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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 23: The Witchfinder General (The Conqueror Worm)

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 23: The Witchfinder General (The Conqueror Worm)

It was a dark and stormy night, my brother and I huddled under the handmade quilt that our grandmother had made for one of us as a birthday gift years earlier. Gripped in hand, flashlight at the ready, was my brothers 1984 Thriller Talking View-Master. We took turns viewing the mesmerizing images from the famous John Landis directed music video for the King of Pop’s zombified music video. Slowly, we progressed through the images, anticipating the moment when our favorite section of the stereoscopic viewer with a soundtrack would arrive.

After a few brief moments, our expectancy was quenched by the haunting narration from the master of macabre, the dab hand of horror, the cognoscente of creep: Vincent Price.

To my brother and I, there was no other actor. We would often make pilgrimages to a neighboring town on Saturday afternoons to visit our favorite comic shop, Dave’s, and then saunter across the street to the old music hall in order to watch a double feature of films from years before. Many of those times one of those films would feature our favorite film star of horror. It was there, on the big screen, on a print that had seen far better days, that we first saw House of Wax in 3D, The Fly, Tales of Terror, and House on Haunted Hill.

So it was with great anticipation when I learned of this film, only weeks ago. An acquaintance of mine was questioned by a film industry news site what he would pick as his top horror films of all time. As you can guess, today’s film was on that list. Thankfully, the excellent folks at Scream Factory had also recently released it on glorious Blu-ray.

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 23: The Witchfinder General (The Conqueror Worm)

Conqueror Worm posterDirector: Michael Reeves
Year: 1968
Cast: Vincent Price, Ian Ogilvy, Hilary Dwyer
Language: English
Country: United Kingdom
Specs: 86 mins. / Color / OAR 1.85.1 / MPAA Rating: NR
Rating: ★★★★★ / A

Matthew Hopkins, a man calling himself a Witchhunter, roams the countryside, offering his services to any paying community in order to rid themselves of so called witches. Unfortunately for the small village of Brandeston, Suffolk, he chooses them for his next “visit”.

Wow. That’s the 1st word that I thought of as I sat through this fictional tale of an actual person during a disturbingly dark era in modern human history. This film is brutal. It isn’t filled with gore, there aren’t any ghosts, not a possession nor masked murderer of sexually charged teens in sight. What we have is a morbid tale of the infamous witch hunts. As I watched this film, the thought entered my mind that if even a fraction of what is on display here were true, it would be more disturbing than anything the minds of Eli Roth or Dario Argento could produce.

The acting is top notch. The story is equally as engrossing. The subject matter is repulsing. The direction and soundtrack is revealing, in that the most disturbing horror is what we as humans do to each other, more than what any My Buddy doll come-to-life could wreak. Those responsible for the atrocities fictionalized here are the true Pin Heads of our society.

Witchfinder General stillI’m glad that I “found” this film. I’m hopeful that others will be as intrigued. I’d recommend screening your own personal Double Feature, rounding out the bill with a film featuring another of my favorite veterans of horror, The Wicker Man, staring Christopher Lee.

I should forewarn you in advance, however, that you certainly won’t find any spoonfuls of sugar in these versions of the UK.

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Posted by on October 23, 2013 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 3: Frankenstein Created Woman

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 3: Frankenstein Created Woman

I fondly remember Saturday afternoons, seated on the floor of my bedroom in front of my 15″ black and white RCA television, the click of the dial filling the air as I prepared to watch the weekly television program, Creature Features. Often, I’d take in a Godzilla film, a masterpiece written by Richard Matheson, a mesmerizing horror anthology featuring Vincent Price, or a bloody spectacle from a studio located across the pond, Hammer Film Productions (or as I erroneously knew it, Hammer Studios).

I love the old Universal Monster films. When I think of Dracula, the hypnotic image of Bela Lugosi, outstretched hand commanding devotion, instantly comes to mind. When I think of The Wolf Man, I’d be stretching the truth if I didn’t say Lon Chaney, Jr. was the only person I imagine in that titular role. The same can be said for Boris Karloff in regards to The Mummy and Frankenstein. When I think of Hammer Films and their catalogue of monster movies, there is none other than Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.

As I prepared my list of films to watch for this month long series, I knew that I had to include a film or two from the massive back catalogue I had missed as a youth. For my first film, I chose a candidate I knew would likely be absent from many casual horror movie viewers queue (having spent the past decade as a film professor proved this to be true).

31 Days of Frights and Films – Day 3: Frankenstein Created Woman


Director: Terence Fisher
Year: 1967
Cast: Peter Cushing, Susan Denberg, Thorly Walters
Language: English
Country: United Kingdom
Specs: 86mins. / Color / OAR 1.66.1 / MPAA Rating: N/A
Rating: ★★ / D

Dr. Frankenstein, having learned how to capture the soul of a recently deceased person, experiments transferring said soul into the body of another individual suffering from an untimely fate. Unfortunately, the woman whom he revives in said manner turns into a mindless killing machine, recking havoc on all in her path.

This film, while I appreciate the effort of the filmmakers to divert from the formula that made up the previous films in this series, is a film I likely will never visit again.

Sadly, the film lacks any suspense, thrills, creatures, or supernatural elements, all elements even the youngest of horror film neophytes would expect. Instead, the filmmakers rely solely on the premise of a persons brain being surgically implanted into another’s body. Were the acting not dialed in by Cushing, or were there anything resembling acting from the supporting cast, perhaps it could have been more enjoyable. Even Cushing, for reasons unknown to me, sounds dubbed over.


The film also lacks any F/X, which was another baffling instance, beings that this is a feature from a studio famous for it’s abundance of blood, guts, and other macabre imagery. With the exception of a decapitated head making an appearance at the end of the film, the lack of any lurid effects implies it were made on the cheap by an amateur without a budget.

True to a Hammer Films production, it thankfully does feature excellent costuming and sets, but even then they are barren, compared to what we’ve beheld before.


Disappointingly, the ending doesn’t bring finality, nor leave the viewer on a cliffhanger. It simply is abrupt, having the impression it were written by a screenwriter not knowing where to take it or how to properly resolve it themselves. Perhaps this is an unfortunate result of writer Anthony Hinds having run out of ideas.

In the end, I simply wish Frankenstein had created a better film.

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2013 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Howl-oween: Day 26 – Waxwork

I have so many fond memories of films my brother and I would watch together.  We both had very similar tastes back then in movies and would spend hours going to the local mom and pop video stores to find the zaniest of films to watch.  Odyssey Video, Starburst Video, and Mammoth Video were our favorite stops, although Meijer would also stock a very cheap section with many hard to find films.

Today’s film, along with a few of the others that I’ve re-watched for this blog, was one of those films that we loved.  Anytime werewolves, vampires, and mummy’s were in a film together, I particularly would sit down in my favorite seat and watch it repeatedly.

As I’ve said before, I must never return to films that I loved as a child, because I usually see how horribly produced those films actually were.  Was today’s film the exception to the norm?

31 Days of Howl-oween

A Review of Films Filled with Frights

Day 26

Film #26


~ Waxwork ~

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Posted by on October 26, 2010 in Movies

 

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