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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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PRINTED FROM LIVERPOOL SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.liverpool.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Liverpool University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in LSO for personal use.date: 26 July 2021

The Influence of the Film

The Influence of the Film

(p.83) Chapter 4. The Influence of the Film
Witchfinder General

Ian Cooper

Liverpool University Press

This chapter highlights the influence of Michael Reeves's Witchfinder General (1968). The element of Witchfinder General that attracted the most comment upon its initial release was the violence, specifically the graphic scenes of torture. Indeed, the film was one of the first of the violent films of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The nihilism of Witchfinder General not only appears prescient today, anticipating the death of the 1960s counterculture dream and the savagery of the 1970s, but has also proven remarkably influential; British horror would get much nastier in the following decade. However, although the thematic and stylistic concerns of Witchfinder General would continue to resonate through the genre for decades to come, the ‘witch-craze’ cycle it inspired proved less durable. Ultimately, what is striking is the unusual way Witchfinder General melds two divergent traditions: the ‘respectable, highbrow’ heritage film and the ‘disreputable, lowbrow’ horror film.

Keywords:   Michael Reeves, Witchfinder General, violent films, nihilism, British horror, heritage film, horror film

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