Charged with hunting
down witches in 17th-century England, royalist
"witchfinder" Matthew Hopkins (Price) travels from
village to village with his brutish assistant Stearne (Robert
Russell), forcing confessions and torturing women who refuse to
comply. But Hopkins's wicked dealings with Sarah (Hilary
Dwyer), comely niece of accused priest Father Lowes (Davies), will
eventually bring the evil, unconscionable Puritan into conflict with
a soldier in Cromwell's army.
Why we love it
Forget the campy persona Price cultivated throughout most of his ghoulish career: In Reeves's genuinely scary "Witchfinder," the maven of horror schlock tweaks his role with a demonic concentration that belies his fun but often hokey turns in lesser films. Just 25 at the time, the young director handles an old theme-satanism and the persecution of women-with aplomb, especially as he stages his hellish drama against the backdrop of the English Civil War. Dwyer and Ian Ogilvy, as Sarah's aggrieved soldier-lover, provide excellent support, too. Sadly, Reeves perished a year after the film was made, robbing us of a distinctive young voice in horror.