The Conquerer Worm

When he died at age 25, Michael Reeves, considered one of the most exciting young directors in Great Britain, had made three feature films, of which The Conquerer Worm was the last. Reeves' work concentrated on the uses and corrosive effects of violence, at a time when the British cinema in general was hardly treating the subject at all, let alone in the explicit and unusual fashion of his pictures. In The Conquerer Worm, Vincent Price plays the Witchfinder General in mid-seventeenth-century England. His job description includes a ruthless persecution of political enemies, extracting money from credulous magistrates and then torturing suspects into "confessing" their guilt before executing them. On its U.S. release, Variety accused the film of substituting gore for suspense and action, and the New York Times characterized it as featuring "any number of attractive young aspiring stars who seem to have been cast mainly for their ability to scream. Scream as though they were being slowly burned to death, or kicked, or poked, or stabbed - mainly about the eyes - with sticks, or shot through, or otherwise tortured, which in fact they are." The horror is shocking, the sex is graphic, and vice versa. The Conquerer Worm is not a film for children.

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