|Would you trust this woman?|
|A nicely framed shot from director Seth Holt.|
In their book Hammer Films: An Exhaustive Filmography, authors Tom Johnson and Deborah Del Veechio claim Ms. Davis "gave what is probably the best performance by an actress in a Hammer film." I wouldn't go that far (Martita Hunt in Brides of Dracula springs to mind immediately). However, Bette convincingly makes the viewer question whether Nanny will be the heroine or the villain. She battled the flu--and director Seth Holt--throughout much of the production. Oddly, she was not the first choice for the role. Writer-producer Jimmy Sangster first met with Greer Garson, but could not convince her to take the part.
Screenwriter Nigel Kneale was one of the most important British television writers of the 1950s and 1960s, his best known works being the Quatermass miniseries and films. His adaptation of Norah Lofts' novel The Devil's Own is ambitious, but also unsatisfying. The opening scenes work well enough and establish a nice sense of unease. One character who is introduced as a clergyman later reveals that he likes to dress that way because it makes him "feel secure." However, the plot grows sillier as it progresses and climaxes in a ludicrous (and lengthy) pagan orgy. The existence of pagan rituals amid modern society is a theme that Kneale would explore later and more effectively in the Quatermass miniseries (1979).
|What's on Kay Walsh's head?|
I've probably made The Witches sound worse than it is. It's a respectable Hammer effort, but you're far better off watching Bette Davis in The Nanny.