Otakar Vávra’s Witchhammer (1969) transforms the horrific tale of a notorious 17th Century witch trial into a powerful allegory of life under totalitarian rule. In a small Czech village, an investigation into a simple superstition quickly becomes a full-blown Inquisition, unleashing a tide of hysteria and cruelty.
The script, co-written by Ester Krumbachová (Daisies, Valerie and Her Week of Wonders), draws on original court transcripts and forced confessions, revealing the malevolence of the Inquisitors who exorcise their own greed and lust through gruesome torture and execution.
The beautiful, stark cinematography echoes Bergman, Dreyer and František Vlácil, and finds literary antecedents in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and Aldous Huxley’s The Devils of Loudon. Like Ken Russell’s controversial, expressionistic adaptation of Huxley’s text, The Devils (1971) and other films of the period such as Michael Reeves’ Witchfinder General (1968), Witchhammer transcends horror to create a chilling political fable, revealing power to be the ultimate weapon of evil.
Presented from a new HD transfer and available on both region-free Blu-ray and DVD formats, our release includes a new and exclusive appreciation of the film by critic Kat Ellinger, and Otakar Vávra’s experimental 1931 short film The Light Penetrates the Dark.
- Presented from a new HD re-master and transfer from original materials held by the Czech National Film Archive.
- ‘The Womb of Woman is the Gateway to Hell’ – a new and exclusive filmed appreciation by essayist and critic Kat Ellinger and film historian Michael Brooke.
- The Light Penetrates the Dark (Svetlo proniká tmou, 1931) – Otakar Vávra’s experimental short film.
- 16-page booklet featuring a new essay on the film by editor and journalist Samm Deighan and director Otakar Vávra on Witchhammer.
- Region Free DVD : Australian compatible