Iö Evohe, everybody! Witches have a long cinematic history that while awesome, has almost nothing to do with contemporary witches, Pagans or Wiccans. However, as fun as Solstice parades and Coven potlucks can be, I still am awful fond of cinematic witchery, inaccurate as it might be.
So let’s take a look and hopefully entertain people sitting in The Lords of Salem rush line outside of Ryerson tonight.
|Who doesn’t want to worship Benjamin Christensen?|
Benjamin Christensen’s 1922 Häxan / The Witches / Witchcraft through the Middle Ages is based on Heinrich Kramer’s 1487 guide to Inquisiting witches, Malleus Maleficiarum / The Hammer of the Witches. Christensen’s work is a tour-de-force that sympathizes with the accused, and he makes a great Devil and is a lot more fun than Roger Corman’s movie dealing with much the same material, The Conqueror Worm/The Witch-finder General (1968). It’s ostensibly based on an Edgar Allen Poe poem, but really Vincent Price hunts witches, extort innocent people and sexually assaults ladies ’cause he can.
|Witchfinder Matthew Hopkins ponders his next dick move.|
In 70s and 80s movies, bored women often became witches. One of my favorites, Daughters of Satan (1972), stars a very young Tom Selleck, before he was even Tom Selleck. But he doesn’t have much of a character so I spend all my time thinking, “Holy Cats, that’s Tom Selleck being chased by a doberman Hell Hound!”
It also has one of my favorite mid-Twentieth Century motifs–the ancestral portrait that eventually possesses whoever it resembles.
Burn, Witch, Burn is earlier and the witchy bored wife is helping her husband sort of like if I Married A Witch (1942) were horror, serious and British. Okay, nothing like I Married A Witch.
In Bell, Book and Candle, somehow Jack Lemmon is a witch. And falling in love means giving up your powers–and a cat with the excellent name of Piewacket. Which is disappointing and leads to Bewitched.
Of course, Kramer and other agents of the Inquisition should probably be more concerned about the mess they made for future generations by persecuting witches.
In Black Sunday and The Devil’s Rain tortured and executed witches return to take their revenge. Barbara Steele is amazing as always and the cast of The Devil’s Rain is unbelievable.
More ancient witches want revenge in Dario Argento’s Three Mothers Trilogy: Suspiria (1977), Inferno (1980) and Mother of Tears, which showed at Midnight Madness 2007. I have a suspicion that Argento’s movies influenced the Rev. Rob Zombie more than Bell, Book and Candle.
I always wonder why people don’t apologize and offer them stuff, like maybe flowers and a sympathy card: “Sorry our ancestors tortured and killed you!” Maybe someone will try in The Lords of Salem or even in the Vanguard programme film, Here comes The Devil.
(The post originally appeared on the Midnight Madness Program Blog)