Witchfinder General (1968) Movie Review

Director: Michael Reeves

Writer: Tom Baker, Michael Reeves (Screenplay) Ronald Bassett (Novel)

Starring: Vincent Price, Ian Ogilvy, Rupert Davies, Hilary Heath, Robert Russell, Nicky Henson

Plot: A young soldier seeks to put an end to the evils caused by a vicious witch-hunter when the latter terrorizes his fiancée and kills her uncle.


Tagline – He’ll hang, burn and mutilate you.

Runtime: 1 Hour 26 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Shock Horror 60’s Horror

Story: Witchfinder General starts in the middle of the English Civil War, where soldiers fight for and against Oliver Cromwell are travelling around the country. Matthew Hopkins (Price) leads a group of soldiers who play into the superstitions of small village, punishing women they believe to be witches, while Richard Marshall (Ogilvy) is preparing to marry Sara (Heath) the niece of a priest.

When Hopkins and his men arrive in the village, they continue their witch hunt, where they target the priest with John Stearne (Russell) the sadistic member continues to torture the people, until Richard decides to fight back for his people.

Thoughts on Witchfinder General

Characters – Matthew Hopkins is the man that believes he is right to be hunting for witches in towns, he will go to extreme lengths to get the witches giving them no chance of surviving the trials, letting his men do the more sadistic work for him, using his position of power to seduce women. Richard Marshall fights for the king, he sees the witchfinder come into his town and after what they do to his family, he risks his own life to hunt down the witchfinder to get revenge. Sara is the niece of a priest that is accused of witchcraft, she will do anything to save her uncle, being taken advantage of by Hopkins, while seeing her husband Richard going out for revenge. John Stearne is the man that enjoys performing the sadistic rituals to find out whether people are witches or not, though he can become paranoid about whether he will get captured or not.

PerformancesVincent Price is a horror icon and it shows how he could dominate the genre in his career here, easily be the star of the show, with the rest of the cast struggling to keep up with him.

StoryThe story here follows a group of soldiers that travel around to small village to torture people claiming they are witches, only after they picked the wrong village, as one of the soldiers for the king goes in search for revenge against the witchfinder. This does play into the superstitions of the world with witch hunting which will become the main source of the story and how people would react to the hunting. It does fall into a standard revenge thriller and is more interested in trying for shocks over anything else.

HorrorThe horror in this film comes from seeing how the world is treating potential witches and what Hopkins and his men do to them.

SettingsThe film does use the locations to show us the English countryside with small villages that would live in fear.


Scene of the Movie – The final shot.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – It is too generic in how the story unfolds.

Final Thoughts This is your typical 60s British horror that does everything right without being anything as ground breaking as it could have been.

Overall: Typical British Horror.

ABC Film Challenge – Oscar Nomination – T – The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) Movie Review

Director: Norman Jewison

Writer: Alan Trustman (Screenplay)

Starring: Steve McQueen, Faye Dunaway, Paul Burke, Jack Weston, Biff McGuire, Addison Powell, Astrid Heeren

Plot: A debonair, adventuresome bank executive believes he has pulled off the perfect multi-million dollar heist, only to match wits with a sexy insurance investigator who will do anything to get her man.


Tagline – McQueen, together with this “Bonnie and Clyde” Gal…and the slickest gang that ever robbed a bank! 

Runtime: 1 Hour 42 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Classic Heist

Story: The Thomas Crown Affair starts as Thomas Crown (McQueen) pulls off a daring robbery with his selected team which sees him team walk away with millions of dollars, which he will hand out slowly to cover up any unusual additions to bank accounts. The banks turn to insurance investigator Vicki Anderson (Dunaway) to search for answers and it isn’t long before her attention turns to Thomas himself.

Vicki will push the limits of the legal side of her job to get to the truth even if that means she clashes with her employer Eddy Malone (Burke) and the deeper she dives into the case, the more she learns about Thomas and his desires in the criminal world.

Thoughts on The Thomas Crown Affair

Characters – Thomas Crown in the businessman that always knows how to get the best deal, isn’t afraid to splash his cash and he also enjoys a good heist, with his latest one giving him even more money to spend, he knows how the build a team that will get the job done without needing to let them know who he is, only this time he might have met his match. Vicki Anderson is a sexy insurance investigator who is assigned to help get to the bottom of this latest robbery, she starts to investigate Thomas and learns more about him, but never enough to prove he was the mastermind behind the robbery. The two do clash on what they feel is right and will go to any lengths to try and stay ahead of each other. Eddy Malone is the man that hires Vicki to help get the money his company had to pay out to the bank for insurance, he wants things done clean.

PerformancesSteve McQueen does have all the swagger to make this rick criminal come to life effortlessly through the film, while Faye Dunaway brings her character to life, playing into her strengths to get the truth. The rest of the cast are great through the film, letting the leads take full control.

