24 February 2012 | Coventry
Vincent the misogynist?
This was the third collaboration (in barely two years time) between director Gordon Hessler, scriptwriter Christopher Wicking and horror veteran Vincent Price, after the wondrously atmospheric Victorian tale "The Oblong Box" and the uniquely bizarre "Scream and Scream Again". "Cry of the Banshee" certainly isn't a bad effort; I for one found it very much amusing at least, but due to its lead actor, periodic setting and subject matter, it will always and automatically get compared with "The Witchfinder General" and come out as the weakest one. This isn't even so much of a disgrace, as that other Vincent Price classic which was released two years prior, is simply a bona fide masterpiece. Perhaps I'm very much biased, because I'm a) a downright fanatic Vincent Price worshiper and b) obsessed with purchasing horror movies that deal with witchery and satanic cults, and therefore I don't think "Cry of the Banshee" deserves all the harsh & negative reviews around here. Honesty does require me to admit that the film contain a couple of severe flaws, however, most notably the underdevelopment of the main characters and the overly exploitative nature. You can somewhat expect a bit of gratuitous nudity and perversion in a movie about burning witches and corrupt magistrates, but the sequences in "Cry of the Banshee" – especially those during the first fifteen minutes – are quite degrading and misogynist. Price usually didn't star in that type of cinema. At certain moments it's actually noticeable that he doesn't agree with the raw undertones of his dialogs and he tries hard to give his character of sadist magistrate Edward Whitman more depth and background. He's the patriarch of a rich and spoiled family, and abuses his magistrate position to randomly accuse innocent women of witchcraft and subsequently submits them to public humiliation and torture. When he orders to slaughter half a coven of actual Satan worshipers, the lead witch Oona puts a curse on him and his family. Her vengeance is extracted through an acquaintance of the family, the eccentric stranger Roderick who communicates with animals, as he mutates into a banshee overnight. There are really a lot of sub plots with terrific potential, but sadly they're not elaborated. There are a lot of intrigues within the Whitman family, like the oldest son who distanced himself from his father and Edward's third wife feels more affection for Roderick than for her barbaric husband. Personally, I also would have preferred a little more info regarding the banshee itself. It's a fascinating creature, with nicely grim make-up effects and aggressive personality, but we don't know too much about its mythical background. The finale is brilliant, though, and there are several moments of sheer suspense and grisly medieval ambiance.