The Conqueror Worm
Matthew Hopkins: Witchfinder General
Matthew Hopkins: Conqueror Worm
The 1960’s represented a golden age in the production of horror films in Britain. The landscape was formed and conventionalised by Hammer who brought to their gothic fantasies lush production values and committed performances from their cadre of acting talent. Outside of Hammer’s mid European gothic milieu interesting work was being done by Amicus Productions, Anglo-Amalgamated, and perhaps most prominent of all Tigon Productions. It is fair to say that Amicus were Hammer’s chief rivals, but the drab and lifeless production values that hampered the films of Amicus meant that aesthetically at least they would always come in second. Tigon however not only regularly matched Hammer in this department, but also made films that had a progressive quality in terms of gender politics and allegorical value. Hammer’s was a very restricted and Manichean vision and one which by 1968 began to seem increasingly old fashioned and dated. Chinks of creativity and radicalism were emerging in the genre at this time to reflect the uncertainty of a world in turmoil over a variety of issues. The surprise commercial success of Night of the Living Dead (1968) legitimised a socially committed brand of modern horror, and as leaders in the genre Britain needed to produce something of their own to rival the progressive nature of Romero’s startling debut. With Michael Reeves’ Witchfinder General British horror was able to do this, and unwittingly sowed the seeds of Hammer’s eventual marginalisation.
© Shaun Anderson 2010