Witchfinder General (1968)

DailyView: Day 153, Movie 234

I have always liked Vincent Price and his body of work. He is an iconic figure in the genre of horror for many reasons, but one of the most distinct is his recognizable voice.

Scouring through the list of films on Shudder tonight, I came across Witchfinder General starring Vincent Price and it seemed like a perfect fit for the evening’s DailyView.

I have come to discover that Matthew Hopkins, Vincent Price’s character in this movie, is a real historical figure. He was a man who, empowered by Parliament, to travel with his henchmen to different villages and towns during the English Civil War to search out witches and carry out their execution. His brutal methods led to the “word of God” being brought down on these innocent people. Hopkins would collect silver for every witch that he was able to find, making his motives anything but pure.

This film is a highly fictionalized version of Matthew Hopkins, and places Hopkins in the sights of a soldier Richard Marshall (Ian Ogilvy), whose fiancé Sara (Hilary Dwyer) was taken advantage by Hopkins and his second hand man (Robert Russell) and whose uncle (Rupert Davies) was hanged as a witch. Richard Marshall swore vengeance against Hopkins and pursued the witchfinder across England.

Vincent Price does a marvelous job of making the audience hate him. Even I, who watched the movie in the first place because of Price, really wanted him to get his in the end. The horrible facts of how people were handled when accused of witchcraft was shocking although it was not 100% accurate in timing. In reality, there were court cases, but the fact that people were still accused and executed is a terrible moment in human history.

Considered “historical horror,” Witchfinder General was originally called The Conqueror Worm” in the United States. The film faced plenty of troubles because of the violence within it, especially back in England. The film has become a cult favorite over the years.

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