HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
 
Newest Reviews
Halloween Kills
Cicada
Sun Shines Bright, The
Last Thing Mary Saw, The
Comets
Herself
Mon Oncle d'Amerique
Wild Strawberries
Runner, The
Don't Look Up
Ghostbusters: Afterlife
Eternals
Forever Purge, The
Memoria
Venom: Let There Be Carnage
Legend of La Llorona, The
Japon
Glasshouse
Perdita Durango
Commando, The
Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror
Boiling Point
Malignant
Deadly Games
Ailey
Voyeurs, The
Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes
In the Earth
Hiroshima Mon Amour
Hotel Poseidon
Zola
No Time to Die
Klaus
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey
Candyman
Power of the Dog, The
StageFright
Voyage of Time: An IMAX Documentary
Suicide Squad, The
One Night in Miami...
   
 
Newest Articles
Super Sammo: Warriors Two and The Prodigal Son on Blu-ray
Sex vs Violence: In the Realm of the Senses on Blu-ray
What's So Funny About Brit Horror? Vampira and Bloodbath at the House of Death on Arrow
Keeping the Beatles Alive: Get Back
The Punk Rock Movie: Out of the Blue on Blu-ray
Yeah, Too Quiet: The Great Silence on Blu-ray
Vestron Double Bill: Dementia 13 and The Wraith
Farewell Dean Stockwell: His Years of Weirdness
Kung Fu Craft: Cinematic Vengeance! on Blu-ray
999 Letsbe Avenue: Gideon's Way on Blu-ray
Hungary for Cartoons: Hungarian Animations on MUBI
You Have No Choice: Invasion of the Body Snatchers on Blu-ray
You Can't Tame What's Meant to Be Wild: The Howling on Blu-ray
Commendably Brief: Short Sharp Shocks Vol. 2 on Blu-ray
Super Silents: Early Universal Vol. 2 on Blu-ray
Fable Fear: The Singing Ringing Tree on Blu-ray
Gunsight Eyes: The Sabata Trilogy on Blu-ray
Bloody Bastard Baby: The Monster/I Don't Want to Be Born on Blu-ray
Night of the Animated Dead: Director Jason Axinn Interview
The ParaPod: A Very British Ghost Hunt - Interview with Director/Star Ian Boldsworth
On the Right Track: Best of British Transport Films Vol. 2
The Guns of Nutty Joan: Johnny Guitar on Blu-ray
Intercourse Between Two Worlds: Twin Peaks Fire Walk with Me/The Missing Pieces on Blu-ray
Enjoy the Silents: Early Universal Vol. 1 on Blu-ray
Masterful: The Servant on Blu-ray
   
 
  Witches, The Rough In The Coven
Year: 1966
Director: Cyril Frankel
Stars: Joan Fontaine, Kay Walsh, Alec McCowen, Ann Bell, Ingrid Boulting, John Collin, Michele Dotrice, Gwen Ffrangcon Davies, Duncan Lamont, Leonard Rossiter, Martin Stephens, Carmel McSharry, Viola Keats, Shelagh Fraser, Bryan Marshall, Rudolph Walker
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: When she was in Africa, schoolteacher Gwen Mayfield (Joan Fontaine) was faced with the local tribalism, and her sanity was almost ruined when voodoo practitioners forced her out of the area after attacking her. Some months later, and she is feeling better so applies for a job in a sleepy English village thinking it will be less taxing than what she has done before. She meets with the local vicar, Alan Bax (Alec McCowen), who reassures her that she is ideal for the post and her experiences abroad will have no bearing on her employment there. But bad luck, Gwen, there's something sinister going on there too...

Legend has it that Joan Fontaine decided to buy the rights to the novel The Witches was based upon as a possible vehicle to star herself. After all, her contemporaries were turning up in horror films in the sixties, though she didn't fancy taking one of the crazy old lady roles and wanted the heroine one instead, so what better than to stand up against the massed forces of evil which have emerged in one corner which was supposed to have been forever England? Well, at the time there were quite a few people who could think of better options for entertainment, and Joan never made another film, although she did show up on television every once in a while.

Nevertheless, because it was her final movie, it has generated interest over the years, and that's not the only reason, as this was a Hammer production, one of their few witchcraft horrors, and was scripted by Nigel Kneale, the man who had provided them with their Quatermass hits of the fifties, and soon another one with Quatermass and the Pit. However, outside of those sci-fi horrors he didn't have much luck with his big screen efforts, and even to this day is best recalled for his pioneering and innovative television work, which is still impressive. Not something that could be said of The Witches, which crawls along in light of the fact that you're simply waiting for Gwen to catch on to what we have guessed in the first five minutes.

That being, all is not right in the village as the clues mount up and she puts two and two together. If nothing else, we have twigged this before Gwen because, well, just look at that butcher, grinning with cheerful menace, suggestively running a cloth up and down his big chopper, overenthusiastically skinning a rabbit when she goes in to buy a cut of meat, and laughing a lot. Watch out for him, because he appears at intervals and is always amusing, especially in the climax. But we're getting ahead of ourselves, as first Gwen has to turn detective when strange occurences arouse her suspicions, stuff like a curious puritanical streak the adults have about the two teenagers courting.

This ends with the girl (Ingrid Boulting, then called Ingrid Brett) getting her hand put in the mangle by her grandmother, deliberately, according to the boy (Martin Stephens, already a veteran of spooky stuff). In fact, there are few denizens of this hamlet who don't come across as a little touched, not least Alan who it transpires is not a vicar after all, but just pretending, preferring to spend his time in his religious artifact-festooned study, listening to church organ music at full volume. As if that were not enough to unsettle Gwen, there is no church in the village at all, a sure sign that we're dealing with godless heathens - but Alan's writer sister Stephanie (Kay Walsh) seems levelheaded enough, so there's absolutely no way that she could get up to any funny business. There is an interesting development halfway through when Gwen is trapped in a nursing home which claims she has been in a coma for a year, but it all goes off the rails when you see the hybrid voodoo-witchcraft-er, Aztec (?) ceremony at the end, which is inappropriately hilarious. Oh well, nice try, anyway: you don't get many horrors with scary sheep. Music by Richard Rodney Bennett.

[Studio Canal have released a remastered version of this on Blu-ray and DVD. A Hammer documentary is the sole extra.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

This review has been viewed 3410 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 

Cyril Frankel  (1921 - )

British director who made the star-packed war comedy On the Fiddle and was uncredited co-director on School for Scoundrels, as well as working on such TV shows as Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), The Avengers, Jason King and UFO.

 
Review Comments (0)


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Which star probably has psychic powers?
Laurence Fishburne
Nicolas Cage
Anya Taylor-Joy
Patrick Stewart
Sissy Spacek
Michelle Yeoh
Aubrey Plaza
Tom Cruise
Beatrice Dalle
Michael Ironside
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Andrew Pragasam
Darren Jones
Jason Cook
Enoch Sneed
  Desbris M
  Paul Tuersley
  Chris Garbutt
   

 

Last Updated: