Friday, January 31, 2014

The Witch Who Came From The Sea (1976)

When looking for a new film to watch, certain titles seem to leap out and grab you. A cool title plus some really good artwork are grade A attention grabbers when perusing the shelves at a video store (if there are any left in your area) or online. “The Witch Who Came From The Sea” certainly meets that criteria. 

The poster art and subsequent VHS/DVD cover art is a masterpiece. A bit of a copy of one of Frazetta’s paintings but that is beside the point. The point is, is that it completely sucks you in and you think oh I have to see this! Do you “have” to see it? Not really unless you like psychological horror films whose story has really nothing to do with Witches or decapitated heads. The “sea” part, okay well that’s in there so director Matt Cimber gets points for that. 

"Hey kid my eyes are up here okay?"
Molly (Millie Perkins) is a woman dealing with some serious mental issues. She entertains her two young nephews with stories about her seafaring father. Molly seems obsessed with her father and gets very offended when her sister points out his flaw of being a drunkard. Molly is also obsessed with good looking men that she sees on the television. In one early scene Molly ogles several men on the beach while they work out. Her fantasies become violent however which seems to leave Molly a little confused and a bit bewildered. 

Bedtime and razor blades....not a good mix.
Molly takes her fantasy to another level by seducing two young football players in a hotel room. She ties them up to the bed to have her way with them but it quickly turns into a blood bath. The scene is well shot with Dean Cundey’s cinematography being used to its advantage. The tension builds and builds as one of the men realizes how things are going to end. Thankfully (maybe?) his friend has passed out and is unaware of the carnage taking place just inches away from him.

After the murders in the hotel, we begin to learn more about Molly. Molly is a waitress in a bar located by the sea. She sleeps with the owner, Long John (Lonny Chapman) on a regular basis and there is a bond between them that isn’t really a romantic relationship but sort of teeters on the edge. Molly continues to obsess over the male form and turns her attention to a television commercial actor. She gets to meet him through an associate of Long John and forms a relationship with him. As with the other two men Molly again gets violent and in another well shot and somewhat gruesome scene, this new obsession is left to die. 

"So you want Hello Kitty with a dagger? ok."
An interesting part of Molly’s character is the fact that it’s never really made clear if she is indeed some type of bewitched woman. She seems to possess some type strength that only shows up when she kills. There are also a few quick flashback type scenes that hint to some weird and tragic event upon what looks like a raft adrift at sea with body parts strewn around a screaming woman. A rather “trippy” early 70’s kind of vibe going on with those quick moments. Is Molly really a witch or just a nutcase?

70's LSD moment
I think what drives this movie is the solid acting by Millie Perkins. She embraces the decent into madness of her character Molly pretty convincingly. This may be a low budget film but it’s one of those that seems to have been over looked for quite some time. In 2004 it found its way onto DVD with a 16X9 film transfer that was overseen by Dean Cundey. For those who might not recognize that name he is the man responsible for the shadowy frights of Halloween (1978) and other John Carpenter films such as The Fog (1980) and The Thing (1982), not to mention his work in big Hollywood productions such as Back to the Future parts II and III (1989, 1990). His directing is very telling in this movie and if you take a good look at his early work such as the Halloween films, you can really see it in The Witch Who Came From The Sea.

This movie is kind of like a traffic accident and I don’t mean that as an insult. It’s like driving by the scene of two mangled cars and you slow down to watch the paramedics load a victim of the wreck into the ambulance. The scene grabs you and you can’t look away. That’s the way this film grabbed me. It wasn’t spell bounding by any means but it really keeps your interest. Either that or I am just a sucker for these types of psychological flicks…….which I am so there.

Ah the good ole Uni VHS release. Nice sea foam green!
Subversive Cinema released this film onto DVD in a Special Edition that includes extras such as commentary tracks from director Matt Cimber, Millie Perkins and Dean Cundey. It also includes a documentary entitled “A Maiden’s voyage”.  When you think about it, that’s pretty cool considering this title is one of those cult titles that really has been gathering dust on the shelves of obscurity. So this film has a great title and some killer artwork so does that formula equal to a great film? For me yeah this one worked. Although I have to say that the artwork really threw me. I was totally expecting some 70’s Spanish horror to be honest, especially since Unicorn Video (the old VHS label it was released on) carried a vast amount of titles from that neck of the world. Completely surprised to see familiar names and faces when finally getting a chance to see it.

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