"By the way, do you know what they call me now? Witchfinder General; and there are those who think I should be appointed such for all of England-appointed by Parliament."
-Matthew Hopkins, witchfinder.
This film, while successful upon its original release, was relegated in US cinemas to midnight/drive-in screenings like Vincent Price's Edgar Allan Poe pictures. Indeed, its original US title was the somewhat-catchy The Conqueror Worm, the title of a Poe poem. Price's voice is even heard at the end credits of the US version reciting the poem (which is only half a page long). Had this movie received the same mainstream distribution as Rosemary's Baby, which was released the same year, it may have led to a Best Actor Oscar for Vincent Price, who portrays a villain that is the antithesis of the charming boogeymen he made his name on. One reason for this is that his character, one Matthew Hopkins, was a real-life witchhunter who traveled through 1645 England, during which time the country was engulfed in civil war, with his unscrupulous sidekick making money by torturing innocents accused of witchcraft. When one of his victims, a kind priest, dies as a result of such action, his niece and her lover seek vengeance. This film, like many others released during the late 1960s (and with 1968 arguably the most violent year of that turbulent decade), pushed the envelope in terms of onscreen violence. But the reason for this movie's greatness is the fact that it tackles the human capacity for violence head on. We find ourselves siding with characters who become as vicious as Hopkins.
Fans of the film have even had discussions about whether Hopkins could been seen as villainous or not. He's obviously motivated by money, but he always seems to be a nationalist when it comes to performing his acts.