased to see Leonard Rossiter and Michele Dotrice. And the pre-credits sequence set in Africa is particularly well handled, as is the scene involving the stampeding sheep.

As for the DVD itself, there are no faults with the picture or sound. Hats off must go to Optimum for releasing many of these Hammer films. Hopefully, one day fans will have access to all the old horror films from Hammer and Amicus on DVD.

I think if you approach this film with the right frame of mind you may get some enjoyment from it. Just don't expect another classic Hammer horror on par with Curse Of Frankenstein, Dracula, The Vampire Lovers or Twins Of Evil.
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on 3 March 2010
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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on 30 September 2014
Had high hopes after reading reviews, and after watching it's a good movie but not as good as I had wished for. Don't miss it, but don't get your hopes up either.
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on 12 June 2016
I've been looking for this movie after seeing it on virgin media horror channel so was well pleased to find it on Amazon.
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on 21 November 2014
classic british horror
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on 15 January 2014
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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on 7 July 2015
the Witches has a pretty good cumulative creep-factor. No great surprises, but very watchable.
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on 24 November 2010
I first saw this film on 'Pay TV' (British Relay) in London back in the 1960s (shortly after the film came out) and have remembered it all my life. It is good. Joan Fonataine's performance is excellent - so full of sensitivity and compassion, she comes across as a truly good and caring woman - the very best side of the English, one feels. The other leading players are also first-rate. The film has a lot of atmosphere, and I think this is one of the best features of Hammer films - a blend of homeliness and growing unease. It is true that this film is not in the least 'scary', but it is carried mainly by Joan Fontaine's utterly committed performance. Why she was disappointed with the finished product, I really cannot imagine. I am not. I recommend it to anyone who feels willing to identify with a well-intentioned but highly-strung headmistress doing her best in a village beset by witchcraft. The humanity of Joan Fontaine shines through in almost every scene. Yes, I recommend it as a gentle and interesting, sensitive 'horror' film (without much horror!).
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on 11 October 2015
A camp classic!
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on 9 June 2015
Good, gentle folk horror. More miss marble than the wicker man or blood on satan's claw.
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