|S E A R C H D V D B e a v e r|
Witchhammer aka "Kladivo na carodejnice" [Blu-ray]
(Otakar Vávra, 1970)
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: Filmové studio Barrandov
Video: Second Run
Region: FREE (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)
Disc Size: 32,700,861,837 bytes
Feature Size: 27,109,398,528 bytes
Video Bitrate: 34.78 Mbps
Case: Standard Blu-ray case
Release date: November 13th, 2017
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Resolution:1080P / 24 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
LPCM Audio Czech 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
•New and exclusive filmed appreciation by writer and film historian Kat Ellinger (22:16)
• Otakar Vávra's short film The Light Penetrates the Dark (Svetlo proniká tmou, 1931) (4:41)
• Booklet featuring a new essay by writer and film critic Samm Deighana
Description: Kaplický s 1963 novel, chronicles the series of
notorious 17th Century Czech witch trials, undertaken using
the infamous Malleus Maleficarum (the Witchhammer of
the title), the Catholic treatise on witchcraft which
endorses the extermination of witches and developed a
detailed legal and theological theory for this purpose.
Using genuine court transcripts from the forced confessions
of those accused of sorcery and collusion with the Devil, it
is a powerful and often shocking allegory of life under
Second Run are delighted to produce the World Premiere on Blu-ray.
The film doesn't shy away from the brutal methods used to extract confessions but also skillfully explores some of the mores of its period. This was a time of piety in which sex was perceived as immoral, yet young daughters were readily married off to rich older noblemen. In a provocative opening scene we watch a number of the girls frolicking as they bathe in a way which almost taunts us in our complicity. If desire is wrong then where does that evil originate? In their beauty or our own lustful thoughts?Excerpt fromAllSightReserved located HERE
“The Witch’s Hammer” takes its title from the 15th century
Malleus Maleficarum, a handbook for witch-hunting inquisitors that set
scant limitations on the use of pain and trickery for extracting
confessions. The work is not mentioned by name in the film, but it makes
two cameos. At one point it shows up as “the only book I need” on the
desk of Boblig, the self-serving anti-intellectual judge who
orchestrates a spiral of accusations, trials and stake-burnings. It
casts a more chilling shadow in the form of an unconventional narration
by a mad-eyed monk, who reads lurid passages about witch rituals while
staring directly into the camera and not otherwise commenting upon the
actual story events.
Coming from a country rich in experimental, absurdist, surrealist-tinged and fantastical cinema, the Czech film Witches’ Hammer is a surprisingly formalist and unambiguous comment on life under a totalitarian regime. Based on actual transcripts of Moravia’s witch-trials during the period 1667-1695, and using the same allegorical language as Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and Aldous Huxley’s The Devils of Loudon, the message is as subtle as a two-foot bodkin to the inner thigh: positioning religion as a state-bound brand of delirium and control.Excerpt fromMondoStumpo located HERE
Image : NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
Witchhammer gets an impressive transfer to Blu-ray from Second Run. It's in dual-layered territory with a max'ed out bitrate. Witchhammer is an absolute visual treat and the 1080P supports the 2.35:1 film with consistent contrast exhibiting a detailed, rich, textured image. It may have a touch of green or sepia infiltration. It's advertised as "presented from a new HD transfer from original materials by the Czech National Film Archive". There are some minor frame-specific marks and a few visible cue blips (see sample at bottom) but the overall Blu-ray presentation shows depth and is gorgeous. The HD visuals are immensely impressive.
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
The audio is transferred by Second Run in a linear PCM track at 2304 kbps (24-bit) in the original Czech language. There are religious and period chanting in the background as well as fire and shrieks - all carrying depth, plus a score by Jirí Srnka - born in Písek, Bohemia, Austria-Hungary. Dialogue is very clear and there are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region FREE!
Second Run add a new and exclusive filmed appreciation by writer and film historian Kat Ellinger running over 22-minutes - she references the film as a dialogue heavy drama rich with metaphors far different from films like Witchfinder General, Rosemary's Baby, Cry of the Banshee and other 'witch-related' sub-genre work with themes of sex and rape although Witchhammer is considered more political also owing an allegiance to Dreyer's Day of Wrath. Her analysis is excellent and highly revealing. Excellent. Also included are Otakar Vávra's short film The Light Penetrates the Dark (Svetlo proniká tmou, 1931) running just under 5-minutes. It is cited as first work of the Czech experimental filmmaker when he was only twenty years of age. The package has a liner notes booklet featuring a new, substantial, essay by writer and film critic Samm Deighana.
November 11th, 2017