Celebrating B Movies, Cult Films, and Indie Classics.

Witchfinder General (1968)

by  |  June 1st, 2011  |  Thriller

Unfortunately for literally centuries there has been a search for Heretics, Witches etc… Sounds like the stuff that we would see in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, eh?

Unfortunately this is a true fact of history on this planet, rather it be the Salem Witch trials in Massachusetts or the Church's in Europe trials for heresy in centuries past.   The fact of the matter is that people all over the world were being destroyed indiscriminately for various reasons…

With that said, we are lucky in this modern age to no longer prescribe to the nonsense of Witchcraft trials and the like.  But for those that lived in that era, I gotta imagine that it was pretty difficult, living in fear, and the constant death, and rough conditions.

With that said, we don't live with those conditions in today's modern society, so to better understand what life was like back then, we either have to read about it in such books as Salem: A Tales Of The Seventeenth Century by D.R. Castleton.  Or watch it in movies like,  The Crucible (1996) with Daniel Day Lewis (Gangs Of New York)  and Winona Ryder (Black Swan)

With that said and in our continuing series commemorating the centennial birthday of Vincent Price.  I thought it would be fun to do a thriller with Vincent Price in it that documents the historical brutality of that age and that practice! What is the movie…

The movie simply put is Witchfinder General (1968):

Written by: Tom Baker (The Sorcerers) and Michael Reeves (Castle Of The Living Dead), and starring: Vincent Price (The Tomb Of Ligeia), Ian Ogilvy (Death Becomes Her), Rupert Davies (Dracula Has Risen From The Grave), Hilary Heath (The Oblong Box) Robert Russell (Silver Dream Racer).

The English Civil War… A time of great strife when a battle for control between the Royalists of King Charles the 1st and the Parliamentarians of the whole of England.

This a time when brother fought brother, and stuff like, distrust, conspiracy, fear and paranoia abounded…

Except in the case of Coronet Trooper Richard Marshall (Ogilvy) his fiancee Sara Lowes (Heath) and her Uncle John (Davies)…

You see Coronet Trooper Marshall is a soldier with the Parliamentarian forces who after a brief skirmish with a Royalist sniper in which Marshall killed his first soldier, he is sent on leave.  Marshall heads home to Bradeston.

Coronet Trooper Robert Marshall (Ogilvy) as he is about to take out his first enemy Soldier.

When he gets there he is welcomed by his then girl friend (soon to be fiancee) Sara and Sara's Uncle John (The local preacher).  During his time there Uncle John gives Sara and Richard his blessing so that they both can get married, which of course makes both of them really happy. Richard ultimately decides to stay the night at his fiancee's and soon to be Uncle in laws house…

The next day though is when things really begin to get interesting…

You see a Lawyer by the name of Matthew Hopkins (Price and his assistant John Stearne (Russell) are heading in the direction of Bradeston to shake things up…

Vincent Price as Matthew Hopkins in 'Witchfinder General'

Now before I continue I should probably give you a little back round info on our friends Hopkins and Stearne.  You see Hopkins is a Lawyer who's profession is to find and execute Witches, and other such Satan Worshippers! Now of course Hopkins seems rarely to do any of the real dirty work (this is the province of Mr. John Stearne, who is willing to get down and dirty, and get his hands a little bloody…)

With that said, Hopkins and Stearne's services have been requested and so they are heading toward Bradeston… They have been called up to investigate… none other then Sara Lowes Uncle John himself!

Now while Hopkins and Stearne are headed toward Bradeston, Richard is preparing to head back to his regiment.  After saying his goodbyes, Richard takes off on his horse. On his way out of town Richard comes up to a group of towns folk who are standing on the road waiting for Mr. Hopkins and his assistant to take on their bloody mission!

After a brief discussion between Richard and one of the towns people, Richard decides to continue on his way toward his regiment.  A little further up the road is where Richard Marshall and Matthew Hopkins will meet for the first time… (Don't worry, this first meeting is pretty friendly, despite how short it is.)  What I mean by this is the fact that after a brief greeting Hopkins asks for directions to Bradeston, to which Richard gives him the directions…

After this is done, Marshall, Hopkins and Stearne head off in their own directions, with Marshall back on track toward meeting up with his regiment and Hopkins and Stearne headed toward Bradeston.

