Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist
poliphilo

Witchfinder General

I spent an evening with the Witchfinder General. Ghastly things happen in an England of meadows and copses and vast East Anglian skies. A Cromwellian soldier gallops across pastureland, scattering sheep to a soundtrack of pastiche Vaughan Williams. As cheap, badly written movies go, it's a masterpiece.

This is the restored edition- and you can tell exactly what the censor cut for the first British release because the excised material has been grafted in from a degraded copy- so the action keeps going fuzzy at moments of high brutality. Censorship is stupid. Some of these cuts seem to have been made simply to flex authoritarian muscle and let the filmmakers know who's boss, because the stuff that's been taken out is no stronger than what's been left in. And in other places the effect of the cut is to heighten disgust and horror because the thing you picture in your head is always worse than anything that can be shown on screen.

Vincent Price gives what is arguably his finest performance ever. Michael Reeves, the director, told him not to wave his arms about so much. Price drew himself up and said, "Young man, I've made 84 movies. How many have you made?" And Reeves replied, "two good ones." Price, to his credit, fell about laughing.

This was Reeves'last film. He killed himself, probably by accident, with an overdose of sleeping tablets.
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