Review: Witchfinder General (Blu-ray)

Odeon Entertainment brings this Vincent Price starring British horror classic to Blu-ray!

  • Director: Michael Reeves
  • Starring: Vincent Price, Ian Ogilvy, Hilary Dwyer
  • Year:1968
  • Runtime: 87 Minutes
  • Company: Odeon Entertainment
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Discs: 1
  • Video: 1080p - 1.85:1
  • Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
  • Region: 0
  • Released: 6/13/2011
  • -Purchase-

Witchfinder General opens with a group of villagers hanging a woman suspected of witchcraft in 1645, England. A chilling scene which sets the bleak tone of what's to come. Enter Matthew Hopkins (Vincent Price), a proposed witch hunter bent on carrying out the lords work by ridding the land of all witchery. Hopkins sets his sights next on Brandeston, a small village said to harbor witches. There in the village lives priest John Lowes(Rupert Davies) and his beautiful young niece Sara (Hilary Dwyer). Solider Richard Marshall (Ian Oglivy) returns to Brandeston to marry Sara and take her away from the village, a request made by her Uncle John to escape possible trouble. Before this can be done Hopkins arrives in the village and hastily starts to pin point potential Devil worshipers, including John Lowes. A series of torture, suspicion and high tension ensue as Sara and Richard try to flee from Hopkins before they are burned at the cross for their wrongfully accused witch acts. This leads to a truly shocking finale that will leave you a bit unsettled. 
I was a bit taken a back at the sheer ferociousness of this film. This being my first viewing, I had no idea what I was sitting down to watch. Never could I have surmised that Witchfinder General would be a tour de force of horror that would leave me surprisingly shocked. It's quite remarkable a film of this nature was produced in a conservative era where violence was extremely taboo.
I've seen my fair share of Vincent Price films, the late great master of countless films of the macabre. However, none are quite like 1968's Witchfinder General. Many of Mr. Price's films back then tended to be more campy and light in tone. With Witchfinder, Vincent Price turns in a performance that is so collected and stone serious it's actually frightening. As Matthew Hopkins, Price reinvents himself into a high caliber actor that should have been taken more seriously in his heyday. While I adore all the films and characters Vincent has brought to life, I can only imagine the opportunities missed due to being typecast.
I'd say another many of reasons why Witchfinder General has a cult following is the controversy it created behind the scenes. It's well known Director Michael Reeves (who committed suicide at a young age of 25) loathed Vincent Price and clashed together numerous times on set. The re-titling to Conqueror Worm under AIP (American International Pictures) request and trying to connect it with their Corman/Poe films in the US to cash in on it's success is certainly scandalous.
It's always a treat to watch a film and instantly bond yourself to it. Witchfinder General is such a film that I look forward to watching as the years go on. It's ripe for repeat viewings to soak in the performances and dissect/analyze the subject matter. All made possible by the legendary Vincent Price and masterful direction from Michael Reeves.

  • Video
You can put away your pitchforks and hang up your nooses, UK video label Odeon delivers an absolutely stunning high definition release. Colors are strikingly vibrant, with exterior shots standing out with lush detail. I have not seen previous releases of this film but it's safe to say this Blu-ray instantly ousts all of them. It's a shame MGM/Fox cannot release a BD of this film stateside (along with the countless other gems in their catalog) but it's an absolute delight to have our friends across the pond give this the top tier treatment it deserves. Do not hesitate to add this stellar release to your library, let's hope Odeon get's the chance to release more neglected horror greats onto Blu-ray.
  • Audio
A DTS HD 2.0 is the discs sole mix and it's quite solid. Dialogue is always clear and never inaudible or drowned out. The films score is prominent and loud, never over-balanced. A fine track to go along with the already superb picture quality.

Bonus Features
  • Audio Commentary- Michael Reeves biographer Benjamin Halligan and Director Michael Armstrong
  • Documentary - "The Blood Beast"
  • Documentary - "Blood Crimes"
  • Interview - Vincent Price on Aspel & Company
  • Short Film - Intrusion
  • Alternate Scenes
  • Alternate Opening & Closing Credits
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Stills Gallery