Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Witches (1966)

The Witches (US: The Devil's Own) is a 1966 British horror film made by Hammer Films. It was adapted by Nigel Kneale from the novel The Devil's Own by Norah Lofts, under the pseudonym Peter Curtis. It was directed by Cyril Frankel and starred Joan Fontaine, Alec McCowen, Kay Walsh, Ann Bell, Ingrid Boulting, Gwen Ffrangcon Davies and Rudolph Walker. This was the final big-screen film role for Fontaine.

A schoolteacher (Fontaine) has a nervous breakdown after being exposed to witchcraft during a rebellion led by witch doctors while teaching as a missionary in Africa. In an effort to recover, on her return to England, she is hired by a wealthy brother and sister (McCowan and Walsh) to become head teacher of their small private school in a rural village. Gwen soon detects a sinister undercurrent beneath the pleasantries of the village life, starting with Alan admitting to Gwen that he is not really a priest. Soon more suspicious events start to occur, such as the disappearance and reappearance of a doll - found headless.

There she also becomes suspicious of the way the villagers are treating a 14-year-old girl (Boulting); her investigations point to witchcraft. The village of Hambleden, Buckinghamshire was the filming location for the fictional village of Heddaby. Interiors were filmed at Hammer's usual studio at Bray in the same year the famous horror film company vacated their home altogether for (mainly) Elstree and Pinewood. The cast featured child-actor Martin Stephens, then 17. The supporting cast also included Hammer regular Duncan Lamont, as well as John Collin, Michele Dotrice, Leonard Rossiter and Bryan Marshall. The score was by Richard Rodney Bennett. In a later magazine interview Nigel Kneale said he was dissatisfied with the way the film had turned out. Personally he found modern black magic practitioners to be fairly risible and he had intended to poke fun at the idea of an English coven. However his blackly comic touches were smoothed out by the production team, who wanted the film to be entirely serious. - From Wikipedia

90 MIN

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