Monday, October 6, 2008
THE VIRGIN WITCH (1972) d. Ray Austin
Reviewed by Tracy Hook
THE VIRGIN WITCH engages us with the story of two beautiful sisters, Betty and Christina who are starting their adult lives. They are both somewhat naive about sexuality and sexual behavior. This will all change by the end of the film of course, or we would have a pretty tame story to observe. The film explores the loss of sexual innocence and the emotional changes a woman has after that loss. The film uses witchcraft symbolism to represent this issue or the director wanted to make a skin flick. Take your pick.
Christina finds an "advert", as the British say, for a modeling agency that is quite famous. Christina in her naive excitement applies for the job and enters a new world full of expectations. (Mainly the expectation of showing her bare breasts at verbal command). Christina is ready and willing to enter this world of sexuality and, as we see later, of witchcraft, but Betty on the other hand is reluctant throughout the film to follow Christina's lead.
Christina meets Sybil Waite, the modeling agent and aging lesbian. Sybil is impressed in several ways with Christina and invites her for a working weekend to the English countryside: a place called Wytch World. Very subtle! Christina brings Betty, her sister for company, but encounters other company like the sexy senior doctor, Peter the pervert photographer, and the nameless maid. At Wytch World, Christina falls into a downward spiral of witchcraft, sex, and nude photography in the forest. Betty, on the other hand is a reluctant virgin who runs away at the mere thought of penetration. In one scene, Betty runs away from an "old age pensioner" with his hunting rifle exposed. (I'm not implying anything he really did have a rifle.) Betty is scared of the look in the geezer's eye who obviously has one thing on his mind. The scene is comical and others are as well with their not so subtle references to the Bible and Fairy Tales. (Read the book of Genesis and Snow White before watching this film).
The film explores the societies views on female sexuality. It seems according to THE VIRGIN WITCH, there's two paths to go: become an evil slut or run away like a scared bunny rabbit at the mere sight of an erection. Betty keeps running until she falls literally face down. The film also explores the aging process of women. Sybil who is older than the girls, perhaps 40ish, is shown as a wicked witch who is jealous of Christina's beauty. But Sybil wants to possess and control her. Sybil is a reminder of the wicked stepmother witch in Snow White. There is some wonderful imagery of Sybil's photograph which is similar to the infamous mirror, mirror on the wall.
THE VIRGIN WITCH was my first experience with a true explotation film from Britian. I've seen most of the Hammer and Amicus films which are pretty tame for the over thirteen set. The Hammer films in my mind were very British: polite, but a little bit cheeky at times. They show a little cleavage but THE VIRGIN WITCH shows the whole thing.
The film has a continental European feel. Plenty of nudity, lack of sexual inhibitions and lots of people staring at each other with penetrating eyes. The Euro feel is reinforced by the obvious influence from Mario Bava. Beautiful bright colors are used during the magical scenes that is reminiscent of Bava. The ceremonial mask used is also very similar to the mask in BLACK SUNDAY and Anne Michelle looks very much like a young Barbara Steele (..so beautiful.... I hate them both!)
I recomend this film for the over thirteen set. If you love nudity, you'll see plenty, but not full frontal...sorry boys. (Put away your hunting rifles). If you also love sweet revenge and watching skinny old men dance naked before the ceremonial fires of the Sabbat then you will love THE VIRGIN WITCH.
Redemption has hypnotized me once again. They have always done a superb job at restoring films that have to be restored. These films are part of film history. How could anyone live without a film like NUDE FOR SATAN in their collection? Buy that and THE VIRGIN WITCH now.