Archive for rupert davies

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

FRIGHTMARE – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, movies, UK with tags , , , , , on October 20, 2009 by goregirl

frightmare dvdLook at that fun cover! It was practically screaming at me to rent it. I quite enjoyed Pete Walker’s ‘House of Whipcord’ so picking up ‘Frightmare’ was an easy decision.

After committing a series of horrific murders and engaging in cannibalism, a woman is committed to a mental hospital. Fifteen years later she is released into the care of her husband, who was also briefly institutionalized as an accessory to her crimes. The couple move to a home in the country to start a new life. It’s not long before hubby suspects his wife may have fallen into her old habits.

I could have easily watched an entire film with just the couple. Sheila Keith is absolutely fascinating as the cannibalistic wife, Dorothy Yates. Keith goes back and forth between fragile and confused to completely deranged. When I use the word fragile, I am specifically speaking of her state of mind. The woman’s appearance is actually pretty intimidating. Rupert Davies was also excellent as the manic husband, Edmund Yates. Davies gives a real hand-wringing performance as the man who loves but fears his wife. I just can’t conceive these two actually fornicating, but apparently they did at least once. They have two children, Debbie and Jackie. Debbie is the result of their union and Jackie is Edmund’s child from a previous marriage. Jackie has been charged with the care of her fifteen year old sister Debbie. She has been making late-night visits to deliver a special package to her parents, whose identity and whereabouts she has kept from her sister. Jackie has just started dating psychiatrist Graham, whom she met at a friend’s dinner party. He involves himself in the sisters relationship much to Jackie’s chagrin. Debbie is a frustrated, confrontational fifteen year old with a tendency towards violence. She is dating a guy who thinks he is a real badass, but Debbie gives him a lesson in what badass really is.

still from frightmare 2

The addition of the daughters works quite well. It adds a disturbing angle to the plot. The story moves well, flowing in and out through the plotlines of the mother and father and the two sisters. Occasionally intersecting, until it comes to its brilliantly nasty conclusion. An ending well worth sticking around for. The mood is suitably dreary and the farmhouse where the parents reside is the epitome of bleak. The perfect setting for late night visits to deliver mysterious packages or having your tarot cards read. If Dorothy Yates wants to read your tarot cards, just say no and walk away. The gore factor is fairly low, but it is a lot spicier than other British films I’ve seen from the early 70’s. Performances by the other cast members are all pretty decent; particularly notable is Kim Butcher who plays the younger sister Debbie. But Keith and Davies really steal the show. They really do a hell of a job and they have a strong story to back them up. My only real complaint is that I would have liked to have seen a lot more of Dorothy and Edmund Yates and less of the Jackie and Graham characters. I loved ‘Frightmare’ and I will definitely be checking out more Pete Walker films! Highest of recommendations!

Dungeon Rating: 5/5

Directed By: Pete Walker

Starring: Rupert Davies, Sheila Keith, Deborah Fairfax, Paul Greenwood, Kim Butcher, Fiona Curzon, Jon Yule, Trisha Mortimer