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The Late Movie: Witchfinder General

11/07/2020

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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.

Wikipedia

Witchfinder General (titled onscreen as Matthew Hopkins: Witchfinder General) is a 1968 British-American historical horror film directed by Michael Reeves and starring Vincent Price, Ian Ogilvy, Hilary Dwyer, Robert Russell and Rupert Davies. The screenplay by Reeves and Tom Baker[5] was based on Ronald Bassett‘s novel of the same name. Made on a low budget of under £100,000, the film was co-produced by Tigon British Film Productions and American International Pictures (AIP). In the United States, Witchfinder General was retitled The Conqueror Worm (titled onscreen as Matthew Hopkins: Conqueror Worm) by AIP to link it with their earlier series of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations directed by Roger Corman and starring Price; because its narrative bears no relation to any of Poe’s stories, American prints book-end the film with the titular poem being read through narration by Price.

The film is a heavily-fictionalised account of the murderous witch-hunting exploits of Matthew Hopkins (Price), a lawyer who falsely claimed to have been appointed as a “Witch Finder Generall” by Parliament during the English Civil War to root out sorcery and witchcraft.[6] Its plot follows Roundhead soldier Richard Marshall (Ogilvy), who relentlessly pursues Hopkins and his assistant John Stearne (Russell) after they prey on his fiancée Sara (Dwyer) and execute her priestly uncle John Lowes (Davies).

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