In Elizabethan England, a wicked lord massacres nearly all the members of a coven of witches, earning the enmity of their leader, Oona. Oona calls up a magical servant, a "banshee", to destroy the lord's family. (The "banshee" of this tale bears no resemblance to the normal usage of the term!)Written by
Marg Baskin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The end credits are divided into "The Establishment, "Witches", and "Villagers". See more »
The differences between the cut AIP version and the original edit (released on DVD in the US) are significant:
The AIP re-edit repositions the coven massacre scene (that occurs about half an hour into the film in the original version) as a pre-credits scene. The sequence is also slightly trimmed to eliminate some nudity and also remove the shots of Hugh Griffith observing the action.
The original credits are Pythonesque animations by Terry Gilliam. These animations were replaced in the AIP re-edit by stills of some of the winged creatures.
The music score was changed - the new music was composed by Lex Baxter. Wilfred Joseph did the original score.
All topless nudity was removed from the AIP re-edit. This involved trimming several scenes and re-framing others (zooming in on the "unoffensive" part of the frame). This chopped about 3m off the running time.
The death of Essay Persson was abridged
In the middle section of the film some other scenes were re-positioned in the narrative with the intent of bringing forward the appearance of the coven (in order to speed up the narrative). The version on DVD runs 91m whereas the old AIP version runs only 87m.
I'd seen two films from director Gordon Hessler prior to seeing this one, and they're both wildly different. One was the excellent Gothic horror The Oblong Box, while the other was the uneven and mostly terrible waste of a great of a cast, Scream and Scream Again. This film falls somewhere in the middle in terms of quality. Cry of the Banshee actually reminded me a lot more of the classic film Witchfinder General than either of Hessler's previous efforts, although it is nowhere near as good as that one. The plot features themes of witchcraft and witch hunts, as we focus on the evil Lord Edward Whitman, slaughterer of peasants and a man with an on-going war against a coven of local witches. He opts to murder a number of them in front of leader; a witch named Oona. However, this turns out to be a poor decision as Oona uses her magic powers to call up a magical being known as a 'Banshee', whom she uses - along with some members of Lord Whitman's own family - to bring a curse upon his entire household.
Obviously, my main reason for seeing this film was because of the fact that it features a starring performance from the great Vincent Price. This is not Vincent Price's greatest performance, but he still completely owns the film in every sequence that he's in (and he's in most of them). The character he plays in Cry of the Banshee isn't the most rounded character he's ever played, and therefore it isn't the most interesting - but hey! It's still Vincent Price. The way that the plot plays out is mostly good enough to hold the audience's interest; there isn't a great deal of suspense in the film, but director Gordon Hessler does a good job of creating the right atmosphere and setting up a suitable 'feel' for the film. The banshee isn't what you'd usually think of when that word springs to mind; which gives the film an element of memorability. The ending is decent enough, although it is rather predictable and overall, it has to be said that Cry of the Banshee is a more than passable. Sure, it's not brilliant - but Vincent Price fans are likely to enjoy it, and it gets a recommendation from me.
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