StoryThe story here follows a slick businessman that enjoys committing robberies on the side, he has been doing it for years and now he will meet his match trying to catch him. This is a new spin on the heist genre because instead of being just a criminal wanting to complete his latest job, this turns somebody who never needs to commit the robbery into a man that believes he can get it done. There are elements of the cat-n-mouse between the two which is entertaining to watch, while we do focus more on the aftermath of the crime, rather than the actual crime itself, which is also different because we spend too much time watching the preparation of a crime.

Crime/Romance The crime side of the film does show how one man believes he can get away with the perfect robbery and does fall in love with the woman that is sent to try and capture him.

SettingsThe film uses the settings to show the high rolling life Thomas has been living both before and after the robbery, making it hard to pinpoint him as the mastermind.


Scene of the Movie – The robbery.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – It does seem to easy for them to fall in love.

Final Thoughts This is a fun heist film that does take us into a new direction that we don’t normally see, with some wonderful leading performances.

Overall: Heist film with a twist.

Ice Station Zebra (1968) Movie Review

Director: John Sturges

Writer: Douglas Heyes, Harry Julian Fink (Screenplay) Alistair MacLean (Novel)

Starring: Rock Hudson, Ernest Borgnine, Patrick McGoohan, Jim Brown, Tony Bill, Lloyd Nolan

Plot: USN nuclear sub USS Tigerfish must rush to the North Pole to rescue the staff of Drift Ice Station Zebra weather station.


Tagline – “Ice Station Zebra”… Remember The Name — Your Life May Depend On It!

Runtime: 2 Hours 28 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Sizzling Tension Filler

Story: Ice Station Zebra starts after a British research facility in the North Pole gets into a position where it requires help, with the snow stopping any flights, Cdr James Ferraday (Hudson) is assigned to captain his nuclear submarine, with specialist David Jones (McGoohan) who is on his own mission to the research facility.

On route to the station the crew pick up Boris Vaslov (Borgnine) and Captain Leslie Anders (Brown), learning that somebody might be trying to sabotage the mission, once they hit the North Pole, the four are joined by a crew to finish the mission on foot across the cold arctic conditions.

Thoughts on Ice Station Zebra

Characters – Cdr James Ferraday is the man assigned with taking the submarine on the rescue attempt, he knows what he needs to, only he is joined with somebody who knows more, he must figure out how to get more information, while become suspicious of everything that he learns along the way, including the extra guests who join the mission, he wants to do the right thing and tries to make sure nobody gets in his way. Boris Vaslov is a Russian that joins the mission, he is friendly to everybody while looking to find the answers. David Jones is the man that joins the mission from the start, he knows what they are looking for and doesn’t want to give away everything unless it will get to a stage of life and death. Captain Leslie Anders joins the mission and is stricter in how he runs the soldiers onboard the submarine.

PerformancesRock Hudson in the leading role is strong, while we do have a well known cast in Ernest Borgnine, Patrick McGoohan and Jim Brown that all do a great job with their characters through the film.

StoryThe story here follows a crew of a submarine that must travel to the North Pole to rescue a group of survivors that are in need of rescue, while also waiting to see why other nations are so interested in getting there first. This starts of looking like it is going to be a standard rescue mission, only to turn into a story that revolves around the different nations that are all interested in what could be at the base, while it could have something much bigger for the world’s control over everything. We are kept guessing on who to trust through the film, which is interesting and does keep us on edge, even if most of the moments focus on the almost moments.

AdventureThe film does make us see this as an adventure with the characters needing to go on a journey to rescue people in need, even if not everybody is on the same page.

SettingsThe film is set in two primary locations, first the submarine, which is contained, then the arctic with the station which might be open, but is isolated.


Scene of the Movie – Showdown on the ice.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Doesn’t give us enough answers.

Final Thoughts This is an interesting thriller that feels like it is just ready to burst, only for it to end up fizzling out without getting to the top level we would look to expect it to.

Overall: Fizzling Thriller.

Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

Director: Sergio Leone

Writer: Sergio Donati, Sergio Leone (Screenplay) Dario Argento, Bernardo Bertolucci, Sergio Leone (Story)

Starring: Claudia Cardinale, Henry Fonda, Jason Robards, Charles Bronson, Gabriele Ferzetti, Paolo Stoppa

 

Plot: A mysterious stranger with a harmonica joins forces with a notorious desperado to protect a beautiful widow from a ruthless assassin working for the railroad.


Tagline – There were three men in her life. One to take her… one to love her… and one to kill her.

Runtime: 2 Hours 44 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: One of the Best Westerns You Will Ever See

 

Story: Once Upon a Time in the West starts when Jill McBain (Cardinale) arrives to her new home, only to find her whole family killed, husband and children. The fingers point at desperado Cheyenne (Robards) only we know it is ruthless assassin Frank (Fonda) who will kill anyone.

