Burn Witch Burn (2000) Horror Movie Review
Horror movies Review
If you liked CURSE OF THE DEMON, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, and THE LAST MAN ON EARTH, have I got a movie for you! Although it has never quite reached the status of these classics, 1962’s BURN WITCH BURN is nearly as good a fact which can probably be traced back to the film’s source material, Fritz Leiber’s novel CONJURE WIFE. CONJURE WIFE took as its premise the theory that ALL women are practicing witches and all men are blissfully innocent of the fact none of their achievements is due not to their own abilities but to their wives’ spells and magics. The film has narrowed down the novel’s premise somewhat, although all the women in the cast appear to be playing their roles as if they weren’t informed of this development. There were other serious changes made as well by the screenwriters, an important one involving the film’s ending and another involving the film’s true climax. One can understand both of these in view of the limitations of the times. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Norman Taylor and his wife Tansy are newcomers at Hempnell College located somewhere in rural England. They are both relatively young, attractive people,and Norman is definitely upward bound with his sights set on the Chair of his department, a position which is being very hotly contested. All this, plus the fact that Tansy is an American, makes them outsiders in the college’s tight-knit society. Norman, of course, is like all the other husbands and hasn’t a clue as to what is really going on. He teaches his cultural anthropolgy course while never once noticing that young Margaret has a terrible crush on him or that her boyfriend, hostile Bill Abbott is so jealous he could s**t bricks. Tansy on the other hand, can feel the hatred and resentment in the very air around her, and she is completely convinced that someone is “working against them”. But she’s no fool. She knows her husband’s scientific/analytical world has no place for the things in which she believes, so she thinks it best simply to leave him out of the loop and to take care of business without his knowledge.
Everything goes fairly well until Norman accidentally finds Tansy’s stash of conjuring supplies and forces her to destroy them all in the fireplace, in effect leaving them completely defenseless against the evil that Tansy knows is out to get her beloved husband. The evil attacks almost instantly—sometimes in small ways, sometimes in very dangerous ways. Eventually even skeptical Norman starts to get rattled by this strange string of occurrences, but by the time he does it may be too late to save himself and his self-sacrificing wife from death—or worse!
Although this film is not of quite the same high quality as CURSE OF THE DEMON it is still a classic that should be seen and enjoyed by all true genre fans. It was adapted for the screen by two of the most accomplished genre writers of their day—Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont from Leiber’s novel which is a pretty damn good read on its own The book differs enough from the film that it might still keep you guessing a bit. The screenwriting is terse and tense and somehow manages to keep what might be a silly story within the realm of possibilty. The capable direction of Sidney Hayers conveys an all important sense of reality. The locations shots are nice and we aren’t at all studio bound for a change. We have beautiful views of crashing surf and appropriately ominous cemeteries when we need them. In short we have everything we need for a classic horror fim from an era that knew how to make them. Now you may NOT be bowled over by this film upon first viewing. I WAS, but then I am of the era and I saw it upon its initial release which makes a big difference. If it doesn’t work for you the first time, promise me you’ll watch it again. Trust me when I say that you will learn to love it!
Oh, it also has this really great openning done over a blank screen in which none other than Orson Wells exorcises any evil spirits that, having been drawn into the theater by the spells contained in the film, might be tempted to harm members of the audience. =)
This film has never had a US dvd release although it is available in Great Britain as a Region 2.
About Burn Witch Burn (2000)
Starring: Peter Wyngarde, Janet Blair, Margaret Johnston, Anthony Nicholls, Colin Gordon
Runtime: 90 minutes
Director: Sidney Hayers