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Even though she had a nervous breakdown due to tribal warfare mixed
with back magic during her stay in Africa, siblings Alan (Alan McCowen)
& Stephanie Bax (Kay Walsh) gladly accept Gwen Mayfield (Joan
Fontaine) as the new headmaster of their private school in the rural
British village Heggaby.
But it is not before long that Gwen notices a
few things are not quite alright in Heggaby - for one, Alan Bax likes to
dress & act like a priest, even though he is not, and the whole
village is desperate to keep two 13-year-old lovers, Linda Rigg (Ingrid
Brett) & Ronnie (Martin Stephens) apart for no apparent reason.
After Ronnie's escape from the town & his father's violent death
Gwen starts suspecting witchcraft - with Linda's granny (Gwen Ffragcon-Davies)
as the head witch - & she seems to have gotten too close to the truth as the same night
she is scared witless by a demon who previously came
after her in Africa. When she awakes the next day in doctor Wallis'
(Leonard Rossiter) clinic, she seems to suffer from total amnesia, &
the doctor does little to retrigger her memory, in fact keeping everyone
who could remind her of her past life safely away from her.
So, when she finds
her memory again, Gwen keeps it a secret & escapes from the asylum,
back to Heggaby. When she arives at the Bax's manor though, she finds
doctor Wallis already waiting for her, eager to take her back, but she
also finds an ally in Stephanie Bax, who insists on her staying,
reconvalescent or not. Unfortunately that night Stephanie turns out to
be the head of Heggaby's witches' coven, who wants to take over Linda's
juvenile body to live another lifespan, & she wants to win Gwen over
for her cause. Gwen, though disagreeing, sees little chance to stop
Stephanie's evil plans though & has to watch the ceremony in which
Linda is to be sacrificed helplessly.
That is, until the last minute,
when Gwen cuts her own wrist, spilling blood on the sacrificial table
& spoiling it for the ceremony. Stephanie dies in shock while the
rest of Heggaby's witches come to their senses ... & Gwen stays
respected headmistress of her school.
Though the main
villainess as well as the means to stop her are given away way too soon,
this is an interesting supernatural mystery, done with great care in
best Hammer house-style, & it does offer more than the usual
number of plottwists & turns without descending to the ridiculous. A
completely enjoyable movie.