When Hopkins and Stearne make it to the outskirts of the town, they are met by the Towns folk that have ac

cused John Lowes of Witchcraft. After pleasantries are exchanged Hopkins and his assistant along with some of the local towns folk head over to Lowes home. During the time they are heading over there, Hopkins finds out that the evidence that Lowes is a witch is nothing more then stuff like 'the type of clothes he wears', etc…

Hopkins, Stearne and some of the Towns folk as they arrive at John Lowes house

When Hopkins and his posse make it in to Lowes house and confront John Lowes with the evidence, Lowes is visibly upset and tries to kick them out, with no avail.  You see after this initial confrontation between Hopkins, his posse and Lowes goes down, he has Stearne begin the first faze of testing…

The first faze of testing being that Stearne has 2 men hold Lowes against a wall but so that his back is facing the rest of the group, then Stearne tore the back off of Lowes' clothing and began to torture him by stabbing him with a large needle and running him around the room a whole bunch…

During this time Hopkins comes to discover the fair maiden Sara…

While they are talking Sara convinces Hopkins that not only is John not blood kin, but to save her uncle! How does she do this? Really the only other way besides money and fighting that was afforded to women back then, she had sex with the brute!

After this of course Hopkins forces Stearne to spare Lowes life, which of course makes Stearne suspicious of what is going on.

During this time Stearne continues to torture the other people that have been accused of being witches while secretly trying to find out why Hopkins is so attached to Sara… Stearne's investigation in to Hopkins dealings comes to a head when one night after Stearne follows his master to Sara's house, he comes to discover that he and Sara have been having sex, this starts to give Stearne ideas…

Later on, and after Hopkins has taken off to another Village for the day, the lecherous John Stearne catches up with Sara, and there he confronts her as to the fact that he knows exactly what is going on between him and Hopkins, and that he obviously wants some of it… To which he proceeds to attack her!

Stearne attacking Sara.

After this is done, and after Hopkins comes back in to town and discovers what Stearne has done, Hopkins decides he is ready to depart and runs through the rest of the charade of 'determining' if rather or not those that had been accused of Witchcraft were guilty or not and has all of them killed (including poor old Uncle John!) After this is done, Hopkins and Stearne take off and leave the town.

Now during this time Marshall happens to be at a farm out side of the town of Bradeston where he is inquiring about acquiring the farmer's horse herd for the cause. While he is there he inquires about his home town Bradeston…

From there he learns of poor Uncle John's fate and takes off for Bradeston…

When he gets to Sara's home, he learns what happened to her and her uncle and decides to vow vengeance against Hopkins and Stearne for ruining this once happy family's life! While he is still in town he marries Sara in front of the Cross and then sends Sara off to Lavenham while he hunts down Hopkins and Stearne!

Now Coronet Trooper Marshall is off on horseback, gun and sword in hand to destroy Hopkins and Stearne's lives to get revenge for the death of his friend and the rape of the love of his life!

Marshall walking in to the same pub that Stearne is in with Sword in hand.

What I loved about this movie and what I think truly makes this movie a truly awesome b movie is a couple of things:

1. I like the fact that this movie demonstrates the brutal nature of that time period in British History.

2. I gotta say that I really enjoyed the story from this movie. I mean any movie that shows how some one is going to right a wrong (especially if that wrong is done to their family or family member).  I gotta to say that it was sheer brilliance!

3. I also gotta say that I loved Vincent Price in this movie.  His portrayal of the vindictive, maniacal, cruel and manipulative Hopkins was nothing more then dare I say it… Awesome!

Also as a side note look for a couple of brief cameos by Bernard Kay (Dr. Zhivago) and Wilfrid Brambell (Sword Of The Valiant: The Legend Of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight).

Also as another side note that I thought that I mention as well, is the name.  What I mean by this is when this movie was released in the United States the studio changed the name to The Conqueror Worm in an attempt to cash in on Vincent Price's fame in Roger Coreman's movies based on Edgar Allan Poe's work. (This movie is actually based on a novel by Ronald Bassett.)

Well folks, if your looking for a fun yet brutal historical period peace, then I highly recommend checking out Witchfinder General. It is a fun one!



Nathan Strack


Nathan Strack is a Writer/Director/Filmmaker & Owner/Founder of: Hell In Space, Strack Web Design Service & Strack Store.

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