The Witches (1966 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Cyril Frankel|
|Produced by||Anthony Nelson Keys|
|Written by||Peter Curtis aka Norah Lofts|
|Based on||The Devil's Own (novel)|
Ingrid Boulting (billed as Ingrid Brett)
|Music by||Richard Rodney Bennett|
|Edited by||Chris Barnes
|Distributed by||Associated British-Pathé
20th Century Fox
|Release dates||21 November 1966 (London)
February 1967 (United States)
|Running time||90 min.|
The Witches (US: The Devil's Own) is a 1966 British horror film made by Hammer Films. It was adapted by Nigel Kneale from the novel The Devil's Own by Norah Lofts, under the pseudonym Peter Curtis. It was directed by Cyril Frankel and starred Joan Fontaine, Alec McCowen, Kay Walsh, Ann Bell, Ingrid Boulting (billed as Ingrid Brett), Gwen Ffrangcon Davies and Rudolph Walker. This was the final big-screen film role for Fontaine.
A schoolteacher (Joan Fontaine) has a nervous breakdown after being exposed to witchcraft during a rebellion led by witch doctors while teaching as a missionary in Africa. Returning to England to recover, she is hired by wealthy siblings Alan and Stephanie Bax (Alec McCowen and Kay Walsh) to become head teacher of their small private school in a rural village.
Gwen soon detects a sinister undercurrent beneath the pleasantries of the village life, starting with Alan admitting to Gwen that he is not really a priest. Soon more suspicious events start to occur, such as the disappearance and reappearance of a doll–found headless.
There she also becomes suspicious of the way the villagers are treating Linda Rigg, a 14-year-old girl (Ingrid Boulting); her investigations point to witchcraft.
- Joan Fontaine as Gwen Mayfield
- Kay Walsh as Stephanie Bax
- Alec McCowen as Alan Bax
- Ann Bell as Sally Benson
- Ingrid Boulting as Linda Rigg (as Ingrid Brett)
- John Collin as Dowsett
- Michele Dotrice as Valerie Creek
- Gwen Ffrangcon Davies as Granny Rigg (as Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies)
- Duncan Lamont as Bob Curd
- Leonard Rossiter as Dr. Wallis
- Martin Stephens as Ronnie Dowsett
- Carmel McSharry as Mrs. Dowsett
- Viola Keats as Mrs. Curd
- Shelagh Fraser as Mrs. Creek
- Bryan Marshall as Tom
The village of Hambleden, Buckinghamshire, was the filming location for the fictional village of Heddaby. Interiors were filmed at Hammer's usual studio at Bray in the same year the famous horror film company vacated their home altogether for (mainly) Elstree and Pinewood. The cast featured child-actor Martin Stephens, then 17. The supporting cast also included Hammer regular Duncan Lamont, as well as John Collin, Michele Dotrice, Leonard Rossiter and Bryan Marshall.
The score was by Richard Rodney Bennett. In a later magazine interview Nigel Kneale said he was dissatisfied with the way the film had turned out. Personally he found modern black magic practitioners to be fairly risible and he had intended to poke fun at the idea of an English coven. However his blackly comic touches were smoothed out by the production team, who wanted the film to be entirely serious.
Variety called the film "routine entertainment". The Hammer Story: The Authorised Biography of Hammer Films called the film "unsettling, though compromised by a hysterical climax", writing, "when The Witches strikes the right balance it ultimately succeeds as an engrossing thriller, even if it ultimately disappoints as Hammer horror."
As of 2013, The Witches currently holds a three star rating (5.8/10) on IMDb and 40% maximum approval on Rotten Tomatoes.
- Hearn, Marcus; Barnes, Alan (September 2007). "The Witches". The Hammer Story: The Authorised History of Hammer Films (Limited ed.). Titan Books. ISBN 1 84576 185 5.
- The Witches at the Internet Movie Database
- The Witches at AllMovie
- The Witches at the TCM Movie Database
- The Witches at the American Film Institute Catalog
- The Witches trailer is available for free download at the Internet Archive