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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r


H D - S E N S E I

A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Witches aka The Devil's Own [Blu-ray]


(Cyril Frankel, 1966)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Hammer Film Productions

Video: Studio Canal / Shout! Factory



Region: 'B' / 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:31:22.125 / 1:31:08.504

Disc Size: 39,010,889,163 bytes / 38,322,347,957 bytes

Feature Size: 27,443,337,216 bytes / 26,930,786,304 bytes

Video Bitrate: 35.91 Mbps / 34.00 Mbps

Chapters: 12 / 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray case in cardboard slipcase / Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: October 21st, 2013 / March 19th, 2019


Video (both):

Aspect ratio: 1.66:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit


DTS-HD Master Audio English 1567 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1567 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)

DTS-HD Master Audio English 1615 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1615 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)


Subtitles (both):

English (SDH), none



Hammer Glamour (42:21)
DVD available


NEW Audio Commentary With Filmmaker/Historian Ted Newsom
Hammer Glamour – A Featurette On The Women Of Hammer (44:09)
U.S. Trailer THE DEVIL’S OWN  b/ Double Feature Trailer PREHISTORIC WOMEN And THE DEVIL’S OWN (3:33)
Still Gallery (4:28)




1) Studio Canal - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - TOP

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



Description: Originally released in 1966, The Witches is an unforgettably chilling pastoral horror from the legendary Hammer Films studio. Adapted for the screen by Nigel Kneale (The Quatermass Xperiment) it also stars Joan Fontaine (Rebecca, Suspicion) in her last major film role. Gwen Mayfield, an English schoolteacher working in an African missionary, suddenly finds herself being victimized by a tribe of local witch doctors. Exposed to the deadly powers of the occult she's left deeply traumatized. In an effort to recover Gwen takes up a position in a rural school within the British countryside. But the idyllic village surroundings become increasingly sinister as Gwen begins to uncover a nightmarish web of dark and satanic secrets.



The Film:

Fontaine is a teacher who has a nervous breakdown at her mission school in Africa when a voodoo witch doctor puts a spell on her. She goes back to England and becomes headmistress at a school in a small village. A student, Stephens, is being harassed by a local voodoo cult to keep him away from Brett, who is to be offered as a virgin sacrifice. Fontaine discovers that Walsh, a journalist, has the town in her control through her witchcraft. The teacher foils the cult's sacrifice of the girl and brings about Walsh's death. Fontaine owned the rights to this, her last feature film.

Excerpt from TV Guide located HERE

The Witches, known as The Devil’s Own in the US – and not to be confused with the better known Nicolas Roeg-Roald Dahl adaptation The Witches (1990) – was one of the mid-period Hammer films. It is one of the usually overlooked Hammer films, featuring neither Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, nor any of Hammer’s other regular directors and stars. Director Cyril Frankel made one other film for Hammer with Never Take Sweets from a Stranger (1960), as well as about a dozen other quota quickies, episodes of various British tv series and a couple of other films that border on genre territory with the stalker film The Very Edge (1963) and the Edgar Wallace adaptation The Trygon Factor (1966).

Excerpt from Moria located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The Witches gets a brilliant transfer to Blu-ray from Studio Canal in the UK. It is dual-layered with another max'ed out bitrate for the 1.5 hour feature. Colors are striking, vivid and rich, detail impressive and there are examples of depth. We have another awesome restoration bringing out the very best of the film's textures. The 1080P supports wonderful contrast adding some minor depth in the 1.66:1 frame. The video is smooth in-motion without any noise or flaws.  It's remarkably clean and impressive through and through. Certainly the Blu-ray image quality can't be faulted for the an unsatisfying presentation.


The Shout! Factory appears to be the same source and it also transferred on a dual-layered disc with a very high bitrate. It can look a bit waxy but is quite pleasing in-motion and a slight difference in contrast between the two renderings. For most it will appear identical.




1) Studio Canal - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - TOP

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


1) Studio Canal - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - TOP

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


1) Studio Canal - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - TOP

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


1) Studio Canal - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - TOP

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


1) Studio Canal - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - TOP

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











Audio :

Studio Canal utilize a linear PCM mono track at, a fairly robust, 2304 kbps. It is clear, flat but Richard Rodney Bennett's (Equus, Billy Liar, The Man Who Could Cheat Death) score sounding pretty creepy in spots with a eerie depth. There are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked.


Shout! Factory use a DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel track and I couldn't distinguish much difference from the, similarly robust, uncompressed audio of the Studio Canal. It sounds authentically flat with some depth. The Shout! Factory also has optional English subtitles. It is Region 'A'-locked.


Extras :

The only supplement is 'Hammer Glamour' also found on the US Blu-ray of Frankenstein Created Woman and described there as "Some may be keen on the new documentary Hammer Glamour which runs just shy of 45-minutes. I assume it is relating to the book of the same name (HERE) and the video has five of Hammer's females stars - Valerie Leon, Caroline Munroe, Martine Beswicke, Vera Day and Madeline Smith reflecting back on working in the genre. They offer some interesting stories." The package also contains a DVD of the feature.


Shout! Factory vault ahead with a new commentary by filmmaker/historian/radio personality Ted Newsom. He does a good job of discussing the production, Joan Fontaine (who brought the project to Hammer), the support players and the film's unusual religious overtones etc. Nice to have the option of hearing some analysis of the film. It appears to be the same Hammer Glamour featurette (in 1080P NTSC not PAL) on the Women Of Hammer including groups interviews on a couch. There are some trailers (including for the alt-title The Devil's Own) and a gallery.  


Studio Canal - Region 'B' - Blu-ray



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



Well, wasn't this a disappointment. The Witches is a rare misstep from Hammer Studios. It captured the 'quaint village' atmosphere but the story lacked any of the intrigue and haunting qualities that we've come to appreciate from the Studio. Yes, there are comparisons to The Wicker Man, but this falls remarkably short. The Studio Canal Blu-ray sports a gorgeous image but absence of related supplements seems directly proportional to the film's lack of character. So, despite the stellar a/v - we'd, unusually (for this Blu-ray producer's Hammer output) recommend a pass this time. I was expecting more - especially with Joan Fontaine - maybe I had my expectations too high.


Shout! Factory may bump ahead with the commentary that raised my appreciation somewhat and this is still a strange Hammer effort but fans of the studio - completists, - will want to indulge. The commentary-included Shout! Factory is the way to go.   

Gary Tooze

April 7th, 2014

March 21st, 2019


About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

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Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
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Gary W. Tooze






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