Witchfinder General a.k.a. Conqueror Worm (1968) Director's Cut
England is torn in civil strife as the Royalists battle the Parliamentary Party for control. This conflict distracts people from rational thought and allows unscrupulous men to gain local power by exploiting village superstitions.
One of these men is Matthew Hopkins, who tours the land offering his services as a persecutor of witches. Aided by his sadistic accomplice John Stearne, he travels from city to city and wrenches confessions from "witches" in order to line his pockets and gain sexual favors.
When Hopkins persecutes a priest, he incurs the wrath of Richard Marshall, who is engaged to the priest's niece. Risking treason by leaving his military duties, Marshall relentlessly pursues the evil Hopkins and his minion Stearne.
Vincent Price ... Matthew Hopkins
Ian Ogilvy ... Richard Marshall
Rupert Davies ... John Lowes
Hilary Heath ... Sarah Lowes (as Hilary Dwyer)
Robert Russell ... John Stearne
Nicky Henson ... Trooper Robert Swallow
Tony Selby ... Tom Salter
Bernard Kay ... Fisherman
Godfrey James ... Webb
Michael Beint ... Captain Gordon
John Trenaman ... Trooper Harcourt
Bill Maxwell ... Trooper Gifford
Director: Michael Reeves
Codecs: OpenDivX 4 / MP3
Runtime: 86 mins
A powerful and unsettling film which is definitely not for the weak - kneed. Not easy to watch in some parts. But the mid 17th century was a turbulent time in British history with a civil war raging and the foul menace of devil worship festering throughout the countryside (dear, oh dear ... must be my Puritan ancestors calling to me!)
All the players do a fine job. Although, Uncle "Vinnie" is, of course, the stand-out performer. No other actor was able to portray genuine evil as effectively as Vincent Price. There's no high camp fooling around in this one. What a brilliant talent he was.
The music in this picture also deserves a special mention, particularly the opening theme which magnificently recreates an appropriate 17th century mood. Michael Reeves sheer production skill overcame the limitations of what was obviously a tight budget.
I personally believe that the 1960s was the golden era of English cinema and television. Check the internet for extensive biographical information on the real Matthew 'Opkins - WITCHFINDER GENERAL.
Like "The Devils", "Witchfinder General" (also called "The Conqueror Worm") is likely to disturb a lot of people through it's portrayals of witch hunts. This one portrays England during its civil war in the 1640s. With the people paranoid enough to accept anyone, puritan Matthew Hopkins (Vincent Price) goes around coercing witchcraft confessions out of women, and summarily executing them in the most vicious ways possible.
Things get ugly when Hopkins targets priest John Lowes (Rupert Davies). You see, Lowes' niece Sarah (Hilary Dwyer) is engaged to Cromwell soldier Richard Marshall (Ian Ogilvy). And Marshall may have a heart of gold, but he will go to any length to protect his beloved. And I mean ANY LENGTH.
Vincent Price was always a trustworthy horror star, and this movie doesn't disappoint. It's certainly worth seeing, but you might want to avoid it if you have a weak stomach.
Although I was familiar with the title I had neither heard anything good or bad about this film or ever managed to see it myself. With a recent screening on late night television in the UK I decided to give it a twirl and found much to like from the very opening credits where a hung woman gives way to a title credits sequence of wonderfully captured faces in various states of pain and/or terror. The imaginative air to these visuals continues even as the film settles down to deliver the story and the whole affair has a great colour and hue to it, using some visual effects to improve some shots. Reeves (who, at 23, probably never expected this to be his last film) uses the English countryside to great effect and summons up a great sense of period as well as contrasting it powerfully with the fear and violence of Hopkins' deeds.
The plot threatens to be a poor device to show this history in gory detail but generally it works well enough because it makes the characters and the actions as important as the specific story involving Marshall. This moves along well but generally it is Hopkins and his quest that holds the interest because it is essentially evil and cruel – factors that the film brings out very well while observing the slight touch of glee from Hopkins that accompanies the cruel deaths. This is greatly helped by a superbly cruel turn from Price who dominates the film and makes his scenes the best. Ogilvy has a lesser role but is still very good despite not having the material given to Price. Support from Russell, Heath and others is mostly good apart from one or two bum notes in small areas – the victims are convincing which was important to make the horrors convincing.
Overall an impacting little film that has a basic plot but greatly benefits from the cruelty of the piece, strong direction and good performances led by a great Price. Dated a touch but still quite shocking, interesting and worth seeing.
...this may well be the best performance Vincent Price ever gave in any film. Hopkins is such a thoroughly loathsome character that the ending disturbs yet also pleases because you sort of want to see what happens to him happen. One that stays with you long after watching..this film shows humanity at its worst so much of the time it's actually fairly unpleasant and will likely keep the film from becoming anyone's favorite yet one cannot deny the power this film holds over the viewer.
* Director Michael Reeves wanted Donald Pleasence to play Matthew Hopkins, but AIP, the American distributor and co-financier of the film, insisted that Vincent Price play the title character, and Reeves grudgingly accepted.
* Paul Ferris, who wrote the film's dramatic music score, also acted in the movie under the pseudonym Morris Jar as a homage to film composer Maurice Jarre.
* A completely new score was written for the US release