Thursday, February 12, 2009

THE WITCH (1966)

I just finished watching Damiano Damiani’s incredible THE WITCH (1966) and I can’t get it out of my mind. It is part pretentious art cinema, part horror film, part character study and all mind fuck. It's not hard to figure out what’s going on pretty quickly but it stays fascinating anyway. Richard Johnson plays a fellow in Rome living a good life flitting from hot girl to hot girl when he becomes aware of an old woman who has been watching him for a few weeks. Trying to speak to her he discovers a newspaper want ad that seems designed specifically for him. Answering the ad he learns the old woman placed it and wants him to both take the job and take up residence in her decaying mansion. But her gorgeous daughter wants him even more. There’s just one catch- he has to help get rid of the guy who had the job before him.

This is an absolutely amazing film! Certainly not to everyone’s taste but I really got pulled into this one. The quiet of the dusty old mansion and the teasing bits of information parceled out piece by piece about the old woman’s age and her desire to fend off the aging process work slowly to bring out the maximum creepiness. And the actress playing the daughter Aura is stunningly beautiful. I could have just watched her dress and undress and been completely entertained – if you know what I mean! I’m sad to say there was no nudity in the film but the shots of her bare back and legs were plenty.

Her name is Rosanna Schiaffino and I don’t think I’ve seen her in anything else. She was apparently in a couple of peplum movies and I’ve heard of TWO WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN but the rest of her resume tells me nothing. Part of what made her so alluring is the nice black & white photography which catches her perfectly and her eyes are worth drowning in. It’s too bad the DVD I watched was a crappy dupe that looked like it was taken from a ragged video tape. I think a better print would be well worth checking out.

Worth a NetFlix rental, anyway.

Note: I've been reliably informed that this film was shot in color! That makes me hate the crappy DVD I watched even more. One day I guess I'll get the chance to see this correctly.

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