21 July 2024
Burn, Witch, Burn (1962)
90 min.
Directed by Sidney Hayers.
With Peter Wyngarde, Janet Blair, Margaret Johnson, Anthony Nicholls, Colin Gordon, Kathleen Byron, Reginald Beckwith.
Based on Fritz Leiber's 1943 supernatural horror novel Conjure Wife, this 1962 British flick about undercover witches at an English college is quite enjoyable!

Norman Taylor (Wyngarde) is a distinguished university professor of psychology & sociology who lectures on the theme of belief systems which inform superstitution and the occult. If you refuse to believe in them, Taylor tells us, things like witchcraft and the dark arts simply won't exist.

Little does he know -- but soon discovers -- his lovely wife Tansy (Janet Blair) is a practicing witch who's been using her witchcraft to "protect" her husband from sinister forces at work in the college hierarchy. Tansy's even been using her spells and "protections" to advance her husband's career, paving the way for his potential nomination to the Chair of his department.

When Tansy confesses to her husband that she's a witch, he pronounces it mumbo jumbo and makes her burn all her supernatural charms and witchly materials.

Almost immediately things begin to go horribly wrong: one of Norman's prized students accuses him of rape. The girl's boyfriend threatens revenge. An unseen burglar attempts to break in to the Taylor's home. A possessed Tansy attacks Norman and tries to kill him.

Were Tansy's spells really protecting the Taylors? Could there be some truth to witchcraft and the "protections" it can afford?

More to the point, are there other witches at the college in league against Tansy and Norman? Could the wife of one of Norman's colleagues, the strange and not-to-be-trusted Flora (Johnston), be one of them?

Thanks to a nimble screenplay co-scripted by classic Twilight Zone writer Charles Beaumont and horror-science fiction master Richard Matheson, Burn, Witch, Burn is a heckuva lot more fun than it has a right to be.

The tried and true formula of witchcraft is given new life here in a modern academic setting. There are some nice setups to spare: as ubiquitous as it sounds, the scene where Norman discovers a dead house spider entombed in a small jewelry jar inside his dresser drawer is as creepy as it can be.

Also a standout, the scene where a giant stone eagle comes to life and viciously attacks Norman.

Also known as Night of the Eagle.

Make it a double feature and watch it with Hammer's ode to modern sorcery The Witches (1966).

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