DVD Review: Cry of the Banshee (1970)
I always like to think of myself as an expert on pitchfork-waving horrors of the 60s and 70s, but Cry of the Banshee has always passed me by - probably because the common opinion is that the movie just isn't very good. Anyway, I've bitten the bullet and finally gone in - and you know what? It ain't bad at all.
Ok, it's no classic and anyone expecting another Witchfinder General will be sorely disappointed - Gordon Hessler's take on witchcraft in the middle ages isn't a patch on Michael Reeves' masterpiece. But it certainly has its moments.
Vincent Price is on-hand again to offer up some menace, this time as local landlord and magistrate Lord Edward Whitman. He likes to arrest and torture witches (as you'd expect) and generally put himself about as a nasty piece of work, aided by his equally-nasty son and a couple of thugs.
After the usual blood-letting and bare breast action you would expect from a horror of the day (including the murder of Sally Geeson, a heinous crime if ever there was one), the gang go on the hunt for the 'head' witch (known as Oona), who happens to be running a hippy-style orgy in a disused church. After many of her flock are murdered, she puts a curse on the Whitman family - summoning up an evil presence to bump them off. That 'evil' happens to be called Roderick (Patrick Mower). And one-by-one, he takes family members out, thanks to a spot of shape changing. Can he be stopped before the entire line is killed off? You'll have to watch it to find out.
As I said, this is no classic and at times, it's a little too gratuitous on the nudity and blood, but it's still very watchable. it isn't Price's finest hour, but that usual bluster dominates is every scene. The supporting cast is good too, the usual selection of dependable types from British stage and screen. And while the plot (adapted from an Edgar Allan Poe original) isn't exactly groundbreaking, it has a superb (and unexpected) ending to leave the audience happy.
Whether its worth the £11 Amazon is currently asking is debatable, but it's certainly worth renting if you want 90 minutes of trashy vintage horror in your life.