Witchfinder General (1968)

Witchfinder General (1968), directed by Michael Reeves.

Aka Conqueror Worm.

Life is pretty good for a self-appointed witchfinder during the English Civil War. He finds witches wherever he needs them and gets paid per head and can extort sex from comely maidens. What could go wrong? Maybe messing with the bride-to-be of a stalwart soldier who isn't putting up with this nonsense.

Controversial at the time for sadism and exploitative violence, it was censored in the UK but ran uncut in the US. We see much worse today, but this violence is meant to be realistic, repellent and genuinely disturbing. Our heroes are driven mad both by what they experience, and their frenzy for revenge.

I remember being a bit nauseated by some of this when I was young, but older and more calloused now, it does not seem so unsettling.

Ian Ogilvy and Hilary Heath are fine as our lovers, young but with a maturity hard to find these days. Unusual for 1968, we have a lyrical erotic love scene. Heath became a producer after she stopped acting.

Vincent Price is hard to read, which makes him even scarier than usual.

It's better looking than its tiny budget would suggest. Good bits: they enact the Monty Python "if she floats she's a witch" test, and we see people baking potatoes in the embers after a witch burning.

Misc notes:

Available on Blu-ray with a happy, uncensored commentary track by a film historian, leading man Ogilvy and one of the producers. They praise the restoration and point out that the fine original score is back. Apparently the original American distribution had substitute electronic music.

This completes the Shout Factory Vincent Price Collection volume 1. The earlier titles:

On to volume 2!