Monday, October 3, 2011

The following are notable appearances of witch hunting in motion pictures.  Long a rather taboo subject for filmmakers, there is a dramatic increase in these movies in the 1960's and 70's, when interest in witchcraft and the occult reached an all time high.

The Woman Who Came Back (1945)
Descended from a holy inquisitor, a woman is troubled by the suspicion that she is reincarnated from a burned witch, and history might repeat itself.

The Thing That Couldn't Die (1958)
A warlock in Spanish California has his head cut off by the inquisition and buried at the base of a tree in a small chest.  The chest is found in the 20th century by a girl gifted with psychic powers while dowsing for water.  The warlock's head is alive, and can hypnotize people to do his bidding.  The head is finally reunited with it's body, but dies after being shown the holy amulet that binds him to the grave.

The Haunted Palace (1963)
The heir of a hated warlock arrives to move into the family palace, and finds himself possessed by his grandfather, who put a curse on the nearby village for burning him at the stake.  Vincent Price plays a dual role as the diabolical warlock and his descendent.  Remarkable for it's H.P. Lovecraft source mythology.

The Devil Rides Out (1967)
Modern witch-hunter Christopher Lee witnesses a colorful black mass complete with the "goat of Mendez": an anthropomorphic goat demon, such as described in the accounts of accused witches.

The Devils(1971)
A convent of nuns under the influence of mass hysteria (in scenes reminiscent of 1922's Häxan) attract the attention of inquisitors, and ultimately get debauched priest Oliver Reed burned at the stake.  Based on a true story.
The Touch Of Satan (1971)
A woman invokes the powers of Lucifer to save her sister from burning at the stake, but has to tell everyone that the horribly scarred sibling is her granny.  A couple of centuries later, the eternally young witch falls for some guy, and decides to finish the job on her burdensome, and compulsively homicidal, "granny".
The Reincarnation Of Isabel (1973)
Amid a literal orgy of blood, a cult of vampires use lurid rituals to avenge and resurrect a long-dead witch, an affair that merits an appropriately harsh reception by the locals.
The Night Stalker (TV) (1974)
(Episode: The Trevelli Collection) The interminable newspaper reporter Carl Kolchack foils an ambitious sorceress of the fashion industry by publicly accusing her, which, we are given to believe, is the customary method for destroying a witch's power.
Inquisición (1976)
A witch-finder is brought under the spell of an enchanting witch, and ends up burnt at the stake himself.
The Pit And The Pendulum (1990)
A witch prepares for her burning at the stake by stuffing her mouth with gunpowder, resulting in a nasty surprise for the unwary spectators.
Sleepy Hollow (1999)
Based on a recurring dream, Ichabod Crane seems to have witnessed his sorceress mother's death in an iron maiden.

The Undead (1956)
Under hypnosis, a modern-day prostitute channels back in time into the body of an accused witch with an appointment on the stake.

The Naked Witch (1961)
A German community in the hills of Texas is terrorized by a scantily-clad witch of ill-fame after a bonehead tourist from modern times visits her grave and pulls the stake from her heart.

She Beast (1965)
A particularly unpleasant-looking witch, swearing to return from the dead and seek vengeance on her persecutors,  is fixed to a dunking stool and drowned in the lake.  Her prophecy is fulfilled in the 20th century when she possesses the body of lovely Barbara Steele.  Fortunately, the locals kept the ducking stool around for good measure.

Mark Of The Devil (1969)
This German counterfeit of The Conqueror Worm is both more repulsive in it's protracted depiction of torture, and strangely, much duller.  Herbert Lom plays a sexually impotent inquisitor who gets his jollies by breaking witches on the rack.  As a publicity stunt, promoters distributed "Stomach Distress Bags" for queasy patrons.

Tombs Of The Blind Dead (1971)
Members of the infamous, allegedly satanic, order of the Knights Templar are blinded and burned at the stake, only to come back to life in modern times as visually-impaired vampire zombies.

Horror Rises From The Tomb (1972)
A warlock with an extensive rap-sheet has his head cut off and buried separately from his body.  Too evil to stay dead, he returns from the grave in modern times to dispatch the descendents of his treacherous brother, and is reunited with his body before being killed by a binding amulet.
Curse Of The Devil (1973)
A curse of lycanthropy is put on descendants of the knight responsible for the burning at the stake of a vampire witch.
The Antichrist (1974)
A woman is possessed by her vengeful ancestor- a witch burnt at the stake.
The Devonsville Terror  (1983)
Inhabitants of a small community suffer the effects of a delayed witch's curse in response to a brutal purge at the site in colonial times.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer (TV) (1998)
A corruption demon enchants the locals, turning adults of Sunnydale into a zealous witch-hunting mob intent on the slayer and her friends to the torch.  After a narrow escape, Buffy manages to impale the beast on the stake that was meant for her.

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