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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

(aka "The Conqueror Worm" )

 

directed by Michael Reeves
UK 1968

 

Not as well-known as Robin Hardy's more eccentric and complex The Wicker Man (which was also packaged and sold by its distributors as a common exploitation flick), this third film by then-24-year-old Michael Reeves (his last film before an untimely death) is nevertheless one of the best examples of the witchcraft subgenre of horror film. Starring Vincent Price as real-life witchhunter Matthew Hopkins (ca. 1619 - 1647), Witchfinder General is an intense and brutally violent film not merely for its time (which resulted in multiple cuts made at the behest of the British Board of Film Censors) but even now, retaining its power to shock much more so than gore films of the same period, as the emotional stakes here are established with beautiful economy. It is possible that Price never gave a better performance than this one, as he completely eschews camp theatrics in favor of a subduedly sinister and menacing depiction of sadistic evil masked behind a cloak of piety. Price plays Hopkins as an unmerciful reptile with a genteel manner and an appetite for torture, creating in Witchfinder General one of cinema's most frightening villains.

Paul Haynes

Posters

Theatrical Release: August 14, 1968 - New York, New York

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Comparison:

Prism Leisure (Special Edition) - Region 0 - PAL vs. Odeon Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray vs. Shout! Factory - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

1) Prism Leisure (Special Edition) - Region 0 - PAL LEFT

2) Odeon Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Shout! Factory - Region 'A' - Blu-ray RIGHT

 

Box Cover

 

Distribution

Prism Leisure

Region 0 - PAL

Odeon Entertainment

Region FREE - Blu-ray

Shout! Factory

Region 'A' - Blu-ray

Runtime 1:22:48 (4% PAL speedup) 1:26:42.488 1:26:50.038
Video

1.77:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 4.7 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 26,226,356,307 bytes

Feature: 20,136,585,216 bytes

Video Bitrate: 25.98 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 45,922,433,195 bytes

Feature: 23,215,577,088 bytes

Video Bitrate: 30.00 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Bitrate Blu-ray

Bitrate Blu-ray

Audio English (Dolby Digital 1.0) DTS-HD Master Audio English 1568 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1568 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
Commentary: DTS-HD Master Audio English 1568 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1568 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio English 2035 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2035 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio English 1562 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1562 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Subtitles None None English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Prism Leisure

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.77:1

Edition Details:
• Disc Format: DVD 9
• British and export versions
• Restored footage previously cut by British censors
• Animated and Scored Interactive Menus
• Scene Access
• Trailer
• Cathedral Music Video
• The Sorcerers Trailer
• Blood Beast: The Films of Michael Reeves (documentary)
• Production Notes
• Image Gallery
• Filmographies

DVD Release Date: September 1, 2003
Transparent Keep Case

Chapters 25

Release Information:
Studio: Odeon Entertainment

 

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 26,226,356,307 bytes

Feature: 20,136,585,216 bytes

Video Bitrate: 25.98 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Edition Details:
• Audio Commentary by Benjamin Halligan and Michael Armstrong
• Theatrical Trailer (2:29 in 576i)
• Alternate Opening and Closing Credits (6:23 in 1080P)
• Alternate Scene From Export Version (5:08 in 576i)
• Vincent Price on Aspel and Company (10:08 in 576i)

• The Blood Beast: The Films of Michael Reeves (23:50 in 576i)
• Intrusion (Silent) - Michael Reeves Short Film (10:25 in 576i)
• Intrusion - with Audio Commentary by Benjamin Halligan and Michael Armstrong
• Blood Crimes - Witchcraft (23:39 in 576i)
• Stills Gallery

Blu-ray Release Date: June 13th, 2011
Standard Blu-ray Case

Chapters 24

Release Information:
Studio:
Shout! Factory

 

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 45,922,433,195 bytes

Feature: 23,215,577,088 bytes

Video Bitrate: 30.00 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Edition Details:
• Audio Commentary by Philip Waddilove and Ian Ogilvy

• Play Movie with Introduction (2:56) / Outroduction (2:03) by Vincent Price
• Witchfinder General: Horror Classic (25:02)
• Interview with Vincent Price (1:02:11)
• Interview with Victoria Price (47:17)
• Alternate Opening and Closing for US cut "The Conqueror Worm" (5:52)

• Theatrical Trailer (2:06)

• Additional Vincent Price Trailers
• Stills Gallery


Blu-ray Release Date: October 22nd, 2013
Custom thick Blu-ray Case with Vincent Price Collection

Chapters 12

 

Comments

NOTE: These Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

 

ADDITION: Shout! factory - Region 'A' - Blu-ray (September 2013'): This is part of Shout Factory's Vincent Price Collection Blu-ray.

 

***

 

ADDITION: Odeon Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray (December 11'): Surprising and impressive release from Odeon Entertainment. Visually - we have what looks like a different, and cleaner, print. The transferred image is brighter with far more detail. It has added more information at the top of the frame and trimmed an equal amount at the bottom. Still some noise but it's not overwhelming. Colors perk-up and there is some depth. This looks quite good in-motion and has more than 5X the bitrate of the DVD.

