In Elizabethan England, a wicked lord massacres nearly all the members of a coven of witches, earning the enmity of their leader, Oona. Oona calls up a magical servant, a "banshee", to ... See full summary »
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. Written by
Ed Sutton <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The real Matthew Hopkins was only in his mid 20s in 1645 and died before he was 30. Vincent Price's character is middle-aged, like the actor himself. Hopkins and Stearne executed more than 300 people, mainly women, during their two or three years of '"witch hunting". Considering that 500 people in total were executed for witchcraft in England between the late 15th and late 18th centuries, it means that Hopkins was responsible for two-thirds of these executions during a period of three years. See more »
When Stearne is chasing Marshall through the fields, tracks left by a 20th century mechanical tractor are clearly visible. See more »
[United States Conqueror Worm versions]
LO! 't is a gala night/Within the lonesome latter years./An angel throng, bewinged, bedight/In veils, and drowned in tears,/Sit in a theatre to see/A play of hopes and fears,/While the orchestra breathes fitfully/The music of the spheres."
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Most folks have already enthusiastically praised "Witchfinder General" as a masterpiece, so I have little to add in agreement. It truly is a great film because it is about important ideas--a deep, dark, existential look into the worst of the human condition. John Coquillon's cinematography is about as good as it gets, and Michael Reeves's direction is superb. But what really sets this apart is Vincent Price's performance. It is easy to overplay villainy, lapsing into parody, but Price is so calm and unaffected here that he is the very essence of pure evil incarnate, an evil corruptly justified by misguided ideals. This is a powerful film, not only relevant as a historical depiction, but also as a morality play for events in the world today. It may be cliche to say, but you'll think about "Witchfinder General" for as long as you think about movies.
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