Set in 17th century England during the violent early days of Cromwell's rule THECONQUEROR WORM is Michael Reeves' dark violent tale of the infamous 17th century witchhunter Matthew Hopkins (Vincent Price). A failed lawyer ... more »Hopkins practiced his wicked trade throughout the British countryside for nearly a decade capitalizing on the instability and tumultuous upheavals created by the English Civil War. After years of unchallenged torture and sadistic murder the witchfinder finally meets his match when until he runs afoul of an army officer who vows revenge.System Requirements:Running Time: 86 Mins.Format: DVD MOVIE Genre: HORROR Rating: NR UPC: 027616087652 Manufacturer No: M108765« less
Rob K. from HALF MOON BAY, CA Reviewed on 7/24/2016...
I was stationed in S.E.A. and saw this movie at a base movie theater in 1969 under the title "The Conqueror Worm" and it is the first and only film that I was ever at that literally caused the entire theater to erupt and yell at the screen during the final scenes of the movie due to pent up emotion. After all these years this mob mentality is still the strangest thing that has ever happened to me in a social setting. It is a very good and generally undervalued film.
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My Pivotal Film Experience.
Chip Kaufmann | Asheville, N.C. United States | 09/13/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Every lover of film has had a pivotal film experience, the movie that made such an impact on them that they have never forgotten it. For me WITCHFINDER GENERAL is that film. I first saw it in 1969 as THE CONQUERER WORM (AIP's American release title designed to cash in on the Vincent Price/Edgar Allan Poe series although the movie has nothing to do with Poe). I was 17 years old, just about to complete my junior year of high school in Greenville SC, and was a big fan of the Roger Corman/Vincent Price Poe series. I had seen very few films that would not qualify as G rated. The ratings system had just been introduced the year before and this film was rated M (for mature audiences, later GP then PG). It was a complete shock to the system in every way. It was the first time I had seen nudity/lovemaking before and the violence was painful and ugly. Vincent Price was cold and hard without a trace of his usual mannerisms and therefore not sympathetic in the least. To top it all off there was no happy ending and people were worse off than they were before. Of course these things had been in films since the silent era but it was the first time I had seen them and we always remember our firsts.
I have seen just about everything in the movies since then but seeing WITCHFINDER nearly 40 years later I'm amazed at how well it holds up. I am happy to report that after years of substandard VHS and Region 2 DVD editions this version features the original director's cut and restores the original soundtrack which was not available in America. An added bonus is the commentary which features star Ian Ogilvy that fills in the background of the making of the film. For those who don't know, the film is set during the English Civil War and pits two young lovers against a sadistic Puritan witchfinder. The director, Michael Reeves, died shortly afterwards of an accidental prescription drug overdose at the age of 25. The 5 star rating is purely subjective because of the important part it played in my overall movie development but it's a solid 4 star film anyway."
A satisfying but sadly marginalised cult horror classic
P. I. Johnson | Cape Town, South Africa | 09/07/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Conqueror Worm is a textbook example of a movie's potential prospects as an acknowledged classic being wrecked by the stupidity of critics and the cynical manipulations of a distributor underestimating the intelligence of American viewers. Distributed by AIP in America as "The Conqueror Worm" and purportedly "based on the writing of Edgar Allan Poe", the film got buried by disinterested US critics who incorrectly passed it off as simply another addition to the increasingly tiresome Poe fare being churned out by AIP, Roger Corman and others. The casting of Vincent Price, of course, only strengthened this unfortunate and lazy critical impulse. For this, the distributor is as much to blame as the critics, by consciously pursuing a marketing strategy which implied precisely what critics chose to believe. And by tampering with the film itself to contrive to provide a Poe connection (by adding prologue and epilogue commentary by Vincent Price quoting from Poe's poem) AIP hung its sinking critical reputation around the neck of this great movie. In fact, The Conqueror Worm has nothing to do with Edgar Allan Poe and was not even made by the AIP studio either. And when US critics began hearing European buzz about a great little horror movie called The Witchfinder General by an innovative young Brit director, Michael Reeves, how were they then to know it was the same movie they had so flippantly disregarded? By the time The Witchfinder General was rereviewed as the stand alone original it is, it was too late. The movie's moment had passed amongst the moviegoing mainstream. It is only through its devoted cult following that memory of it and its tragic young director (who died in mysterious circumstances at the age of 25) has deservedly been kept alive. Considered in the