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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

 

Production:

Theatrical: Hammer Film Productions

Video: Studio Canal

 

Disc:

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

Runtime: 1:31:22.125 

Disc Size: 39,010,889,163 bytes

Feature Size: 27,443,337,216 bytes

Video Bitrate: 35.91 Mbps

Chapters: 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray case in cardboard slipcase

Release date: October 21st, 2013

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.66:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

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

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), none

 

Extras:

Hammer Glamour (42:21)
DVD available

 

Bitrate:

 

 

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.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
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 pretty disappointed - maybe I had my expectations too high.  

Gary Tooze

April 7th, 2014


 

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.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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