Burn, Witch, Burn (1962)

A demonstration that a lot can be achieved on a small budget by imaginative filmmakers. The intensity of this movie took me by surprise. I had expected something more plodding, along the lines of Hammer fare from the same period. Instead, here we have inventive camera-work (DOP Reg Wyer, cameraman future DOP Gerry Turpin), a hardworking score by William Alwyn, and a thoughtful leading man in Peter Wyngarde. Director Sidney Hayers had come from TV, where he seems mostly stayed thereafter – a pity, as he clearly rose to the challenge of this material.

Best of all are the two excellent performances by Janet Blair and Margaret Johnston. The former, an American who had to come to England to get a part that demonstrated she could really act. The latter, a distinguished stage actress who pulled all the stops out for this rare leading screen role.

The pace of the film slackens here and there, but recovers in time for a splendid finale. A couple of scenes would have benefited from retakes because of technical glitches, but I suspect there just wasn’t enough money left to do them. It’s certainly no worse in this respect, though, than NIGHT OF THE DEMON, which is a clear influence. The Jacques Tourneur movie is more satisfying because of the tautness of its screenplay, but in every other way NIGHT OF THE EAGLE (aka BURN, WITCH, BURN) is as good. I wish it were better known. It certainly deserves to be.