 

Audio goes lossless with a DTS-HD 2.0 channel at 1568 kbps. It is not the most active film effects score but there are some potent screams. No separation but there is some bass response via the original music by Paul Ferris. Nothing particularly notable but appears to be authentic and without major dropout of hiss. There are no subtitles but the Blu-ray disc is region FREE.

Extras run the gamut starting with an audio commentary by the informative duo of Benjamin Halligan and Michael Armstrong who cover many topics in their discussion of the film and the production participants. We get the Alternate Opening and Closing Credits in 1080P but all other video supplements are in SD PAL. We get a 5-minute alternate scene from 'Export Version' and 10-minutes of Vincent Price on the TV Talk show Aspel and Company. Most interesting is the documentary found on the UK DVD - The Blood Beast: The Films of Michael Reeves. It runs almost 24 minutes. There is also Michael Reeves 10-minute effort Intrusion - both as a silent short film or with a commentary from Halligan and Armstrong. Blood Crimes - Witchcraft is a featurette discussing the cultural activities found in the Olde England time frame of the Witchfinder General. It runs just shy of 24-minutes. Lastly are a trailer and Stills Gallery. Great stuff!

There is a strong sense of realism built into Witchfinder General. It does a decent job as a period piece and makes for a strong horror.  Odeon have created a great region FREE package here with the 1080P image, uncompressed audio and extensive extras including an educational commentary. For fans of the genre this is an easy recommendation!

Gary Tooze

***

ON THE DVD: A satisfying package replete with numerous supplemental features, the most valuable of which is a 23-minute documentary about Michael Reeves, the young director of Witchfinder General whose early death from a drug overdose was likely an indirect consequence of postproduction meddling with Witchfinder Generation and his difficulty in finding financing for subsequent projects. Interviews with friends, acquaintances, and colleagues (including Ian Ogilvy, who stars in Witchfinder General and worked with Reeves on his two previous films) attest to the passion and intelligence of Reeves both as a filmmaker and as a citizen. Also included are trailers for this film and Reeves' previous work, The Sorcerers, and a music video for the heavy metal band Cathedral, which incorporates footage from Witchfinder. Production notes by British film critic and author Kim Newman, an image gallery of posters and advertising materials, filmographies, and nifty animated menus round out a rather complete edition that should more than appease fans of this overlooked film.

While the transfer is fine, some problems arise where the source materials are concerned. Two versions of the film are included, one of which is the director's cut, which restores some footage of gore and violence that the British censors originally deemed unacceptable, and the export version, which contains some alternate takes incorporating nudity of characters that are fully clothed in the European edition. Given that the transfers are identical for both versions (the programs have the same running time, the same bitrate, and the same file size), the determining factor for which version is more palatable hinges entirely on the toplessness. The 35mm print used looks decent, with good color and contrast, though it's a bit dark and grainy at times (likely the way the film originally looked) and features moderate print damage all throughout, such as speckles and vertical lines (see capture #1). The print damage, however, was not a distraction for me. The monaural audio is acceptable, although there's at least one instance (at 56:53) where a noticeable hiss appears and lasts for ten seconds. The biggest issue is that the restored footage that had previously been censored has been lifted from what appears to be a VHS source. Disclaimers precede each version, warning of variations in picture and sound quality. While it's good to have this footage restored, the DVD's producers would have been wise to include it only on the British version, and omit it from the Export Version, as it does yield a marked difference in image quality. Otherwise, this is a fine release of a fine film. out of

 - Paul Haynes

 


Menus

 

Prism Leisure (Special Edition) - Region 0 - PAL
 

 

Odeon Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray

 

Shout! Factory - Region 'A' - Blu-ray


CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Subtitle Sample Shout! Factory - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 

 

Prism Leisure (Special Edition) - Region 0 - PAL TOP vs. Odeon Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM


Print damage on Prism Leisure DVD:

 

1) Prism Leisure (Special Edition) - Region 0 - PAL TOP

2) Odeon Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Shout! Factory - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Prism Leisure (Special Edition) - Region 0 - PAL TOP

2) Odeon Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Shout! Factory - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Prism Leisure (Special Edition) - Region 0 - PAL TOP

2) Odeon Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Shout! Factory - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Prism Leisure (Special Edition) - Region 0 - PAL TOP

2) Odeon Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Shout! Factory - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Prism Leisure (Special Edition) - Region 0 - PAL TOP

2) Odeon Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Shout! Factory - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

More Blu-ray Captures

 

1) Odeon Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP

2)  Shout! Factory - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Odeon Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP

2)  Shout! Factory - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Odeon Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP

2)  Shout! Factory - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Odeon Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP

2)  Shout! Factory - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Odeon Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP

2)  Shout! Factory - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Odeon Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP

2)  Shout! Factory - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Odeon Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP

2)  Shout! Factory - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

Box Cover

 

Distribution

Prism Leisure

Region 0 - PAL

Odeon Entertainment

Region FREE - Blu-ray

Shout! Factory

Region 'A' - Blu-ray




 

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Gary Tooze

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