Archive for Patrick Wymark

WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 12, 2012 by goregirl

Witchfinder General is a Tigon Film; a short lived UK Studio with a slim catalogue. What I’ve seen from Tigon, Witchfinder General along with The Blood on Satan’s Claw are the two gems in their crown. Witchfinder General is not really a horror film despite its ample body count. The witch hunts were a real part of history and Matthew Hopkins and John Stearne were real men. According to Wikipedia Hopkins and Stearne went on a fourteen month crusade sending more people to the gallows than all of the witchfinders in the 160 years of persecution in England. These two loathsome bastards killed a lot of women to line their pockets. This is one of my favourite Vincent Price roles. Price gives an understated performance and is convincingly cold, arrogant and cruel. Vincent Price is definitely one of Witchfinder General’s strongest assets, but there are other reasons to appreciate it also.

Matthew Hopkins and his assistant John Stearne travel the country offering their services as persecutors of witches as a civil war rages between the Royalists and the Parliamentary Party. In one village Hopkins persecutes a priest and brings upon himself the vengeance of Richard Marshall who is engaged to the priest’s niece Sara Lowes. Not even the threat of treason will prevent Marshall from satisfying his bloodlust.

If it wasn’t for the love story and revenge subplot Witchfinder General would be a historical drama. It is a bleak and ugly subject matter that is not treated lightly. Even the love story is full of dark corners. Sara Lowes is a very tragic character. What happens to Sara just further illustrates the depravity and unbridled power Hopkins was able to wield. I didn’t think this part of the subplot distracted from the overall morbid feeling of the film at all. The revenge angle of the subplot was certainly a more satisfying finale for the evil Hopkins than his real life death at his home from Pleural Tuberculosis. Strangely the revenge portion was probably the weakest part of the story. I didn’t dislike Richard Marshall and his bloodlust is certainly justifiable I think I just wanted the character to be more compelling somehow. It is a petty complaint in what was a very solid story.

Witchfinder General is a fantastic looking film with amazing sets, props and costumes and captures its period beautifully. Hopkins was an active Witchfinder between 1644 – 1647. I think you can get a good idea of how nicely realized the sets were from the screenshot I included. Since I already raved about Vincent Price’s performance, I will add only that he receives some outstanding support from Robert Russell who plays the sadistic assistant John Stearne. Stearne does most of the dirty work and seems to take a particular joy from the torture part of his job. Stearne is a man who feels no pity or remorse in his pursuit to fill his purse. Russell is so very good at being so very heinous! Hilary Dwyer who plays Sara Lowes is lovely and likable and it is very sad to see her broken. Despite some minor issues with the character of Richard Marshall I thought Ian Ogilvy did a respectable job.

Witchfinder General is about a very disturbing period of history. The persecution of witches lasted 160 years in England! It is surreal to imagine this crazy shit went on at all never mind for 160 years. I would say this is a case where reality is so much more horrifying than fiction. Witchfinder General is a well-made, gritty film that is as fascinating as it is daunting and features one of Vincent Price’s most chilling performances. Highly recommended.

Dungeon Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Michael Reeves

Starring: Vincent Price, Ian Ogilvy, Rupert Davies, Patrick Wymark, Wilfrid Brambell, Hilary Heath, Robert Russell, Nicky Henson, Tony Selby, Michael Beint

THE SKULL (1965) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, movies, UK with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 30, 2012 by goregirl

Amicus Production’s The Skull directed by the great Freddie Francis is based on Robert Bloch’s (he of Psycho fame) The Skull of the Marquis de Sade. The film is quite literally about the skull of the Marquis de Sade. I have seen my share of cinema interpretations of the life and work of the Marquis de Sade;  Jesus Franco’s sex-fuelled Justine, Henri Xhonneux’s animated film Marquis, Peter Brook’s Marat/Sade, Philip Kaufman’s Quills and Pier Paolo Pasolini’s positively vile Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom to name a few. If I can say one thing about films based on the Marquis and his work, it is that you never know what the hell you are going to get. The Skull is really quite unlike any of the aforementioned titles. Than again, the film is actually based on Robert Bloch’s fictional story not the actual writing and/or life of the Marquis.

Demonologist Dr. Christopher Maitland, purchases a flesh-bound book allegedly written by Marquis de Sade from shady dealer Anthony Marco. Marco promises to bring the doctor an even grander treasure. The next evening he arrives with the skull of the infamous Marquis de Sade. Cynical of its authenticity Dr. Maitalnd consults with his friend Sir Mathew Phillips who informs him that the skull was stolen from his collection and is indeed authentic. He also warns Maitland of the evil power the skull possesses and strongly urges Maitland not to make the purchase. The warning only serves to intrigue the good doctor who procures the curio for his collection.

The usual depravity, torture and weird sex of most of the Marquis-related stuff are non-existent in The Skull. The premise is that the Marquis de Sade was possessed by some manner of demon or perhaps Satan himself. The skull is prone to glowing green, bewitching its owner to do its bidding and hosting random satanic rituals. It goes without saying that the skull causes all manner of trouble for its newest owner Dr. Christopher Maitland. The effects are limited but there are some nice trippy psychedelic scenes that involve the skull doing things a skull just shouldn’t be able to do. These scenes are admittedly a touch on the hokey side but are nonetheless hugely entertaining! The Skull has a particularly lively and exciting opening scene where we are given a little background on how the skull became unattached from the Marquis’ body. The best scene in the film is one particularly effective nightmare sequence; it alone is worth checking this film out for! The Skull looks extremely well with its immense shadows, fabulous set pieces and tremendously fun POV shots.

