Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Burn Witch Burn

(ot Night of the Eagle) UK movie (1961). Independent Artists/Anglo Amalgamated. Pr Albert Fennell. Exec pr Leslie Parkyn, Julian Wintle. Dir Sidney Hayers. Photography Reginald Wyer. Screenplay George Baxt, Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson. Based on Conjure Wife (1943 Unknown; 1953) by Fritz Leiber. Starring Janet Blair (Tansy Taylor), Kathleen Byron (Evelyn Sawtelle), Colin Gordon (Lindsay Carr), Margaret Johnston (Flora Carr), Peter Wyngarde (Norman Taylor). 87 mins. B/w.

The second movie based on the Leiber novel; the first was the very minor Weird Woman (1944). High-flying psychology don Norman discovers his wife Tansy is a Witch; an arch-rationalist, he believes her talk of other faculty members using Black Magic against him is hogwash, and makes her burn all her paraphernalia. But from the next day his career starts to disintegrate, and at last he himself is driven to use a magical Ritual in order to save her life. At the university he confronts a colleague, Flora Carr, who confesses to her own witchcraft and proceeds to burn a house of Tarot cards, saying that, through sympathetic Magic, this is also the Taylors' house, in which Tansy lies sleeping. He flees, but she plays over the public-address system a hexed tape that warps his (and our) Perceptions so that he believes he is being attacked by a statuary eagle. When Carr's husband innocently turns off the tape the Spell is broken, and Tansy is saved from the flames. Foreshadowing Rosemary's Baby (1968), BWB is a wry Satire of intradepartmental politicking but also a tightly constructed Dark Fantasy whose auctorial and directorial brio renders its impossible events quite plausible. [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.