1685, at a time when King James II & William of Orange fought for
the throne of Britain: At this time, Lord Chief Justice Jeffreys
(Christopher Lee), loyal to King James, ruled the West of England with
terror, torturing, killing & burning people as witches like nobody's
business, mostly innocent commoners whom he deemed guilty by suspicion.
Innocent people like Alicia (Margaret Lee), whose only fault it was to be
caught with the wrong man at the wrong time.
Her sister Mary (Maria Rohm) even pleads for her, but when Jeffreys
asks for sexual favours in exchange for her sister, she is shocked &
refuses ... & thus Alicia is burned.
Later, Jeffreys finds out that Mary has a relationship with Harry (Hans
Hass jr), the son of the Earl of Wessex (Leo Genn), who despite
being a King's loyalist (or so one thinks) has long been a thorne in the
side of Jeffreys. So Jeffreys decides to accuse Mary of being a witch,
and, under the pretencethat he suspects Harry of being bewitched, arrests
hjim too. Even when Wessex presents him with a letter of pardon for his
son, Jeffreys remains unimpressed, claiming the letter is merely a
In prison, Harry & Mary & especially their fellow prisoners,
have to undergo the most brutal of tortures ... until Jeffreys gets horny
again & promises Mary to set her lover free in exchange for sexual
favours. But after sex, he seems to have somehow mislaid his noble
Ultimately, Harry can organize a prisoners' revolt, that ends in the
chief guard Satchel (Milo Quesada) being eaten alive, & when they have
at last made it out of prison, they realize that William of Orange has
already conquered the throne, with the help of none other than the Earl of
King james II has fled the country, & suggests that Jeffreys, whom
he has just made Lord Chancellor, to do the same - but self-righteous
Jeffreys sees himself as a mere servant of the law, whom nobody can harm.
In the end, he sits imprisoned in the Tower & from his window sees
Jack Ketch (Howard Vernon), once his own faithful executioner, hang a man
... & Jeffreys knows he is next, when a merciful heart attack saves
him from the gallows ... but not from death ...
After the incredible success of Witchfinder
General, producer Harry Alan Towers (like many others) decided to
jump the bandwagon, & chose the historical Judge Jeffreys - even in
his time dubbed the Bloody Judge - as cut-out material for his
film. True, Jeffreys never did burn people as witches in real life, but
behaviour as judge was at least as arbitrary as that of a genuine
witchhunter (truth to be told, the references to witchhunting in the film
do not quite fit in with the rest of the story, even if one has never
heard of the historical figure).
The film marks one of the few occasions where Jess Franco did have
sufficient money, excellent actors & impressive sets (historic
Portuguese buildings admirably doubling for 17th century Britain) for a
film ... & Bloody Judge really proves to be a well-crafted
violent historical drama - but the film falls between a few too many
stools (which Jess franco later himself remarked in an interview): It
tries to be historical drama, torture travelogue, horror film & erotic
cinema all at the same time, with different versions for different
countries always emphasizing more on one aspect or the other. Also large
portions of the film look rather impersonal, like ready-made historical
drama, only in a few erotic scenes does Franco's real genius away from the
mainstream really shine through.