HomeReviewsBurn Witch Burn: DVD Savant Review

Burn Witch Burn: DVD Savant Review

Kino Lorber / 29.95
Peter Wyngarde, Janet Blair, Margaret Johnston, Anthony Nicholls, Colin Gordon, Kathleen Byron, Reginald Beckwith, Jessica Dunning, Norman Bird, Judith Stott, Bill Mitchell.
 Reginald Wyer
Original Music William Alwyn
Written by Charles Beaumont & Richard Matheson and George Baxt from the novel Conjure Wife by Fritz Leiber Jr.
Produced by Samuel Z. Arkoff, Albert Fennell
Directed by Sidney Hayers

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A Review of Burn Witch Burn

Burn, Witch, Burn is a superior horror film that has garnered praise for its ability to appeal to both horror enthusiasts and non-horror fans alike.

It is noted for its thought-provoking exploration of superstition and its impact on people.

The film, produced by American International, benefited from the collaboration of talented English filmmakers with the renowned screenwriters Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson.

It has been lauded for its intelligence and excitement, receiving high marks across all aspects of filmmaking.

Directed by Sidney Hayers, Burn, Witch, Burn is considered one of his most respected works, having successfully instilled genuine fear in audiences upon its original release.

The film’s quality was further evidenced by a 1974 museum screening that received applause from a packed audience.

Sidney Hayers, known for his prolific career in television, also directed another notable horror film, Circus of Horrors, which achieved great success in 1960.

The creation of Burn, Witch, Burn was made possible by a fortunate alignment of talent and opportunity.

Burn Witch Burn brings the diabolical even closer to reality than did Tourneur’s film
Burn Witch Burn brings the diabolical even closer to reality than did Tourneur’s film

Matheson and Beaumont wrote the script and sold it to American-International Pictures (A.I.P.), with Matheson’s positive relationship with A.I.P. president Jim Nicholson likely playing a significant role. A.I.P. then subcontracted the film’s production to British filmmakers.

The film’s original English title, Night of the Eagle, resembles Jacques Tourneur’s Night of the Demon.

However, Burn is based on a novel by Fritz Leiber and was previously adapted into the Universal B-picture Weird Woman.

Overall, Burn, Witch, Burn has been recognized for its exceptional quality and the fortuitous collaboration that brought it to fruition.

In Burn, Witch, Burn, the film delves into the examination of superstition and the efforts to combat it, similar to Tourneur’s Curse of the Demon.

The rational skeptic protagonist finds himself at odds with his wife, who has embraced black magic after her time in Jamaica.

Set in a provincial English college, the story follows Professor Norman Taylor as he grapples with his wife’s involvement in black magic, which he vehemently opposes.

As Norman dismisses Tansy’s beliefs and destroys her talismans, his fortunes take a drastic turn for the worse.

His rationality is challenged when he faces personal and professional threats, leading to a crisis in their relationship.

Burn, Witch, Burn effectively brings the diabolical elements closer to reality by setting the narrative in academia, portraying the faculty as a hotbed of envy and rivalry.

The characters are well-developed and believable, with Tansy’s normalcy juxtaposed with her deep-seated fears and practices.

The film skillfully portrays the shift from petty paranoia to a genuine battle of sorcery, as Norman experiences a series of unfortunate events, prompting viewers to consider the possibility of a concerted conspiracy of black magic.

Overall, Burn, Witch, Burn presents a compelling exploration of superstition and its impact on personal and professional relationships, making it a captivating and thought-provoking film.

Analysis of Reginald Wyer’s Cinematography and Film Characters

Reginald Wyer’s cinematography, coupled with director Hayers’ direction, effectively conveys the suspense and tension in the film.

The lighting changes skillfully reflect Tansy’s inner panic and malevolent enthusiasm, while the sharp camera movements and tight angles enhance the overall atmosphere.

The repetition of shots of the stone eagle foreshadows the imminent danger, creating a sense of impending doom.

The film’s visual organization effectively builds tension and cues the viewers to anticipate the next level of menace at the right moment.

The captivating visuals and tightly organized sequences contribute to the film’s immersive grip on the audience, eliciting emotional responses such as jumping at the sight of a single-telling shot of Tansy walking strangely.

The film’s appeal is further evidenced by the positive audience reactions, with theatergoers applauding at the conclusion.

However, the film’s portrayal of female characters as emotionally driven and reliant on black magic has been criticized.

Despite this, the cast’s performances have been praised, particularly Janet Blair’s enduring charm and beauty, Peter Wyngarde’s portrayal of the arrogant Norman, and Margaret Johnson’s captivating performance as Flora Carr.

The Blu-ray release of Burn, Witch, Burn by Kino Lorber offers a high-definition encoding of the horror classic, presenting added detail and texture that enhances the viewing experience.

Although the audio track may have some distortion, the release includes valuable extras such as an interview with actor Peter Wyngarde, providing insights into the film’s production.

The original A.I.P. trailer promotes the movie enthusiastically without giving away the exciting conclusion or misrepresenting it.

It also includes a commentary with author Richard Matheson, which was missing from the DVD-R but is believed to be included on the old laser.

Reginald Wyer’s sharp camera movements and tight, tense angles show he and director Hayers working at their best.
Reginald Wyer’s sharp camera movements and tight, tense angles show he and director Hayers working at their best.

Matheson’s comments initially seem sporadic, with him sometimes describing what he sees on the screen, but he eventually narrates the entire story of the show.

Matheson expresses largely positive memories of the film, its cast, and especially Beaumont.

He discusses the deal-making behind some of his A.I.P. work, highlighting that he earned only $5,000 for a couple of his Poe pictures, with adjusted amounts from James Nicholson.

Furthermore, he provides specific details about some of his other films, such as the adaptation of his work, “I Am Legend,” known as “The Last Man on Earth,” despite momentarily forgetting that it was not filmed in America.

In line with Arrow Video, Kino offers a reversible package art, featuring an alternate advertising image derived from a print ad.

This addition has been well-received. For horror fans who appreciate sensitive and intelligent films like “Curse of the Demon,” Kino Lorber’s “Burn Witch Burn” is highly recommended.

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Burn, Witch, Burn Blu-ray rates:
Movie: Excellent
Video: Very Good +
Sound: Very Good
Supplements: Interview with Peter Wyngarde, commentary with Richard Matheson, Trailer
Deaf and Hearing Impaired Friendly? N0; Subtitles: None
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: August 13, 2015

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Ashish Dahal
Ashish Dahal
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