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The Witches
The Witches“A typically Sixties Hammer thriller,
  The Witches is the story of a young
  woman threatened by witch-doctors
  and black magic in Africa who returns
  to an idyllic village in England where
  the dark arts thrive..

AN AFRICAN TRIBE AND THE WITCH-DOCTORS attack a mission where teacher Gwen Mayfield (Joan Fontaine in her last major film role: Rebecca; Suspicion) is so traumatised by the threat that she has a complete breakdown and returns to England.

On her recovery she takes up a post as head teacher of a private school in the lovely village of Heddaby, offered to her by Alan Bax (Alec McCowen), whom she believes to be the local vicar despite the fact that the church has been derelict for two hundred years.

It seems she has at last found the peace she desperately needed as she settles down in the village with the strange Valerie (Michele Dotrice) acting as her housekeeper. The nightmare is just beginning.

“Be spooked…
The Witches is creepy
and tense and very much
a creditable film
of its time
Her new surroundings are far from the green and pleasant land she had hoped for. First of all, she notices that the villagers do not like the growing friendship between young teenagers Linda Rigg (Ingrid Brett) and Ronnie Dowsett (Martin Stephens) and will do anything to keep them apart.

Then Ronnie is taken ill and a boy doll he gave to Linda is found by one of the children in a tree, stabbed with pins and with the head missing. And finally, Ronnie's father (John Collins) is drowned in suspicious circumstances. Something sinister is going on in the village.

Gwen has been befriended by Alan's writer sister Stephanie (Kay Walsh), who listens to her misgivings and offers to collaborate on an article about the occult to sell to the Sunday papers.

When Linda who lives with her elderly grandmother (Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies), who says she follows "the old ways" fails to turn up to school, Gwen starts to put two and two together. But she is not safe and very soon finds herself in terrible danger and unable to trust anybody…

The release of The Witches, just prior to Halloween, follows the releases last year of the fully restored Hammer Classics The Devil Rides Out, The Mummy's Shroud and Rasputin The Mad Monk. The new restoration of The Witches is given two screenings at the 54th BFI London Film Festival on 11 and 16 October.

Originally released in 1966 from legendary British production company Hammer, The Witches has been described as a "chilling pastoral horror". Be spooked. Acting in films was still very theatrical and none more so than the satanic ritual coven scene, but The Witches is creepy and tense and very much a creditable film of its time.

The Witches also features: Leonard Rossiter as Dr Wallis; Duncan Lamont as Bob Curd; Carmel McSharry as Mrs Dowsett; Ann Bell as Sally; Bryan Marshall as Tom; Shelagh Fraser as Mrs Creek; and Viola Keats as Mrs Curd.

Music Composed by Richard Rodney Bennett; Director of Photography is Arthur Grant BSC; Screenplay is by Nigel Kneale (The Quatermass Experiment), based on the novel The Devil's Own by Peter Curtis; Produced by Anthony Nelson Keys; and Directed by Cyril Frankel

* STUDIOCANAL is delighted to announce the release the fully-restored Hammer Classic The Witches on DVD/Blu-ray Double Play in the UK on 21 October 2013. Catalogue Number: OPTBD0641 | RRP: £22.99 | Extras Documentary: Hammer Glamour. Total Running Times: Blu-ray 91 Minutes approx; DVD 88 Minutes Approx.

"Be spooked… The Witches is creepy and tense and very much a creditable film of its time"
Maggie Woods