They promised me witches!

conqueror worm poster

They promised me witches!

This time, I’ll talk about the only movie that really succeeded in disturbing me when I was a child: The Conqueror Worm.

Michael Reeves directed this film, released in 1968. Vincent Price plays the main antagonist. The cast also includes Ian Ogilvy, Hilary Dwyer and Robert Russell. Reeves and Tom Baker wrote the screenplay based on the novel Witchfinder General by Ronald Bassett.

conqueror worm poster
conqueror worm poster

Some alternative names for the film are: The Witchfinder General, The Inquisitor, or When the Witches Burn.

The plot is based on the true story of a trial of a priest named John Lowes. A fictional love story was added between Sarah (Lowes’ niece) and a Rounhead soldier named Richard Marshall.

Reception

It received generally good reviews with an 83% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 12 reviews. In 2005 Total Film included it among the 50 best horror films of all time.

witchhunter
witchhunter

My experience

I remember wanting to watch the movie, thinking it would be a movie about witches (I think it was broadcast on TV with the name “When Witches Burn”). I spent the entire movie hoping that, at least, one real witch would show up, but no: all the supposed witches were innocent.

witchhunter
witchhunter

The terror came, in reality, from showing all the corruption, cruelty and sadism that the witch hunts involved at that time. I was very young and not prepared to see evil expressed in such a realistic way.

sarah
sarah

In effect, the methods of torture and execution are shown against the “witches” who are clearly innocent. A woman claims that she cannot be executed because she is pregnant, which is ignored.

priest
priest

The Inquisitor (played by Vincent Price) also interrogates the accused young women, alone, and promises the pardon in exchange for sexual favors. Some girls agree, believing they will get the pardon for themselves or some relative. But the inquisitor, once he gets what he wants from them, betrays them.

execution
execution

When I finished watching it I felt bad because of the injustices shown and because the film did not show any fantasy elements. But over time I understood that if it had managed to make me feel so bad about the things that were happening, what more could you ask for from a horror movie?

Here the trailer:

Bibliography:


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