Length / Blu-Ray (24fps): 107 minutes
Length / DVD (25fps): 103 minutes
Special features (Blu-ray): 26 mins
Special features (DVD): 25 mins
Sound / Blu-Ray:
2.0 Dual Mono LPCM (48k/16-bit)
Sound / DVD: 2.0 Dolby Mono
Black and white
Original aspect ratio: 2.35:1
/ 1080 / 24fps / Region ABC
DVD: PAL / DVD9 / 25 fps / Region 0
Blu-Ray RRP: £19.99
DVD RRP: £12.99
Release Date: 30 Oct 2017
Second Run DVD 119 / SRBD 008
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.
• World premiere release on Blu-ray.
Directed by Otakar Vávra
Screenplay - Otakar Vávra, Ester Krumbachová
Adapted from the novel by Václav Kaplický
Director of Photography - Josef Illík
Editor - Antonín Zelenka
Sound - František Strangmüller
Music - Jiří Srnka
Production design - Ester Krumbachová, Karel Skvor
Costume design - Jarmila Konecná
Elo Romančík - Kryštof Alois Lautner
Vladimír Šmeral - Jindřich František Boblig of Edelstadt
Soňa Valentová- Zuzana Voglicková
Josef Kemr - Ignác
Lola Skrbková - Maryna
Jiřina Štěpničkovává - Dorota Groerová
Marie Nademlejnská - Davidka
Miriam Kantorková - Dorota Tobiásová
Blanka Waleská - Countess
“Made with relentless precision, rhythm and logic… beautifully staged in CinemaScope with stylish photography by Josef Illík and a compelling score by Jiří Srnka”
Peter Hames, Czech and Slovak Cinema: Theme and Tradition
"Its generic qualities recall the perfectly-executed excesses of Witchfinder General... A humanist horror film and an indisputable work of art" Senses of Cinema
"Shocking and provocative, Witchhammer is another excellent Czech film from the period" Letterboxd
"Sits comfortably alongside the likes of Witchfinder General and Mark of the Devil as a disturbing account of real events, rivalling them even in the shock stakes, surprisingly graphic...
Of course, on a very serious level, the film appeared just a couple of years after the Prague Spring, a freeing of the Czech citizens from the dominant rule of the Soviet Union, a clear allegory and warning against an unchecked society"