Blu-ray Review: THE WITCHES (1966)

THE WITCHES (aka The Devil’s Own) was directed by Cyril Frankel from a screenplay by Nigel Kneale and stars Joan Fontaine, Alec McCowen, Kay Walsh, Ingrid Boulting, Ann Bell, Leonard Rossiter and Michele Dotrice. The music was composed by Richard Rodney Bennett.

Haunted by the terrors of her experience with African witch-doctors, school teacher Gwen Mayfield (Joan Fontaine) accepts an appointment as headmistress at the Haddaby School run by Alan Bax (Alec McCowen) and his sister Stephanie (Kay Walsh). Gwen initially revels in the peacefulness she has found in the quiet English countryside but soon begins to sense “undercurrents.” Before long, a local boy falls into a coma and Gwen discovers a voodoo doll impaled by pins. The danger that follows brings her face to face with witchcraft as a series of disasters unfold and lead her to the horrible truth.

This 1966 Hammer Film Productions horror classic follows Gwen Mayfield, a teacher who suffers a mental breakdown after she has a terrifying confrontation with a witch doctor in Africa. Some time has passed and a reenergized Gwen is brought in to teach at a private school that’s located in what appears to be a quiet community in England that’s populated by good people. Or are they?

It doesn’t take long for her to realize that something strange is going on because dead bodies start popping up. As traumatized as Gwen already is, she ends up doing some investigating because she’s heard that there’s a secret cult running the small town and it’s behind these murders. Gwen finds herself trapped right in the middle of a new nightmare where a sacrfice is about to be made and she has to decide if she’s going to join this sinister cult or save the young girl from certain doom.

The front of the packaging features the artwork you see at the top of the page and the back includes movie details, some images and list of special features. The reverse sleeve features a classic sales ad for the movie. The Blu-ray disc also features some artwork that matches the front cover. Inserting the disc, the menu screen was simple and easy to navigate. The picture and sound quality for this high-definition release were crisp and clear. I didn’t have any issues with the video and audio.

Bottom line is, The Witches is the next horror classic that Scream Factory has dusted off from Hammer’s catalogue and it was also another first time watch for me. Have I ever mentioned how much I enjoy these first time watches? I do! The story about this woman who’d already been traumatized by a witchy experience just to fall right into the middle of it again was interesting. What are the odds that this would happen twice? Joan Fontaine did a great job as the main character who’s haunted by her past but in the end she has to overcome her fears to save the day. This movie is more of a character study than full blown horror so don’t expect any of the red stuff in this one. Instead, there are a few creepy looking corpses, voodoo dolls and the strangest cult ceremony/ritual/dance that I’ve ever witnessed on screen. The Witches is the next Hammer horror classic that Scream Factory is set to debut on Blu-ray on March 26th.

Distributor: Scream Factory

Run Time: 90 Minutes

Rated: Not Rated

Blu-ray Video: 1080p High-Definition Widescreen (1.66:1)

Blu-ray Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono

Subtitles: English

Special Features: The extras include some new audio commentary, a featurette focusing on the women of Hammer, two trailers and a still gallery.

  • 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 (02:14)
  • Double feature trailer Prehistoric Women and The Devil’s Own (01:19)
  • Still Gallery (04:28)
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