context of its time, The Conqueror Worm is a powerful, violent tale of hypocrisy and vengeance. It tells the story of the villainous opportunist Matthew Hopkins and his sidekick, the brutish moron John Stearne, who went from village to village in Cromwellian England torturing, hanging and burning "witches". The movie pulls no punches in its portrayal of the methods used by Hopkins and Stearne to extract confessions and exact punishment, but is also satisfyingly contemptuous in its portrayal of these two psychopaths. In this regard, Reeves manages something even Roger Corman couldn't do: extract a layered, complex and credible performance from the normally corny Vincent Price. This simply has to be one of his best performances ever - the one that could've given him consolidated mainstream respectability, but the one that probably the least people actually saw. Ian Ogilvy (TV's The Saint - after Roger Moore's stint)- is also very good as the tender then vengeful soldier, Richard Marshall. I am of the view that the original reason this film got trumpeted as a horror movie related to the casting of Vincent Price and AIP's cynical business calculations. However, it is indeed a horror movie, just not the kind of horror movie AIP wanted the public to believe. It falls rather - despite its gorgeous costume dress and sets - into the same category of horror sub genre which deals with studies of pure evil a la Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. (In fact, the knowing, murderous collusion - and tension - between Hopkins and Stearne resembles somewhat the relationship between the calculating Henry and moronic Otis in the later movie.) The Conqueror Worm is also, however, a revenge movie - a kind of proto-Death Wish - in that the story is driven by Richard Marshall's obsessive quest to avenge the violation and rape of his fiance by both Hopkins and Stearne. The movie looks fantastic, probably the best sense of that period ever captured on film. The shots of Marshall racing his horse through the English countryside under a foreboding evening sky are simply breathtaking. The images are strong and dark as well, contributing to a grave atmosphere of oppression in the air. The opening scenes - incorporating a lone townsman preparing a hilltop gallows against a dark sky and an old woman being dragged to her execution - are as powerful as anything you'll ever see. The wonderful thing is, the movie never lets up on this opening power. It runs its violent course without dragging and delivers a stunning visual feast of violence and evil. This movie absolutely has to find its way to DVD - and soon. And, for once, the audience frustration that builds up in the face of hypocrisy and cruelty, is satifactorily resolved. So, for those of you who are still wound up from having experienced Nicholas Hytner's brilliant version of Arthur Miller's The Crucible, watch this movie to get the closure you need! Highly recommended to serious moviegoers and collectors - but also as a great midnight with popcorn movie for couples! At under $12, buy, buy, buy. Or wait for the DVD which will be stunning."
This is the Directors Cut
J. Curley | Tokyo, Japan | 09/03/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There's more good news regarding MGM's long awaited September 11 DVD release of WITCHFINDER GENERAL (aka THE CONQUEROR WORM). Producer Philip Waddilove has confirmed to DVD Drive-In that the movie will not only be presented as Michael Reeves' director cut, but will also contain the original music score by Paul Ferris which was removed from all previous home video versions in the U.S. For this DVD, Waddilove has also just recorded an audio commentary along with star Ian Ogilvy, and an additional supplement will be a collection of Waddilove's personal stills, taken on the set. Looks like it's going to be one hell of a release! "
The Best British Western Ever ? The Witchfinder General
"... or maybe the best horror western ever. What you make of this will depend on two things. How much you like old British horror and how much you know about the production of this particular film. When you realize that this is the last production of a young talented Director, Michael Reeves, who died (25 - accidental overdose) on the path to being one of the all time greatest film directors, and that this is his third, last and best film, you will under its value (as an example of his talent watch the shot in this film of young children cooking potatoes in the ashes of a `witch' that has just been burned). It is a notch above your average late 1960s early 1970s horror films. In fact it is a notch above nearly every British film making it one of the British modern classics. The story is based on the real life times and crimes of the lawyer and Witchfinder General - Mathew Hopkins, who set about destroying alleged witches across England with the full power of the law. This film depicts the various acts of torture and trials conducted on witches making it an extremely important historical document (as a note the Western influence comes from the gallant long countryside horseback riding shots, mobs in the villages and things like gallows being erected in the same vein as the cowboy movies in the USA of that era. It WORKS extremely well!) It is also certainly the best rendition of such grim persecutions to date on the screen (US viewers should think Salem Witch Trials x 100).
