Sunday, 2 October 2011

Burn, Witch, Burn

I'm generally of the opinion that if Peter Wyngarde is in something, then it surely must be, ipso flipping facto, great. Sometimes, as with 'Night Of The Eagle' ('Burn, Witch, Burn' in the US), that theory does actually stand up to closer scrutiny.

Peter plays Norman Taylor, a successful psychology professor and star of a prestigious college somewhere leafy and posh. Taylor’s specialist subject is what a lot of rubbish the supernatural is, so imagine his distaste when he finds out that his wife, Tansy, is a witch. Disgusted, he forces her to burn all of her magical charms and talismans, never stopping to wonder why they’re emitting sparks and puffs of glittery smoke. When a picture of Norman accidentally falls into the flames, it sets off a chain of inexplicable events, ranging from a near fatal car crash to an accusation of rape, and putting them both in mortal danger. In order to save his wife (and himself), Norman will not only have to recognise the power of the occult world, but to participate in its magic and ritual…
‘Night Of The Eagle’ is a cracking film: full of atmosphere, economical and believable, and with several sequences that rank with the best British horror has to offer.  The script, by genius American writers Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson is excellent, and the idea that that bastion of respectability, an exclusive college, should actually be a hotbed of sorcery aided social climbing is quite brilliant. All the wives are at it, burning effigies and pinning charms to their hapless husbands, hoping that burning some hair and nail will scupper their rival’s chances of promotion, and propel their spouses to the top.    
As for Peter Wyngarde -  he’s great – cocksure and arrogant at first, then increasingly panicked and desperate. It’s such a shame that he only ever made six (!) films (and one of those was ‘Flash Gordon’, where he had his face covered the whole time), as he could have done so much more: Dracula, Caligula, James Bond – the mind boggles at the possibilities.

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