The Witches (1966 film)

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Not to be confused with The Witches (1990 film).
The Witches
The Witches poster.jpg
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)
Starring Joan Fontaine
Kay Walsh
Alec McCowen
Ann Bell
Ingrid Boulting (billed as Ingrid Brett)
Music by Richard Rodney Bennett
Cinematography Arthur Grant
Edited by Chris Barnes
James Needs
Distributed by Associated British-Pathé
(United Kingdom)
20th Century Fox
(United States)
Release dates 21 November 1966 (London)
February 1967 (United States)
Running time 90 min.
Country United Kingdom
Language English

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.



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.

Critical reception[edit]

Variety called the film "routine entertainment".[1] 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."[2]

As of 2013, The Witches currently holds a three star rating (5.8/10) on IMDb and 40% maximum approval on Rotten Tomatoes.


  1. ^ "The Witches". Variety. 31 December 1965. 
  2. ^ Hearn & Barnes 2007, p. 109.
  • 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. 

External links[edit]