Peter Cushing plays Dr. Christopher Maitland and brings the charm, class and talent he brings to everything he graces with his presence. This is definitely Peter Cushing’s film and he is pretty much on screen constantly after the opening bit. It goes without saying that this is a very good thing. The two major supporting roles are also strong with Christopher Lee who plays fellow collector Sir Matthew Phillips and Patrick Wymark as the shady (but not quite sleazy) peddler of art and antiquities.

Keeping in mind that The Skull is about a possessed skull the story is quite coherent and well-written. Freddie Francis’ The Skull is a well acted, great looking trippy film that is solid entertainment! Recommended.

Dungeon Rating: 3.5/5

Directed By: Freddie Francis

Starring: Peter Cushing, Patrick Wymark, Jill Bennett, Nigel Green, Patrick Magee, Christopher Lee, Peter Woodthorpe, Michael Gough, George Coulouris, April Olrich, Maurice Good, Anna Palk, Frank Forsyth

THE BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW (1971) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, movies, UK with tags , , , on September 3, 2012 by goregirl

The Blood on Satan’s Claw is a delightful folklore yarn about a small village in 17th Century England. It is filmed in the beautiful English countryside, it has great sets and costumes, a rousing score and solid performances but it is not a Hammer film. There were in fact other film studios in the UK; sometimes I have to remind myself so I don’t miss out on little gems like The Blood on Satan’s Claw. Tigon British Film Productions made films beginning in 1967 through to 1977 and have a relatively small catalog. Among their other treacherous treats is Witchfinder General, Curse of the Crimson Altar and The Creeping Flesh. I’ve had my eye on the Tigon box set which comes in a coffin-shaped box and includes six of the production company’s horror films; The Blood on Satan’s Claw amoung the sextet. In my opinion, The Blood on Satan’s Claw is one of the best of the Satan subgenre. All hail Satan!

Local farmer Ralph Gower unearths a corpse (or at least its head) while plowing. Alarmed by the finding he immediately goes to see the judge. He convinces the judge to come examine his discovery only to find it missing. The judge shrugs the incident off citing superstitious paranoia. Soon after however, the village children become marked by a strange patch of black fur and develop unsettling behavior.

For those of us who enjoy some Satan-inspired shenanigans how could one not find The Blood on Satan’s Claw appealing in title alone? Although having seen the film, its alternate title The Devil’s Skin may be more appropriate. Not only does the devil mark the children with an ugly patch of fur he appears to be harvesting their skin! What a delightfully nasty premise! While it is not particularly graphic there is a pitch-perfect atmosphere and a feeling of foreboding you can not escape! That is not to say there aren’t a few meaty scenes to behold. There is a strong sexual undercurrent to the proceedings beautifully accentuated by the young and lovely Angel Blake. Linda Hayden is fantastically evil as Angel Blake whose youthful beauty and pent-up sexuality is reason enough for any school boy to follow her; even if it leads straight to hell! She joyfully gives herself over to Satan and is the undisputed leader of the group of Satan-worshipping children. The UK censors had loosened their grips around the throats of film-makers slightly and more lurid images started to turn up in the period’s films. It was still rather light when compared to what was coming out of Italy and America. Nonetheless The Blood on Satan’s Claw’s creepy premise, young cast, nudity and rape scene must have raised a few eyebrows in British theatres at the time.

The stunning English countryside is the perfect backdrop for our sordid tale of youth corrupted by the devil. The peaceful surroundings are the perfect compliment to the horrific satanic rituals occurring in a desecrated church. The Blood on Satan’s Claw’s cinematography is beautiful as is the film’s score. The film is more about mood and atmosphere than graphic violence and effects. I am a little surprised that director Piers Haggard made the decision to actually show Satan. I was convinced the dark lord would stay illusive to the end. I’m happy to say I found the reveal quite effective as Haggard shows “just enough” to make it work. The Blood on Satan’s Claw is not flawless; there were a couple of unexplained random events that lead nowhere but frankly they were of little consequence in my enjoyment of the film. The only real complaint I had about The Blood on Satan’s Claw was its rather abrupt and somewhat anti-climatic ending.

The Blood on Satan’s Claw is brimming with atmosphere and mood and its creepy premise is simply delicious. Stunning cinematography, well paced, a great score, beautiful sets and costumes along with a wild performance from Linda Hayden as the wicked Angel made for an all around entertaining watch. The Blood on Satan’s Claw comes highly recommended.

Dungeon Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Piers Haggard

Starring: Patrick Wymark, Linda Hayden, Barry Andrews, Michele Dotrice, Wendy Padbury, Anthony Ainley, Charlotte Mitchell, Tamara Ustinov, Simon Williams, James Hayter, Howard Goorney, Avice Landone, Robin Davies