Hammer Studios were mostly known for the horror classics such as Dracula and Curse Of Frankenstein but made many more films in all sorts of genres and this is one of the less well-known horror movies made in 1966, The Witches. This seems to be Hammer’s serious attempt to make a film about witchcraft in a spooky suburban English village where all is not as it seems.
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 in 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 starts well, especially when Gwen tries to settle into the idyllic country life and things start to go wrong with weird occurrences and the locals acting strangely. The slow build-up works fine and reaches a climax which sadly descends into a poorly executed and silly conclusion. The cast are mostly fine and you will spot many familiar faces from British TV such as Leonard Rossiter and Michelle Dotrice. The star Joan Fontaine in one of her last roles tries her best, but it all builds up to a laughable confrontation within the witches lair and is dealt with all too easily.
The Blu ray released by Studio Canal has a fabulously restored 1080p transfer, colours are bold, blacks solid and the detail on view is staggering. Audio is served by English LPCM 2.0 (mono) track and is clear and superb and shows that mono movies can sound very good indeed.
There is only one extra called Hammer Glamour (in HD) and interviews the likes of Maddie Smith, Martine Beswick, Valerie Leon and Caroline Munro about their experience with the studio. Nothing to do with this film, but a very interesting featurette. Not a classic Hammer film by any means but a very interesting release by Studio Canal and the transfer is excellent.
Non-European fans of Hammer will be pleased to note that this release is REGION FREE.
FILM: 5.5 PICTURE: 9 SOUND: 8 EXTRAS: 6