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The Witches 12 rating

Joan Fontaine stars as an ex-missionary drawn to investigate the sinister undercurrents beneath the surface of English village life.

98 mins

Director: Cyril Frankel



Following a brush with voodoo and a nervous breakdown, Gwen Mayfield (Joan Fontaine in her last big-screen appearance) accepts a teaching job, relocating from Africa to a sleepy English village. As she begins to settle into a different pace of life, Gwen notices a series of strange occurrences that seem to point towards just one thing: witchcraft.

Adapted for the screen by Nigel Kneale (The Quatermass Xperiment) from Norah Lofts' novel, this mid-period Hammer production was something of a curiosity upon its initial release. With none of the studio’s regular directors or stars, it remains one of Hammer’s most overlooked films. Apparently Kneale was unhappy with the final film, which he felt disregarded his humorous intentions in favour of a more conventional approach. Looking at the film today, as the repressed desires of this quiet community are unleashed upon the unsuspecting Fontaine, the sense of dark satire feels ever present, making The Witches ripe for rediscovery.