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The Conqueror Worm (a.k.a., Matthew Hopkins: Witchfinder General) (1968).

September 23, 2010

The Scoop:
Don’t overlook this unsung masterpiece. The distributors tacked on the “Conqueror Worm” title and other trappings for the American audience to take advantage of the success of Roger Corman’s series of Edgar Allen Poe adaptations. But don’t be fooled — not only does this British film have nothing to do with them, it’s also much better.

Vincent Price’s usual hamminess is kept in check in his performance as 17th century English witch hunter Matthew Hopkins, who is chased across the countryside by the fiancĂ© of a young girl he terrorized.

Price turns in one of his best performances as a truly chilling villain, and Michael Reeves’ direction matches him by being tight, suspenseful and moody. The script by Reeves and Tom Baker is also an excellent exploration of the psychology behind the witch hunts of the 1600s. The overall look is straight out of the Hammer Studios mold, but without the Grand Guignol stylings. And what’s more, it’s based on a true story. Highly recommended.

Best Line:
Price’s chilling delivery of, “I will find out the truth for you, have no fear.”

Side Note:
This was promising young director Reeves’ last film. He died of a possibly self-induced drug overdose shortly after the film was released.

Companion Viewing:
“The Crucible” (1996).

Cinefantastique Online.

Take a Look:
Available on the YouTube installment plan, starting here:

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