Written by Radio

Vincent Price and The Horror of The English Blood Beast

Here’s a turn up for the books – me talking about something on the radio that you have more than one day to listen to!
Vincent Price and The Horror of The English Blood Beast is an excellent play based around the making of Witchfinder General in 1967.
If you’ve never seen Witchfinder General, then after listening to this, you’ll almost certainly want to (indeed it’s a shame that BBC2 or BBC4 didn’t schedule a screening of the film in parallel with this play). Vincent Price crossed the Atlantic to play the title role of Matthew Hopkins, who genuinely was the Witchfinder General in the 17th century during the period of the English Civil War.
The play is set against the making of the film as the audaciously talented director Michael Reeves battled with Price who at the time was a waning force having relied on a series of hackneyed performances in cheap US films.
Nickolas Grace plays Price with gusto as he arrives on an East Anglian set and slowly begins to realise that he’s going to have to do something a bit different to his usual autopilot persona. And Kenneth Cranham is excellent as the sleazy Soho producer, Tony Tenser, who’s having to deal with his artistic and bull-headed director, his problematical star, and the sleazy expectations of the people he’s pre-sold the film to. In real life, as well as things like London in the Raw (recently released on DVD by the BFI in their Flipside series), Tenser worked on two of my favourite early Polanski films, Repulsion and Cul-de-Sac.
The film was to be Matthew Reeves’ last, and it’s a shame that he didn’t live on to make many more films.
Matthew Broughton has obviously done a fair amount of research in writing this piece. Anyway – go away and spend an hour with this terrific play.
When you’ve listened to it, you really will want to get the excellent DVD which is very reasonably priced, although at time of writing it seems to be proving very popular.