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Witchfinder General$
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Ian Cooper

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9781906733513

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: February 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781906733513.001.0001

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Context, Production and Reception

Context, Production and Reception

(p.23) Chapter 2. Context, Production and Reception
Witchfinder General

Ian Cooper

Liverpool University Press

This chapter discusses the context and production of Michael Reeves's Witchfinder General (1968). It first traces the history of British horror cinema, British gothics, and the American International Pictures (AIP). Unlike the Hammer product of the 1960s, Witchfinder General reflects the political upheaval of this turbulent decade. Much of the power of the film arises from the tension between genre conventions and wider, social concerns, with Reeves obliquely addressing topical issues such as the war in Vietnam and the growing ‘generation gap’. In this context, the subtle anachronisms in the film can be seen as part of a deliberate strategy, a way to make a film which is as much about the 1960s as it is the 1640s. In that sense, Witchfinder General is in a tradition of British period films that aim to capture the contemporary zeitgeist. The chapter then looks at the reception of the film. When assessing the critical reaction to Witchfinder General, it is instructive to consider the prevailing attitudes to horror cinema at that time.

Keywords:   Michael Reeves, Witchfinder General, British horror cinema, British gothics, American International Pictures, political upheaval, British period films, horror cinema

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