Burn, Witch, Burn (1962)

“Do the undead demons of hell still arise to terrorize the world?” Not nearly as sensationalistic as the U.S. title might suggest, this entertaining British horror flick was originally titled (rather blandly!) Night of the Eagle. Based on Fritz Leiber’s 1943 novel Conjure Wife, the film was directed by Sidney Hayers and scripted by Charles Beaumont (The Masque of the Red Death), Richard Matheson (I Am Legend) and George Baxt (Circus of Horrors). Small-town university professor “Norman Taylor” (Peter Wyngarde), a staunch rationalist who writes “I DO NOT BELIEVE” on his blackboard, discovers that his wife “Tansy” (Janet Blair) has been practicing witchcraft. After an enraged Norman forces Tansy to burn all of her magical charms and other witchcraft paraphernalia – which she was using to “protect” him from evil forces – bad things start to happen. The film has its share of suspenseful moments, as well as great atmosphere (especially the gothic-style university and the foreboding cliffs and graveyard near the seaside cottage). In addition, Margaret Johnston excels as “Flora Carr,” Taylor’s creepy, limping colleague with a truly evil glare. Burn, Witch, Burn was released in the United States by American International Pictures with the addition of a lengthy prologue delivered by legendary voice actor Paul Frees (the “Ghost Host” for Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resort): Ladies and gentlemen … the motion picture you are about to see contains an evil spell, as used by practitioners of witchcraft for centuries …” Conjure Wife was first adapted as Weird Woman (1944), which starred Lon Chaney, Jr., Anne Gwynne and Evelyn Ankers, and was part of Universal’s “Inner Sanctum” series.

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