Witchfinder General (1968)

conqueror worm poster 1968 movie witchfinder general
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Vincent Price, surprisingly violent

Drags at points

Movie Info

Movie Name: Witchfinder General (The Conqueror Worm)

Studio: Tigon British Film Productions

Genre(s): Horror/Drama

Release Date(s): August 14, 1968

MPAA Rating:  Unrated

witchfinder witch burned at stake conqueror worm

Burn, witch, burn!

Witches are sweeping the English countryside and are disguised and normal men and women.  For a fee, Matthew Hopkins (Vincent Price) and his assistant John Stearne (Robert Russell) will find and destroy these witches for Parliament.  When a minister named John Lowes (Rupert Davies) is killed and his niece Sara (Hilary Dwyer) is raped, Hillary’s fiancé Cornet Richard Marshall (Ian Ogilvy) vows revenge against Hopkins…even if it means abandoning his post.  Now, Hopkins and Stearne must stop Marshall before he can get his revenge.

Directed by Michael Reeves (who died shortly after its release from a mixture of drugs and alcohol), Witchfinder General is a horror suspense period piece.  The film also goes by the name The Conqueror Worm to tie in to Vincent Price’s other Edgar Allan Poe, but it has no tie to the 1843 poem originally published in Graham’s Magazine.  The film was highly censored upon its release and gained a cult following over the years.

witchfinder general wedding ian ogilvy hilary dwyer

Honey…I might not be an expert, but I don’t know if this really counts as a wedding

Witchfinder General is a movie that feels a lot different and possibly more dangerous than some of Price’s other films.  The movie’s tone is darker and the ending is outright black.  Due to this, Witchfinder General seems to kind of stand above some of the other films from the period and is a reminder that Price (who sometimes took lighter roles) could be downright scary.

The story is loosely based upon the life of Matthew Hopkins (mostly in name) and is a work of fiction.  Hopkins (1620-1647) claimed to be the Parliament appointed witch-hunter in England…while in real life he died from tuberculosis, this film develops a story in which people wronged by Hopkins seek revenge.  It has an interesting cat-and-mouse type of game in that Hopkins is out to get Marshall before Marshall can get him…and in many ways Hopkins wins in losing.

witchfinder general ending vincent price hilary dwyer

No thank you…I’m not much of a tattoo girl.

As mentioned, Vincent Price is much more subdued in this film when compared to something like Theater of Blood which has him take on a more comedic role.  The character is sadistic, bitter, and lecherous.  Ian Ogilvy plays the man pushed to the edge by Price while seeking revenge and Hilary Dwyer is the young woman caught in the middle.  Rupert Davies kicks off most the action by being targeted by Hopkins, but Robert Russell’s evil John Stearne also helps Price feel deadly.

The movie is kind of gruesome for the period.  It has scenes of torture, rape, and murder.  While other movies have been more graphic, there is an aspect of realism to the movie that seems a bit darker than something like Saw which has outlandish deaths.  Brandings, burnings, bleedings, and drownings are real and not cartoonish.  The movie does have a kind of generic Renaissance festival look to it at points (which is unfortunate).

Witchfinder General is one of the better Price movies simply because it feels like an oddity.  Movies like the Phibes movies are more fun, but Witchfinder General combines a decent story with a bit of faux history for a chilling tale that is more classic creeping horror than movies with monsters and killers.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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