I’d been searching for Witchfinder General for a while now. I didn’t realise this cult classic starred the one and only Vincent Price, whose movies I’ve become a little obsessed by of late. Nice little bonus that one!
Witchfinder General is set against the chaos that ensued during the english civil war of the 17th Century. The film itself revolves around Matthew Hopkins a lawyer and self appointed “witchfinder” who wanders around 17th Century England doing Gods work (for a healthy profit of course). He seeks out those who’ve been suspected of witchcraft and extracts confessions out of them. They are then put to death. Failing that many of his suspects won’t survive the questioning regardless of their guilt or innocence.
On his travels, he is charged with extracting a confession out of a local priest who is suspected of dabbling in Satanism. The poor priest is tortured but his daughter / foster child, Sarah steps in and offers herself as a “favour” to Hopkins in the hope her father goes unharmed. Hopkins then of course kills her father anyway. Young Sarah’s husband to be makes it his mission to extract vengeance on Hopkins. Does he succeed, well I guess you’ll have to watch the film to find out!
From what I’ve read about the witch burnings of the time (which isn’t a huge amount) it seems to follow the historical accounts of witch burning (not necessarily the life of Hopkins) reasonably closely. The costuming and dialogue really add an air of authenticity to the proceedings.
One of the ladies of the village getting burnt at the stake for suspected witchcraft
Vincent price puts in a great performance as Hopkins, The witchfinder
Vincent Prices performance is of course legendary and chilling as per usual, and the film is lavishly shot. I love these old style films shot on film. I think it has a more life like texture than many of the digitally shot films of today.
The disc copy I got is of course a modern reprint, and it shows an “R” rating. It may have been on the more extreme end of horror for the time, it was rather tame by today’s standards and would have barely qualified for a “M (15)” rating. I guess this isn’t really important as the film holds up brilliantly either way. The “R” rating did kind of get me really excited for a gore-fest, which it certainly isn’t. While the violence contained in the film does look convincing the blood looks like bright red paint and comes across as fake, which to be fair most films of the time up until the mid 70’s tended to do.
Minor criticisms aside, I was immensely pleased I finally got to watch the Witchfinder General. I’d certainly recommend it to anyone who is a fan of the old “hammer” style horror films. If you just want a blood and guts gorefest this may not be the film for you but I’d certainly recommend it for fans of Price, or vintage horror in general.
Be sure to check out other films we’ve reviewed with Vincent Price such as: House of Usher | The Raven | Fright Night | House on Haunted Hill | Diary of a Madman
For more great reviews be sure to check out https://www.gorenography.com.