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dwatts
04-30-2003, 02:06 AM
Just got through watching the R0 metronome release of Witchfinder General.

Anamorphic 16:9 WideScreen. Two cuts of the film, Directors Cut, Export Cut. 20-minute documentary of Director Michael Reeves. Music video (Cathedral). Production Notes and trailer for “Sorcerers”.

When we think about British horror most of us envisage something along the lines of a Hammer film. WitchFinder General though has an entirely different feel. It is safe to say that the tone of this film is unique unto itself.

It tells the tale of “Matthew Hopkins”, a witch finder in the 1600’s, riding across England sentencing women and men to death for witchcraft. On the side, he likes to lie to relatives of those accused (young women, of course) saying that for “favors”, maybe he would conclude the relative was not actually, guilty. This amounts to rape.

It goes without saying that Matthews ways finally catch up to him, with a dramatic conclusion. Vincent Price plays Matthew Hopkins to great effect, and Ian Ogilvy plays an avenging soldier.

This disc looks to be filled to the brim with extras. I guess it is. But when you dig down a little bit, it is not as good as it sounds. The 20-minute documentary is barely adequate. Basically we have some guys fawning over the lost master Director, who by the age of 24 had Directed three films, and by 25 was dead through booze and drugs. We have clips from the three films (and one short he made early on) and that’s it. It is 20-minutes where you learn very little, to be honest. The guy lived, was liked, and died after three films (by the way, The Sorcerers looks to be a dated, but very effective tale much shown in horror publications. It starred Boris Karloff. If you've ever seen a shot of Karloff, burnt black sitting in a fireplace with the blackened body of an old woman beside him, you know what I'm talking about. I wonder if this is on DVD?)

I have not watched the music video – the essay is fine. The highlight of the disc ought to be the two cuts of the film. It goes without saying that one has more content, a tiny bit of nudity, and more “gore”. This might have worked well had they done a better job integrating this extra footage. As it stands, you have these weird cuts where the reasonable DVD transfer breaks down into sub-par VHS quality segments. Frankly, for subsequent viewings, I’m going to go with the version without this added material. It’s just not worth the effort. Having said that, some DVD junkies just must have every frame shot, so they might like this. I suspect most would want a far cleaner copy though.

The transfer is not reference, plenty of speckles and scratches on this one. But the colors and nice, and there’s nothing to spoil your enjoyment. The sound is mono only.

Thinking back on the last 82 minutes of my life, I must say I am very happy to own this film. It has a coldness, a starkness that really adds to the feel of the age that is being portrayed. There is plenty of intrigue – and Price pulls off the Hopkins character with aplomb (you simply can’t wait for him to get what’s coming to him). Everyone does a fine job, to be honest. The music is suitable, and the whole wretched situation comes across as authentic, and nasty.

I’m not aware of any other releases of this film – maybe better are out there. This is an inexpensive DVD release of a movie that, once again, simply belongs in anyone's classics collection. You’ll never see Vincent Price like this again, and the film maintains a British feel while being unique. One to keep, no doubt.

Andrew
04-30-2003, 02:23 AM
Cool review, I've wanted to see this movie for a while. The disc is PAL though, right?

dwatts
04-30-2003, 02:24 AM
Yup - Color PAL.

MaxRenn
04-30-2003, 04:29 AM
Excellent movie and probably Price's best horror role. For once he cuts out the hamminess and delivers a chilling performance. dwatts, you hit the nail on the head when you described the film as cold. We sympathize with Ogilvie's quest for revenge but the finale doesn't turn out as we expect. That image of Ogilvie screaming his final line haunts me to this day.

Personally I feel that the longer cut is preferable because it makes the finale more powerful. And check out "Cry of the Banshee" for a similar Price role.

Andrew
04-30-2003, 06:23 AM
Damn PAL.

Hernster
04-30-2003, 09:53 AM
Originally posted by AndrewBBD
Damn PAL.

:eek2:

dwatts
04-30-2003, 11:13 AM
PAL rocks, it just looks better than the US system (it would, more scan lines). Just get a decent setup, and it doesn't matter a bit. Curse electronics manufacturers for the US market who deliver half-assed equipment (Sets in Europe handle both PAL and NTSC without trouble, so we know it is possible).

There is a great segment in the documentary about Price in this role. The Director, all of 24 years old, apparently got frustrated by Price’s over-acting (rolling eyes and waving hands) and he told him to stop it, in a very blunt way. Apparently Price stopped and said:

"Sir, I have made 87 films, how many have you made?"

The Director, sharp as a knife replied:

"Two good ones."

Apparently price burst out laughing after that and they got along. So it was the influence of the Director that made Price so subdued.

h8sh8
04-30-2003, 05:38 PM
Dude, you didn't watch the music video :fire: :D
Cathedral rock. I was stoked this clip is included. I've got a 'Matthew Hopkins' t-shirt I bought at a Cathedral gig that's worn out I wear it so much. Admittedly there's other songs off the same album ('Carnival Bizarre') that are better, and it's a dodgy clip - but it's Cathedral man - watch it :D The definate highlight of the disc ;) though I haven't ever seen the movie:D

dwatts
04-30-2003, 09:22 PM
I assumed they were some kind of death metal/thrash metal some kinda fucking metal band. Not my kind of music I'm afraid.

studio1
05-01-2003, 09:27 PM
The definate highlight of the disc
:lol: :lol: :lol:

cread
05-09-2003, 02:31 PM
btw, both 'Witchfinder General' and 'The Sorcerers' have gone out of print

Nemesis
05-09-2003, 02:53 PM
witchfinder general R0 PAL can be readily found in R4 for $28.95AU ($18.70US)