Monday, October 26, 2009

Witchfinder General

During the English Civil War, a man claiming to hold the nonexistent title of Witchfinder General (Vincent Price), goes around persecuting those he claims worship Satan, mainly as a pretext for accumulating power.

Witchfinder General sounded great to me on paper, but I wasn't so keen on the execution. I like Vincent Price, but he hams it up a little too much in what is essentially a serious minded horror film. I tend to prefer my Price films to be funny and over-soaked in atmosphere; this one attempts to be relatively more realistic and suffers for it. Too serious to be fun, and not well made enough to be taken seriously, Witchfinder General did not work for me.


Joseph said...

This one worked for me because of just what a fucking bastard Price is. The horror comes from the perspective of the Ian Ogilvy's character, who has to watch in bafflement as the general populace embraces this maniac sadist and even joins in the fun themselves, and then finds himself horrifying powerless to oppose this guy when he threatens the people closest to him. I think this frustrating impotence appealed to me during the Bush years, because I dare anyone to watch this movie and not feel for Ogilvy's plight. Its amateurish in some way, but I think there's some good thinking about what this does to a person in there.

Dan said...

Thanks for the comment. As I recall, you were one of the folks who recommended this one over at Vern's site. I can definitely see why you and some others like this one... I even found a handful of scenes to be very effective (the drowning scene comes to mind). But I thought Price, as much as I've loved him in other movies, was miscast and the film was bland to look at and sometimes awkwardly staged.

Your Bush comment is amusing as well... I'm surprised more modern horror films didn't try to exploit the feeling of "frustrating impotence" during the Bush years.

Joseph said...

Apparently, director Matthew Reeves was a Troy-Duffy level asshole who was annoyed at having to work with Price (who was not his preferred choice for actor) and the two fought constantly on set. Price said he never really understood what Reeves wanted him to portray until he saw the final version onscreen. Apparently he thought the final version was one of his best film performances, and I tend to agree. Although of course we'll always love him for his more typical mega-acting roles, it's nice to see he could play such a serious villain in a different way and still be charismatic and effective. There's a nice breakdown of the story on the wikipedia page for the movie that I suggest you take a look at if you're interested... quite an interesting debacle.

Dan said...

So Reeves died 9 months after filming from a drug overdose, but the seemingly alcoholic Troy Duffy is still alive and well? I think the world would have been better of with Witchfinder General II: All Saints Day instead of the other way around.

Joseph said...


In all seriousness, someone really to needs introduce Duffy to some hard drugs. For the good of all.

One thing I like about the story of WITCHFINDER is that Price definitely comes across as a fairly reasonable gentleman. I mean, it takes a certain level of class to write a letter to the guy who basically made your life a living hell admiring his work.

That is all.