Jill joins forces with mysterious Harmonica (Bronson) and Cheyenne to get back at Frank and the ruthless Railroad Baron Morton (Ferzetti) who has targeting the widow.

 

Thoughts on Once Upon a Time in the West

 

Characters – Jill McBain is a woman from New Orleans, her family has moved to Utah to create a new life with her joining them, only when she arrives her family has been killed. Believing she has lost everything it is the strangers she meets which help guide her to get her revenge on the people who committed the crime. Frank is the assassin working for the Baron, he uses his gang to kill anyone he is asked to kill showing no remorse whether it be man, woman or child. Cheyenne is the outlaw known around the land, he is the prime suspect for the family’s murder, though he has rules to never hurt a child, he helps uncover the truth behind the crime. Harmonica is the mysterious stranger who is in town, he will help Jill get revenge on the men behind her family’s murder.

PerformancesClaudia Cardinale is wonderful in this leading role, in a genre generally dominated by male performers she shines in her role. Henry Fonda as the cold-hearted killer is a join to watch as well, we believe his evil in every scene he is in. Jason Robards is fantastic too as his Charles Bronson with this film easily have four of the best performance you will see in any film.

StoryThe story here follows one woman that loses her family to outlaws and joins forces to learn the truth with to other outlaws. This can be looked at as a simple revenge western which in parts it is, but at 2 hours 44 minutes long you must be thinking how doe the time pass. If we are honest the time flies by and each character gets the chance to develop to give us a full understanding of everything that is going on. This is how you can tell a simple story with interesting characters that get the back story to make you care while still on revealing certain parts late in the film. this is one you need to experience just to understand the masterclass in storytelling we got here.

WesternWestern’s are easily one of my weakest genres to enjoy, in this film we see what a western is all about, moving away from the big city to start and build a new life with the dangers of the cowboys and outlaws trying to take anything from anybody. The music helps us completely understand this is a western with the gunslinging coming from all corners.

SettingsThe film put sus in the middle of the land you would expect any western to be set, desert locations without many resources and the railroad looking to come through the towns.


Scene of the Movie –
The showdown.

That Moment That Annoyed Me Even the length of the film is acceptable, nothing annoyed me.

Final ThoughtsThis is easily one of the greatest westerns every made, it uses the themes wonderfully and gives us four strong characters with proper development.

 

Overall: Must watch western.

Rating

 

 

Classic Franchise – Planet of the Apes (1968)

Director: Franklin J Schaffner

Writer: Michael Wilson, Rod Serling (Screenplay) Pierre Boulle (Novel)

Starring: Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, James Whitmore, James Daly, Linda Harrison

 

Plot: An astronaut crew crash-lands on a planet in the distant future where intelligent talking apes are the dominant species, and humans are the oppressed and enslaved.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: True Classic

 

Story: Planet of the Apes starts as we follow four astronauts who have been travelling for over 2000 years when the land on a new planet, George Taylor (Heston) take charge of the mission which does suffer a loss on the landing. Along with Landon (Gunner) and Dodge (Burton) the three explore the planet for a way to make sure they can survive.

When the men discover life on the planet, they believe it is only early evolution human, but things take a turn when apes treat the humans like cattle, hunting them down for slaves with Dr Zaius (Evans) learning about the humans with Dr Zira (Hunter) willing to give them a chance. Zira’s partner Cornelius (McDowall) questions he decision to help George but the apes live in a world where they are the almighty. Can George get off the planet before becoming another victim to this world.

 

Thoughts on Planet of the Apes

 

Characters/PerformanceGeorge Taylor is an astronaut on a long space mission with his crew, he is the commander and must lead his crew through the unknown planet, deal with an unknown threat and convince his own case of equality in a world of apes. Cornelius is the ambitious ape that goes against the idea of a biblical existence searching for answer in evolution. Zira also believes in more than the bible of apes and wants to study George to understand where he fits in the evolution stages. Dr Zaius wants to protect the apes, he experiments on the humans and see George as the biggest threat to his kinds type.

Performance wise, Charlton Heston is fantastic in this leading role showing his balance between hero and victim. Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter and Maurice Evans also all do great jobs through the whole film.

StoryThe story sees what happens when a human space traveller finds themselves arriving in a new world with new rulers, that is the core of the story. What is brilliant to see here is the fact we get a social commentary going including equality, rights for species outside our own as well as the hunting scene including the photo shoot after and finally religion verses evolution. The mix is brilliant blended in a perfectly paced film.

Adventure/Sci-FiThe adventure comes from a new world being explored by George with the sci-fi aspects shows us the new world we could be living in.

SettingsThe settings all work for a future where apes rule a planet, showing how not everything has evolved yet.

Special EffectsThe special effects all work for the time showing us just how the world truly is created.

Final ThoughtsThis is one of the classic film that still maintains the look, the style and storytelling to outsmart most modern movie.

 

Overall: One of the best ever made.

Rating