Monday, February 2, 2009

Sweet, Sweet Comeuppance - Witchfinder General (1968)

That's quite the tagline at the bottom. Thumbs up from me.

I love watching movies where royal assholes get what’s coming to them. I really do. There’s something about knowing the entire movie is building to one singular moment, and in that moment, the dick who’s been walking around like king shit for an hour and a half finds out why he shouldn’t have been quite so dickish to everyone. The Witchfinder General just happens to feature one such dick. His name is Matthew Hopkins(Vincent Price in a fantastic role), and he’s a witch hunter. His entire existence is based on finding people to torture and murder in the name of God’s divine retribution. Nothing good can come out of it, however, because we all know what happens to dicks like him.

Apparently, Hopkins has been doing his religious crusade for a long time, and he has it down to a science. First, visit some town where the people can be manipulated into believing there is evil among them(sometimes they already have someone in mind). Next, create a panic by singling out the particular person, and get everyone to hate their guts. The final step is to tell everyone the only way to save their town is to burn the evildoer at the stake. Oh, and while he’s at it, he takes advantage of any maid or servant who’s unlucky enough to have to enter his bedroom. I told you he’s a dick. But the reason he’s able to get away with his shit is because everyone always believes he’s working for the Lord, and who would go against that? I’ll tell you who.

Richard Marshall is a soldier who just returned to his hometown while on leave. He meets up with the local priest and his niece, who Marshall is engaged to. They all have a dandy night, and when morning comes, Marshall has to go back to soldiering and whatnot. Before he leaves, his future uncle tells him to be on the lookout for one Matthew Hopkins(the dick), as they’re expecting him shortly. He says ok, and off he goes. Sure enough, not long after he’s on his way, he sees Hopkins and lets him know he’s still expected at the church. It’s a very pleasant exchange, and Marshall bids him good day. Dammit. You already know Hopkins is an asshole, because the movie opens with a lynching, and him presiding over the joyous occasion. You’ll feel like screaming at Marshall to shank Hopkins in the back, but that’s not to be. At least not at the fifteen-minute mark.

Once Hopkins arrives at Marshall’s hometown, he quickly starts his dirty shit with the locals. He accuses the priest, of all people, of practicing witchcraft. Everyone gets all uppity, and soon enough he’s killed and Marshall’s fiancé raped by Hopkins. I'm reminded just how awesome Monty Python and the Holy Grail was with the whole witch-burning bit. It’s pretty much the same here, but there’s no funny dialogue or fake noses, just plain ol' murder. At this point, you should grab a stopwatch and count down the minutes until Hopkins’s ass becomes grass. It’s a fun exercise, and lets you savor every stupid thing that comes out of his mouth, because you know he only has about an hour left to live. For his next genius move, he decides to capture and try Marshall’s fiancé in the hopes of him doing something foolish to save her. The plot thickens, and so forth and so on. You don’t need to know any more, but just remember: Hopkins is a dick, and dicks never prosper.

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