Witchfinder General (1968)

86m, 7830 feet/2387 metres
35mm, colour, 1.85:1
mono, English

A British horror film directed by Michael Reeves. It was his last film before his untimely death in 1969.

Plot Summary

While England labours under the civil war between the Royalists and Parliamentarians, the sadistic Matthew Hopkins roams the villages of Anglia is search of supposed witches. He and his sidekick, the equally twisted John Stearne, accused young women for both financial and sexual gain. But when Hopkins turns his attentions to an innocent parish priest and his niece, he comes to the attentions of the girl's fiancé, soldier Richard Marshall, who swears on the self-styled Witchfinder General…


Directed by: Michael Reeves
© Tigon British MCMLVIII [1968]
A Tigon British, American International production
Executive Producer: Tony Tenser
Produced by: Louis M. Heyward, Philip Waddilove, Arnold Miller
Screenplay by: Tom Baker and Michael Reeves
Additional Scenes by: Louis M. Heyward
From the Novel by: Ronald Bassett
Photographed by: John Coquillon
Film Editor: Howard Lanning
Music Composed and Conducted by: Paul Ferris
Sound Mixer: Hugh Strain
Wardrobe: Jill Thomson
Make-Up: Dore Hamilton
Hairdresser: Henry Montsash
Special Effects: Roger Dicken
Art Director: Jim Morahan

Vincent Price (Matthew Hopkins)
Ian Ogilvy (Richard Marshall)
Robert Russell (John Stearne)
Nicky Henson (Swallow)
Hilary Dwyer (Sara)
Tony Selby (Salter)
Michael Beint (Captain Gordon)
Bernard Kay (fisherman)
Beaufoy Milton (priest)
John Treneman (Harcourt)
Bill Maxwell (Gifford)
Peter Thomas (farrier)
Maggie Kimberly (Elizabeth)
Dennis Thorne (villager)
Ann Tirard (old woman)
Gillian Aldham
Hira Talfrey (hanged woman)
Jack Lynn (Brandeston innkeeper)
Michael Segal (villagers)
David Webb (jailer)

Alternative Titles

Den blodiga snaran – Swedish title
The Conqueror Worm – US title
Il grande inquisitore – Italian title
Der Hexenjäger – German title
Noidantappajat – Finnish title
Robak zwyciezca – Polish title
Witchfinder-General – UK video advertising title

Extracts included in
Vincent Price: The Sinister Image (1988)

See also
Akelarre (1984)
Cry of the Banshee (1970)
Shadows: The Witch's Bottle (1975)
Il trono di fuoco (1970)

Production Notes

Censorship history
In the UK, all prints released before 1996 suffered the cuts originally imposed by the British censors. Redemption Video managed to restore the missing footage from various European laserdisc sources and the subsequent Metrodome DVD included footage originally only seen in the stronger European cut of the film.


Empire no.11 (May 1990) p.88
Extraordinarily cold and bloody for its time [Witchfinder General] is also a model of historical filmmaking on a limited budget, with a lush musical score, impressive photography and unpretentious production design making this a far more effective portrait of its chaotic and violent times than Ken Hughes' overstuffed Cromwell […] Still not well enough known outside cult circles, this is certainly one for the collection. – from an illustrated review by Kim Newman

Starburst no.209 (January 1996) p.48
“Strictly for schlock aficionados!” – from an illustrated review by Lawrence McIlhoney

Sight & Sound vol.6 no.2 (February 1996) p.62
“Unlike its contemporaries from the Hammer stable, Witchfinder General still has the power to shock with the starkness of its vision of a moment in English history. Like Peeping Tom, which was similarly dismissed as nothing more than naive exploitation at the time of its release, the film's virtues have, in my opinion, become more evident with the passage of time.” – from an illustrated article by Richard Falcon


Cinefantastique vol.22 no.1 (August 1991) pp.32-38, 43-45; 39-42 – illustrated article (Michael Reeves – Horror's James Dean by Bill Kelley); illustrated article (Witchfinder General by Bill Kelley)
Castle of Frankenstein no.13 p.63
Cinema Retro vol.2 no.5 (Spring/Summer 2006) pp.26-33 – illustrated article (Film in focus Witchfinder General by Dave Worrall & Lee Pfeiffer)
The Dark Side no.55 pp.45-47 – review
The Daily Cinema no.9516 (3 May 1968) p.9 – review (by C.W.)
Empire no.11 (May 1990) p.88 – illustrated review (Gruesome by Kim Newman)
Empire no.160 (October 2002) p.92 – illustrated review (by Kim Newman – uncredited)
Empire no.189 (March 2005) p.146 – DVD review (RWD: The Tigon Collection by Justin Bowyer)
Film Comment vol.43 no.5 (September/October 2007) p.76 – illustrated DVD review (Witchfinder General by Maitland McDonagh)
The Hollywood Reporter vol.198 no.38 (8 December 1967) p.8 (USA) – credits
Monthly Film Bulletin vol.35 no.414 (July 1968) p.100 (UK) – credits, synopsis, review
SFX no.352 (May 2022) p.100 – illustrated review (Reviews: Michael Reeves by Ian Berriman)
Sight & Sound vol.6 no.2 (February 1996) p.62 – illustrated article (The Adjuster by Richard Falcon)
Sight & Sound vol.11 no.12 (December 2001) p.66 – DVD review (by Geoffrey Macnab)
Sight & Sound vol.20 no.8 (August 2010) pp.16-20 – illustrated article (The pattern under the plough by Rob Young)
Sight & Sound vol.28 no.7 (July 2018) p.96(UK) – illustrated article (Endings… Witchfinder General by Adam Scovell)
Starburst no.209 (January 1996) p.48 – illustrated review (by Lawrence McIlhoney)

American International Pictures: A Filmography by Robert L. Ottoson pp.156-158 – illustrated credits, synopsis, review
The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror (2nd edition) by Phil Hardy (ed.) p.202 – credits, review
English Gothic: A Century of Horror Cinema by Jonathan Rigby pp.29, 81, 108, 168, 170, 175-77, 177, 178, 179, 181, 182, 183, 192, 199, 207, 222, 228, 238, 254, 299, 340, 358, 371, 384
by Walt Lee p.73 – credits
Top 100 Horror Movies by Gary Gerani p.12 – illustrated credits, synopsis, review
Uneasy Dreams: The Golden Age of British Horror Films, 1956-1976 by Gary A. Smith pp.239-240