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Film / Cry of the Banshee

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Cry of the Banshee is a 1970 British horror film directed by Gordon Hessler and starring Vincent Price as an evil witch hunter. The film was released by American International Pictures. The film co-stars Elisabeth Bergner, Hilary Dwyer, and Hugh Griffith.

The title credit sequence was animated by Terry Gilliam.

Monomaniacal witch hunter Lord Edward Whitman cruelly persecutes the peasants in his corner of Elizabethan England, manufacturing charges and meting out punishment without regard to justice. While trying to wipe out a coven of witches, he fails to take into account the possibility that real witches might have real power. He is unprepared when Oona, the head of the coven, transforms a trusted member of Whitman's household into a vehicle of demonic vengeance.

This film provides examples of:

  • Animated Credits Opening: The opening credits use Clip-Art Animation animated by Terry Gilliam.
  • As the Good Book Says...: The words quoted by Father Tom as he confronts the witch Oona are from John 4:24 and Psalm 96:9.
    Father Tom: [to Oona] God is a spirit; and they that worship Him must worship Him in the spirit and in truth.
    Father Tom: O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; let the whole earth stand in awe of Him.
  • The Beastmaster: Roderick has a natural affinity with animals and is able to command a mad dog attacking a young girl to leave her and flee.
  • Burn the Witch!: Trying to extract the location of the witch Oona from the villagers, Lord Edward seizes a young woman someone accuses of being a witch, has her tied to a wagon wheel and burned on bonfire in the village square.
  • Clip-Art Animation: The opening credits, which were animated by Terry Gilliam.
  • Curse: Oona uses her occult powers to curse Whitman's family: summoning a demonic servant destroy the family one by one until only Lord William is left.
  • Gun Struggle: Finding her father about to shoot Roderick, Maureen grabs the gun and attempts to wrestle it out of his hands.
  • Inescapable Net: Whitman goes hunting in the hills for witches. His armed posse breaks up what is apparently meant to be a witches' Black Sabbath. His soldiers toss a net over several of the members and proceed to hack them to pieces.
  • It's All About Me: Lord Whitman is such an egomaniac that he admits to believing the witches are only continuing to plague the town to annoy him specifically.
  • Not My Driver: At the end of the film, it is revealed that Whitman's driver, Bully Boy, was killed by Roderick, who is now driving the coach. The film ends with Whitman screeching his driver's name in terror as the coach heads for parts unknown.
  • Orphan's Plot Trinket: Roderick was found wandering the woods as boy, wearing a strange talisman around his neck. Father Tom identifies the amulet as being centuries old. He later discovers a duplicate of the carving in the cemetery and learns it marks Roderick as being a sidhe.
  • A Real Man Is a Killer: Lord Edward Whitman believes this, and actually shows pride when his son Harry—whom he had always regarded as a weakling—kills his Torture Technician Burke in order to save the accused witch Maggie.
  • Robbing the Dead: Harry and Father Tom discover the local gravedigger in a temple to the old gods beneath the cemetery. However, he is not a member of the coven but is using the temple to stash the loot he steals from the dead bodies before he buries them.
  • Stock Punishment: Lord Edward Whitman, a wicked magistrate, presides over the trial of a young woman. Ruling that she is a witch, he has her branded, whipped through the streets, then placed in the village stocks.
  • Torture Technician: Burke and Bully Boy, the two torturers Lord Edward puts to work to find Oona through any means necessary.
    Bully Boy: [to Maggie] We can make you die a minute every day for a year.
  • Villainous Incest: Edgar Whitman's oldest son, Sean, rapes his stepmother Lady Patricia.
  • Voodoo Doll: Oona uses poppets to control which of the Whitman's Roderick attacks; thrusting a pin through the heart when they die.
  • The Witch Hunter: Magistrate Lord Edward Whitman wages unending war on what he sees as the ever-present scourge of witchcraft, and many local villagers have suffered at his hands.