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 suck a prick to everyone. Witchfinder General just happens to feature one such dick, and his name is Matthew Hopkins (Vincent Price in a fantastic role). He’s a witch hunter, which means his entire existence is based on finding people to torture and murder in the name of God’s divine retribution. I mean, just read the tag line on the DVD cover up above. What a douche, right? Nothing good can come of it, though, because we all know what happens to dicks like him.
Apparently, Hopkins has been doing his religious crusade for a long time and 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; finally, tell everyone the only way to save their town is to burn the evildoer at the stake. Oh, and while he’s at it, Hopkins takes advantage of any maid or servant who’s unlucky enough to have to enter his dickish bedroom. 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, whom 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 (that dick), as they’re expecting him shortly. He says okay, 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. See, by now, you already know Hopkins is an asshole, because the movie opens with him presiding over a lynching. You’ll feel like screaming at Marshall to shank Hopkins in the back, but that would be too premature a death for such a raging jerk.
Once Hopkins arrives at Marshall’s hometown, he quickly starts his dirty work with the locals. In fact, of all people, he accuses the priest 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 is 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’, horrendous murder. At this point, you should grab a stopwatch and count down the minutes until Hopkins’ ass becomes grass. It’s a fun exercise that allows you to 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 ingenious 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.
*I love old school trailers that just outright tell me how excited I should be for the movie. That, and when they introduce, by name, every member of the cast and proceed to give each one like ten seconds of dialogue.