Hammer House Of Horror Season 1 Episode 1 Witching Time

Hammer Film Productions had become the kings of horror with their Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing movies reviving classic monsters like Dracula and the Mummy. By 1980 though, times had changed and a different kind of horror movie had taken over the movie theaters. But Hammer wasn't quite yet done. Hammer House of Horror debuted on September 13, 1980 on Britain's ITV with the episode Witching Time. The episode starred Jon Finch (Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy, The Martian Chronicles, The Horror of Frankenstein), Patricia Quinn (The Lords of Salem, Dr. Who, The Rocky Horror Picture Show), Prunella Gee (Never Say Never Again), and Ian McCulloch (Dr. Who, Moonlighting, Zombie Holocaust).

The story is about David (Finch) who has isolated himself at his country farm to work on the soundtrack of a film featuring his wife. His wife Mary (Gee) is supposed to be there, but she phones to tell him she can't make it because she has to work in town. In reality she is staying because she is sleeping with his friend and doctor, Charles (McCulloch). During a freak storm he goes out to the barn to discover a woman, Lucinda (Quinn), who claims to be a witch who just escaped being burned at the stake by moving herself forward in time. David locks her in a room and calls Charles, who comes out to check on the situation.

Lucinda has vanished when Charles arrives, but David makes it known that he knows his wife is cheating on him but doesn't reveal that he knows it is with Charles. After Charles leaves Lucinda seduces David, and begins a campaign of terror against Mary when she comes home at Charles' request. At first Mary thinks David has gone off the deep end, but soon sees evidence for herself that the witch is more than a figment of his imagination. She is hospitalized after Lucinda spooks her horse, and after getting home from the hospital finds that the reason she isn't getting better is that Lucinda has made a voodoo doll of her.

There is a final showdown with David having become her total slave, locking Mary in the basement and preparing to burn her at the stake. Mary escapes and locks David in the barn, which soon catches flame. There is a moment when it seems like the show may take a note from The Wizard of Oz when Lucinda shows that she is afraid of water (making an earlier scene where she is terrified of the shower make more sense), but when Mary dunks her she doesn't melt but just drowns like any other person. Of course, they hade specifically mentioned earlier in the episode that witches don't drown, so it should come as no shock that once Mary let's David out of the burning barn Lucinda's body has disappeared. But not to worry. David picks up the voodoo doll that Mary had refashioned to be Lucinda during their fight and tosses it onto the fire. With Charles having revealed earlier to Mary that he never had any intention of getting serious with her, and Lucinda's screams coming from the burning voodoo doll, it appears to be a happy ending for the troubled couple.

The story is actually pretty good, and the acting is phenomenal, but the episode does look a little cheap. Still, it's a good story. If anything it's hurt by being compressed into an hour timeslot. It feels like there are certain elements that didn't get expanded as fully as they could have. But it's still a pretty solid hour of entertainment in a genre that normally doesn't fare that well in a television format.


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