Vincent Price is Matthew Hopkins

Vincent Price as the infamous, real life witch hunter Matthew Hopkins in THE CONQUEROR WORM (1968), released in the U.K. as WITCHFINDER GENERAL.

Vincent Price has always been associated with the horror genre even though he appeared in all kinds of other films during his career such as film noir (Laura), comedy (Champagne for Caesar), westerns (The Baron of Arizona), historical drama (The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex), science fiction (The Invisible Man Returns) and more. But his particular brand of villainy in horror films tend to be almost tongue-in-cheek with a macabre sense of humor and campy flourishes as in House on Haunted Hill (1959), The Tingler (1959), Diary of a Madman (1963) or Theater of Blood (1973), to name a few. His performance as infamous witch hunter Matthew Hopkins in The Conqueror Worm, however, was something else entirely – a genuinely chilling portrayal that was like nothing else he had ever done or would ever do again. Even today the intensity of his evil is the stuff of nightmares and he seems to be channeling the malevolent spirit of Hopkins in what is still a timely snapshot of political and religious persecution in the 17th century.

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Down the Rabbit Hole

“Curiouser and curiouser,” the famous phrase from the Lewis Carroll classic Alice in Wonderland spoken by the heroine, could easily apply to Sérail aka Surreal Estate (1976), the directorial debut of Argentinian screenwriter Eduardo de Gregorio, who is better known as the co-writer of such films as Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Spider’s Stratagem (1970), Jacques Rivette’s Celine and Julie Go Boating (1974) and several other movies by Rivette. The English title Surreal Estate gives you the impression that this movie (filmed in France) is not going to be a reality-based narrative but that depends on the viewer’s interpretation of what they are seeing. To be clear, Sérail functions on several levels. It might be a ghost story or an unsolved mystery or a writer’s fanciful account of an actual event that occurred during his house hunt for a second home in the French countryside.

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Brigitte Bardot Plays Herself

Before he had reached the age of thirty, French director Louis Malle (born in 1932) had already emerged as one of his country’s most critically acclaimed and internationally recognized filmmakers on the basis of his first three films – The Oscar®-winning documentary, The Silent World (1956), which he co-directed with Jacques-Yves Cousteau, the atmospheric noir Elevator to the Gallows (1958), and the controversial adultery drama, The Lovers (1958). Many film critics felt that his fourth film, Zazie dans le metro (1960), based on the novel by Raymond Queneau, was his most adventurous and impressive work to date but it failed to generate ticket sales and was a costly failure. Due to this, Malle felt pressured to make a more commercial feature and the result was A Very Private Affair (1962, French title Vie privée), starring Brigitte Bardot.   Continue reading