CONQUEROR WORM (1968)
(a.k.a. MATTHEW HOPKINS: WITCHFINDER GENERAL)
Article #1123 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-11-2004
Posting Date: 9-8-2004
Directed by Michael Reeves
Featuring Vincent Price, Ian Ogilvy, Rupert Davies
When the father of a soldier’s fiancee is accused of and executed for witchcraft, the soldier swears to take revenge.
I first saw this movie years ago on commercial TV; that the movie was cut to ribbons should be no surprise to anyone who has seen it. This movie does not survive the censorship process; the brutality and violence that permeate this movie isn’t just important to the story; it is essential. This is because the movie is at least partially about the infectious nature of cruelty and sadistic violence and about how hatred and disgust can make us as brutal as those who inspire that hatred and disgust. Even though I don’t quite buy into the implied moral lesson that usually accompanies this theme (since I do not believe that a man who commits a single act of brutality under duress is the moral equivalent of a man who casually engages in acts of brutality on a regular basis), nonetheless, this movie argues its theme very well indeed. Vincent Price has never been more evil, and he’s never been less hammy; you are never given the impression that you are supposed to like him or celebrate his acts, and this is one factor that makes the movie work. The ending is indeed shocking (the protracted scream that almost closes the movie is definitely well-earned), but it is also terribly sad as well; it is no surprise that the soundtrack to this movie foregoes an air of horror in favor of an air of bitter sadness and loss. Unfortunately, the movie isn’t without its flaws; it uses that melody at least once too often before it’s all over, there is at least one day-for-night scene that doesn’t appear to have been fixed in post-production, and the Poe poem in the final moments is out of place. Nonetheless, this bleak horror film packs a punch that will not soon be forgotten.