Bill Lanier (Jack Hedley) is a real estate developer. He and his partner Myles Forrester (Barry Linehan) are working on a project that encompasses the old Whitlock estate. On the estate is an old cemetery. Many of the Whitlocks are buried there. The remaining members of the Whitlock family are Morgan Whitlock (Lon Chaney Jr.) and his niece Amy Whitlock (Diane Clare). Morgan was told to remove the graves from the cemetery since that piece of land was going to be used for a building for the development project. Morgan refused. Myles orders the worker on the bulldozer to plow down the grave stones without telling Bill. Furious, Morgan confronts Bill.
Later that night Bill goes to the cemetery to survey the damage. He notices a piece of a headstone with an unusual diagram on it. He recognizes it as a witch’s circle. He knows there is one at home carved into the fireplace hearth. Bill brings the piece of stone home and asks his grandmother, Malvina Lanier (Marie Ney) about it. She tells him that the carving in the fireplace hearth was done when the Whitlock’s owned the estate. She says the only other carving is on the grave stone of Vanessa Whitlock (Yvette Rees). In the 1600’s Vanessa was condemned as a witch but instead of being burned at the stake she was buried alive. The Lanier family was the ones who accused her of witchcraft, drove out the Whitlocks and took over their land. Since then the Whitlock’s have vowed to destroy the Lanier’s.
After Bill had left the cemetery the exhumed grave of Vanessa opens and the witch materializes. Now that she is free she plans on destroying the Lanier family. To kick start her vengeance she kills Myles Forrester. Next on her list is Bill’s aunt, Helen Lanier (Viola Keats), but Vanessa is just getting started.
“Witchcraft” was released in 1964 and was directed by Don Sharp. It is a British supernatural horror film. The film was written by Harry Spalding. He said he got the idea for the film from seeing an old cemetery in San Francisco converted by a real estate developer.
The movie did play very much like a Hammer film. The night cemetery scene and the gothic house added much to the atmosphere of the movie. There was also some fun Sabbath masses and hidden stone passages to add to the eeriness of it all. Although he got top billing Lon Chaney’s part was small but he did alright. Angry warlock seems to suit him. It may be your standard resurrected witch story but that’s what I like about it.
The climax of the film features a fire. The filmmakers shot footage of a real house fire and used it in the movie. The house in Northwood had already been slated for demolition. Some of the exterior shots were filmed at Oakley Court in Windsor, England. At one point Hammer used it as their film studio before moving to Bray Studios. They still used it occasionally for exterior shots. It was also used as Frank N. Furter’s castle in “Rocky Horror Picture Show” 1975.
At one point the film was double billed in the U.S. with William Castle’s “The Horror of it All” 1964. As a promotional gimmick patrons were given a green badge from the theater. The badge was called a witch deflector. Movie goers were told that only the witch deflector could save them from the web of the unknown. They were urged to hold it tightly when the unknown evil materialized in front of them.