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HTF REVIEW: The Witch Who Came From the Sea (1 Viewer)

Michael Elliott

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The Witch Who Came From the Sea


:star::star:/:star::star::star::star:




Studio: Subversive
Year: 1976
Rated: R
Film Length: 86 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1)
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono, Dolby Stereo
Subtitles:
Retail Price: $19.95





The Witch Who Came From the Sea isn’t a seaside horror film like the title would suggest but another film in the long line of rape/revenge thrillers that was released throughout the 1970s. Unlike most of these low budget efforts, this film featured a somewhat respectable actress in Millie Perkins who received an Academy Award nomination for her role in The Diary of Anne Frank. The screenplay was written by Robert Thom who was making waves with Death Race 2000 and Wild in the Streets. Also of interest is that John Carpenter’s future cinematograher, Dean Cundey go his start right here with this film, which is finally being released uncut and widescreen after years of P&S releases.

Molly (Millie Perkins) is a troubled young woman who spends most of her time taking walks on the beach with her two young nephews. Molly was sexually abused by her sea captain father when she was young but she continues to talk highly of him. He was lost at sea but she tells stories of the day he will return and take her out to sea where she can be with mermaids and other creatures of the sea. Molly works in a bar where she meets various men including idols such as actors and football players. Soon, these men are found dead with their bodies mutilated. Is this a strange fantasy from Molly’s abused mind or is she actually the one doing the killings?

The Witch Who Came From the Sea has a rather strong cult following and a nice reputation but it’s a film not too many people have seen. In fact, after viewing the film I’m sure the majority of the film’s notoriety comes from the strange title rather than what the film offers. This is a cheaply made exploitation film that really doesn’t set itself apart from any of film of its type and I was rather shocked to see that the film was threatened with an “X” rating because not even the violence is very strong.

The biggest problem with the film is its screenplay, which tries to do something poetic but falls flat on its face in nearly every scene. For some strange reason, this exploitation film tries to take itself way too serious and appear to actually try and address incest and sexual abuse but the screenplay never captures any spirit or truthfulness that will make the viewer feel for Molly. The character is written as a weirdo and not once do we actually feel sorry for her or actually care about what she’s doing.

The story is also poorly constructed and never really makes sense, especially all the stuff dealing with the father returning from the sea. We are told many different things but the screenplay never backs anything up. We are given various insights to Molly yet once again, the screenplay never answers anything and in fact, we never even learn why Molly is killing all of these men to begin with. The film moves at a snails pace and never really gains any interests, although I’m sure most viewers will hang in there until the end. Why? Because this is the type of movie that you’ll watch and wait for something to happen only to be letdown when nothing actually happens.

With the story completely out the window you’d expect the film to deliver in the violence/gore section but again, the film even fails on that level. Again, I have a hard time believing this film would be threatened with an “X” rating, although the director constantly states this in the commentary. Perhaps this is just hype built around a film that not too many have actually seen. The violence for the most part is handled off screen, although it’s quite clear that the woman is mutilating men’s private parts. This here was handled much better in Last House on the Left and I Spit On Your Grave and those two films handle the shock value a lot better.

In the end I couldn’t help but be really letdown by this film. I’m sure some might like it’s dreamlike qualities but to me, the film doesn’t offer anything that other exploitation films offers better. The movie tries to be something more dramatic and serious but in the end The Witch Who Came From the Sea is an exploitation film that forgot to be exploitive.


VIDEO---The film is shown widescreen (2.35:1) and is enhanced for 16x9 TVs. It’s hard to judge the quality of a film like this because you’ve got to consider how the film was originally shot. With that in mind, the transfer looks very good, although there are a few minor problems, which are to be expected. The film has a very natural look and like many films from this era, colors aren’t really brought out and instead we’ve got a mostly bright picture full of natural lighting. This here doesn’t make for a transfer to show off your theater but it’s still nice. There are a few speckles and scratches on the print but overall I was quite happy with it. At the start of the disc there’s a comparison between this and the VHS, which shows how much better the DVD looks. This is a very good transfer considering what they had to work with.

AUDIO---We get the original Dolby Digital Mono track as well as a remixed Stereo track. I compared both tracks and really didn’t notice too much of a difference except in the score, which is a bit more punched up during the Stereo track. Other than that there really isn’t too much of a difference. The dialogue to both tracks is clear throughout, although the voices are always a bit too low but I suspect this is due to how the film was shot and doesn’t represent a problem with the DVD. While the volume is low throughout, this never takes away from the film since the dialogue, score and music effects are still clear.

EXTRAS---We start off with the back jacket of the case featuring a description and notes by Video Watchdog’s Tim Lucas, which are up there with his normal high standards. We also get small bios about Matt Climber, Millie Perkins and Dean Cundey, which are well written and somewhat interesting. Next up is a theatrical trailer as well as two trailers for Living Hell as well as trailers for upcoming releases Gemini and Battlefield Baseball. Up next is a 35-minute documentary, which takes a look at the making of the film as well as the cult following that has came to the film. This documentary is divided into 8 section each with their own chapter stop, which is a great thing to have. This documentary features interviews with the director, Perkins and Dean Cundey. We learn how the film was first brought to their attention and every little detail about the actual filming. The best part of the documentary is a small section devoted to DVD and how its impact has helped this smaller titles. Cundey talks about the importance of OAR while the director is clearly tickled to be able to talk about his films so many years after their original release.

The highlight of the extra section is certainly the audio commentary with cinematographer Cundey, director Cimber and actress Perkins. If you’re a fan of the film then you’ll certainly be happy with this track because the three people never for a minute stop talking. Although they’re constantly talking it seems none of them are too familiar with the film since they are constantly messing up bits of information like when the film was released and other minor things. The director goes into great detail about the making of the film and also talks about the fight with the MPAA over the violence in the film. It appears he never had to cut any violence but during several scenes he says “they filmed more”. Perkins also comes off very refreshing and does a nice job talking about her husband and telling various stories including a great one involving movie critic Rex Reed who she sat next to in a theater while he was making fun of one of her husband’s films.

As an added bonus, as the disc starts up we get to view the opening credits of the film, shown P&S and looking horrid and then it shows how this scene now looks thanks to this OAR DVD. I always enjoy these comparison things and here’s a good way to show people what’s so bad with P&S releases.

OVERALL---I personally didn’t care too much for the film but it does have its cult following and I’m sure this release will probably earn it a few more fans. As far as the DVD goes, it’s certainly one of the best releases of the year and Subversive has now put themselves up with the big boys like Synapse, Blue Underground and Anchor Bay. The transfer and sound are very good and who would have ever expected this many extras for a film like this?


Release Date: December 7, 2004
 

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