Judge Jeffreys (Christopher Lee) lives up to his title, sending women and men to the dungeons as witches and traitors. And worse, he also sends them to their deaths. Based on George Jeffreys, the first Baron Jeffreys, he was known as “the hanging judge” thanks to the rough handling of his cases, including a series of trials in the West Country in 1865, in which he judged between 160 and 700 men and women of treason against the crown.
During the Glorious Revolution, when King James II fled the country, Jeffreys stayed in London until the last moment as the only legal authority in the abandoned kingdom to perform political duties. When William III’s troops took London, Jeffreys tried to flee and follow the King abroad but was recognized by one of the survivors of his trials. A mob tried to murder him and he begged for mercy. He died in the Tower of London from kidney disease.
You don’t need to know history to know this: this is Jess Franco’s Witchfinder General and you’re about to see him go a little wild when it comes to the torture, but nowhere near the madness of Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun or The Demons.
After an innocent young girl named Alicia Gray (Margaret Lee, Our Agent Tiger, Circus of Fear, Venus In Furs) is tortured on the rack and burnt at the stake, despite the efforts of her sister Mary (Maria Rohm, The House of 1,000 Dolls, 99 Women). She falls for a young rebel, but going up against the power of a man given unlimited power by the crown of England isn’t as easy as it sounds. Actually, it doesn’t sound easy at all.
Howard Vernon shows up as a henchman and an uncredited Diana Loyrs is here too. Perhaps my favorite thing about this movie was that Lee still protested that he didn’t know it would have so much sex and violence in it up until it was released on DVD, which is hilarious, because this was not his first or last time working with Franco.