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Michael Reeves (17 October 1943 11 February 1969) was an English film director

and screenwriter. He is best known for the 1968 film Witchfinder General (known in the
US as Conqueror Worm). He died at the age of 25 from an accidental alcohol and
barbiturate overdose.[1]


1 History
o 1.1 Early career
o 1.2 Witchfinder General
o 1.3 Death

2 Filmography

3 Slated projects

4 Notes

5 References

6 External links

Early career
Reeves was born in Sutton, Surrey,and grew up in Suffolk, whose landscape made a
deep impression on his best known film, Witchfinder General. His father died when he
was young, but his mother was a devoted single parent. As a child he began making

short films, some of which starred his lifelong friend, the actor Ian Ogilvy. As a boarder
at Radley College he obsessively broke bounds to attend the cinema, and was utterly
single-minded about his ambition to work in film.
Upon leaving school he turned up on the doorstep of his favourite director, Don Siegel,
who promptly employed him as an assistant. Subsequently he worked in Italy, where he
was assistant director for Castle of the Living Dead with Christopher Lee.[2] and directed
La Sorella di Satana (1965; also called Revenge of the Blood Beast and also known in
Italy as Il Lago di Satana). The films were made very cheaply, but despite this, La
Sorella di Satana was remembered for an appearance by horror icon Barbara Steele, of
whose time Reeves was given only four days. Back in London in 1966, Reeves made
The Sorcerers, starring Boris Karloff, an effective 'swinging London' picture with
supernatural overtones. Both films also starred Ian Ogilvy.

Witchfinder General
It is for his fourth and final movie, Witchfinder General, that Reeves is best
remembered. He was only 24 years old when he co-wrote and directed it, but it is often
called one of the greatest horror films that Britain has produced[citation needed].[3][4] Made on a
very modest budget in East Anglia and adapted from the novel by Ronald Bassett,
Witchfinder General tells the story of Matthew Hopkins, the infamous lawyer-turnedwitchhunter who blackmails and murders his way across the countryside. Reeves
imbues the film with a powerful sense of the impossibility of behaving morally in a
society whose conventions have broken down, and though it is by no means free of the
conventions of low-budget horror, it stands as a notably powerful and evocative film.[5]
Reeves wanted actor Donald Pleasence to play the title role, but American International
Pictures, the film's co-financiers, insisted on using their resident horror star Vincent
Price instead. This caused friction between the veteran actor and the young director. A
famous story is told of how Reeves won Price's respect: Reeves was constantly telling
Price to tone down his over-acting, and to play the role more seriously. Price eventually
cracked, snapping, "Young man, I have made eighty-four films. What have you done?"
Reeves replied: "I've made three good ones." Reeves continued to goad Price into
delivering a vicious and brilliant performance, and only upon seeing the finished film
did the actor realize what the director was up to, at which point Price took steps to bury
the hatchet with Reeves. Witchfinder General was released to mixed reviews, with one
notably savage notice by Alan Bennett appearing in The Listener, but was soon
reassessed and gained generally favourable reviews.

Michael Reeves died in London a few months after the film's release. After shooting
Witchfinder General he was at work on an adaptation of The Oblong Box but had
difficulties getting projects off the ground and was suffering from depression and
insomnia, for which he took tablets and received a variety of treatments from medical
and psychiatric practitioners. On the morning of 11 February 1969, Reeves was found
dead in his bedroom, aged 25, in Cadogan Place, Knightsbridge, by his cleaning lady.
The coroner's report stated that Reeves's death (from a barbiturate overdose) was
accidental, the dosage being too marginal to suggest intention.

Reeves was the director or assistant director for nine films.[6][unreliable source?]

Carrion - c. 1958 director

Down - c. 1958 / 9 director

Intrusion - 1961 director

The Long Ships - 1963 UK / Yugoslavia, assistant director

Castle of the Living Dead - 1964 Italy / France, 2nd assistant director[2][7]

The She Beast / Revenge of the Blood Beast - 1966 UK/Italy/Yugoslavia,

director/ producer

The Sorcerers - 1967 director / producer / screenplay

Witchfinder General - 1968 director / screenplay

The Oblong Box - 1969 (original director)

Slated projects
Some films Reeves was apparently scheduled to direct or for which he was being
considered were The Buttercup Chain and De Sade.[8] Both of these films were
completed with other directors.


Jump up ^ British film directors: a critical guide By Robert Shail. Southern

Illinois University Press. p. 176
^ Jump up to: a b Curti 2015, p. 117.


Jump up ^ "Matthew Hopkins - Witchfinder General | 1968". Retrieved 2014-05-31.


Jump up ^ Showtimes Sat, Oct 26th at 6:30pm Wed, Oct 30th at 8:30pm.
"Witchfinder General". Retrieved 2014-05-31.


Jump up ^ Witchfinder General review


Jump up ^ Reeves, Michael (1944-1969) BFI, accessed 30/10/07


Jump up ^ Curti 2015, p. 114.


Jump up ^ David Pirie, A New Heritage of Horror: The English Gothic

Cinema, I.B. Tauris, 2008.


Curti, Roberto (2015). Italian Gothic Horror Films, 1957-1969. McFarland.

ISBN 1476619891.

External links

Michael Reeves at the Internet Movie Database

BFI, Michael Reeves

BFI, Witchfinder General, review

Guardian Unlimited, Michael Reeves: Witchfinder General review

Retrieved from "


English film directors

English screenwriters

1943 births

1969 deaths

Drug-related deaths in England

Accidental deaths in England

People from Sutton, London

People educated at Radley College

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