There is an interesting plot involving a young soldier whose fiancée's father - a priest, is put on trial for witchcraft while the soldier is away. When the soldier returns he vows to track down Hopkins for the crimes he has committed against his wife and father and so the movie is essentially a story of revenge as this soldier chases Hopkins across the countryside passing through villages where Hopkins has been.
Some find this film hard to watch because of this subplot but stick with it because after the first twenty minutes or so the film really takes off. This is also Vincent Price in his best role ever and some would say his best work although the production values are somewhat low (a very restrictive budget with a young director practically making it by himself). Many of the scenes are underexposed, dirty, bad cuts, lots of zooms (a no-no in cinematography these days), daft credits that almost underexpose Hopkins face in the background and other elements of film making associated with tight finances. However ALL of the fight sequences and torture sequences are very well done. In fact some of those scenes had to be cut!
The real gem in this movie though is to know how much it has been through. The director set out to make one of the most violent films ever conceived in the UK. The UK censors immediately cut it to ribbons saying that it would shock the viewers too much. Also the US censors agreed that the violence should be toned down considerably but agreed that the US version could contain different takes with nude women. This led to several versions of the film over the years.
This review refers to the superb DVD version of the film. You can only currently get it on PAL but it contains 2 versions of the films, excellent bonus materials including documentaries, Empire Magazine's Kim Newman provides excellent production notes (best seen on any DVD to date), trailers and biographies. It is dirt cheap. Get it!
Anyway the DVD has 2 versions - The Directors Cut (featuring NO nude women and all the restored cuts) and the Export Version (featuring nude women and all the restored cuts). The VHS version is CUT. However this decade one scene was restored that was originally omitted from the screen version - of the infamous boot in the eye sequence. So all new VHS versions of the film have this restored... but the DVD has also restored - (1) A priest being tortured, (2) A women being slapped, (3)An extended version of the river dunking, (4)A witch missing her eye being tied up and burnt alive, (5)A woman being tortured and (6) the notorious axing sequence. Unfortunately these cut scenes had to be restored from a poor quality tape recording in the Director's own personal collection, so these cut scenes look very different from the quality of the actual film - however this is only a minor point given that the film is over 30 years old and was made on a shoe-string budget. The fact that we get to see these cuts at all on a DVD in SUBLIME for fans!
So for the first time ever - The Fully Restored - Witchfinder General as it was meant to be seen is now available!
The Original Torture Prn.
Mike Liddell | Massachusetts | 10/26/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Witchfinder General also know as The Conqueror Worm based on a poem from Edgar Allan Poe is a revenge tale inspired by Matthew Hopkins who made a lucrative career seeking out witches and devil worshipers in 17th century England. Witchfinder General is the September October Cult Pick in Film Comment Magazine and Maitland McDonagh writes that director Michael Reeves badgered and bullied the self parody and camp mannerisms out of the horror icon Vincent Price. Price himself admitted that the "kid had browbeaten him into a subtle, utterly chilling performance as a sanctimonious opportunist." I think Reeves strategy was a success as this is the best I have seen Vincent Price. The film pushes the limits and horror fans of revenge tales such as Wes Craven's Last House on the Left will enjoy and the end was reminiscent of Toby Hooper's ending of his original classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It's torture horror with great atmosphere, (when it's nightime in the movie it's actually dark and nightime), scenery, with an actual story.
THE DVD: The midnite movies version has Paul Ferris's orchestral score. The Transfer looked amazing and for the price you can't beat this film."