Burn, Witch, Burn
burn witch burn | sidney hayers | charles beaumont | richard matheson | peter wyngarde | janet blair | margaret johnston | witch | witchcraft | united kingdom | college | animal attack | judith scott | colin gordon | based on | novel | fritz leiber jr | anthony nicholls
Film: Burn, Witch, Burn
Director: Sidney Hayers
Writer: Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson
Starring: Peter Wyngarde, Janet Blair and Margaret Johnston
This film begins at first with a narrator telling us about there being witchcraft around us and that he does an incantation to ensure that the spells that are used in this film do not affect us, the viewer.
We then shift to a classroom. The professor is played by Peter Wyngarde. He is teaching sociology and explaining that witchcraft, psychics and things to this effect are not real, but we believe them to be real and it almost creates a placebo effect. The bell goes off and he asks a student, played by Judith Scott, to collect everyone’s tests. Her boyfriend is also in the class and he blows off writing a paper for the test they just took. Wyngarde threatens to have him removed from the class and he scoffs it off.
Outside, Wyngarde walks with a co-worker, played by Colin Gordon. He is asking if they’re going to play bridge tonight now that Wyngarde’s wife is returning from their cottage by the water. He confirms this plan.
There ends up being quite a few couples at this get together. Wyngarde and his wife, played by Janet Blair, are the hosts. There is Gordon with his wife, played by Margaret Johnston. There also is Anthony Nicholls, his wife played by Kathleen Byron, and Reginald Beckwith with his wife, who is played by Jessica Dunning. There is talks that Wyngarde will become the new head of the sociology chair and there are jokes that he is doing it with hypnosis or witchcraft. This makes Blair perk up.
At the end of the night, Blair is looking for something pretty intently. Wyngarde goes up to go to bed and his drawer to his pajamas won’t open. He takes out the drawer above it to find Blair has been keeping a dried up spider. She claims it is just a souvenir. The next day though, he discovers a bunch of different things around the house used in witchcraft. She reveals that she is a witch and has been protecting him and helping to have good things happen to him. He forces her to destroy all of it. She warns him that she can’t be held responsible what happens to him now.
The next day he is accused of attacking a student and Blair starts to act funny. Was what Blair was doing really working? Was she really a witch? Is there another witch causing bad things to happen or is this all in their imaginations?
I discovered this film from the list of horror films I want to see for my research. I came in not knowing a lot about it and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. This film is well written and thought out. I love that Wyngarde is teaching a class on why it takes belief for witchcraft to work, but then he starts to notice patterns and he starts to believe himself, when he was the biggest critic of it. The other thing I really loved from the writing is that is film is very subjective. It makes you wonder if these rituals are actually doing something or is it like Wyngarde says in the beginning and nothing more than the placebo affect. I also love that during the climax, some crazy things happen and it makes you wonder if they are really happening or not. I will say that I wasn’t a huge fan of how it ended; it was a tad too convenient and was unnecessary.
I was pretty impressed by the acting for this film. Wyngarde was great as the skeptical professor that starts to question himself. He starts to slip into a bit of madness and it is very good. I thought Blair did well. She becomes almost hysterical when he is destroying her items. She also totters on thinking that if she kills herself, that will protect Wyngarde. It helps to raise the stakes of the film and build the tension. Johnston was also solid in her role and definitely looks the part. The rest of the cast didn’t stand out, but they need to just round out and play their roles.
This film was interesting to me with the practical effect choice they used. I love that this came from the 1960s, so they didn’t have the technology. What happens with an eagle doesn’t look the greatest, but I thought it looked real enough for me to believe it and not be bothered. The editing of the film didn’t stand out to me. The soundtrack didn’t really either, outside of the recording of Wyngarde that has been doctored with some kind of spell attached to it. I did like that myself.
Now with that said, I would recommend seeing this film. This is a well-written, slow burn witch film. What I really liked about it is that you don’t know if what is happening is real or if these people just think that is real. I enjoy things being left up to the interpretation of what you see. I thought the acting from the stars was very good and the rest of the cast rounded it out well. There wasn’t a lot of need for practical effects, but the ones we got I felt seemed much better than things you see with CGI today. The editing didn’t really stand out, but doesn’t hurt it. The same goes with the soundtrack, outside of the undertone on a recording that is used. I will warn you that this film is from 1962 and is in black-and-white. If that is an issue, then I would avoid this film. If you can get past that, I would recommend seeing this solid film.
My Rating: 7 out of 10