Burn, Witch, Burn

1962's Burn, Witch, Burn is known in the United Kingdom as Night of the Eagle, but this is no "nature runs amok" flick. It has more in common with Night of the Demon than Night of the Lepus. Peter Wyngarde stars as Norman, a college professor in the fast lane. In relative terms, he's a newbie at his workplace, but his colleagues have noticed that his ascent to the top of the pecking order has been quick and painless. He has managed to climb the social ladder with temperate ease. Or at least that's how it seems to his jealous peers. Norman himself doesn't question it until he discovers that his wife, Tansy, has been hiding a proverbial treasure trove of amulets, trinkets and other phylacteries.

What's so special about this drawer of innocuous charms? Well, they're not so innocuous. These particular charms are normally associated with voodoo and witchcraft. I would love to share more of the story with you, but I won't. Burn is the kind of film that keeps you guessing until the very end. I told myself that I wouldn't resort to using cliches in this review, but here goes...I was on the edge of my seat! The glorious black-and-white cinematography made the experience that much sweeter. Those of you with short attention spans might be put off by the methodical, dialogue-driven script, but I beseech you to dip your toes into the deep end of the pool just this once. Man, I sound like a complete jackass. Moving on!

The acting is superb on all fronts. Wyngarde wasn't the first choice for the lead role, but he nailed his emotional cues. His performance is believable to a fault. Janet Blair is just as convincing as the frantic, overwrought witchy-poo. The atmosphere is fraught with unrest. We get all of the fixtures of an old-fashioned spookshow...fog, tombstones, rickety houses, giant eagles. Wait, what? I wish that was a solecism on my part (a frightful faux pas, if you will), but I'm afraid that the reports are accurate. The climax of Burn sees our protagonist being chased by a man in an eagle suit. It's ridiculous. My readers know me well enough to know that I enjoyed this scene, but it sticks out like a sore thumb.

That's what I don't get. Why an eagle? I'm assuming that there is a reason for this film's fascination with eagles, but I'm not bright enough to figure it out. Granted, I haven't read the source material that Burn is based upon. Perhaps a more knowledgeable genre buff can clue me in. Either way, this is a dandy spine-chiller. If you dug Horror Hotel and Night of the Demon, do yourself a favor and hunt down Burn, Witch, Burn. It's not on DVD here in the states, but it's available on a Region 2 disc under its alternate title. Plus, you can always fork over a hundred clams for a VHS copy. MGM needs to wake up and resurrect the beloved Midnite Movies double features.

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