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Eight strangers are invited to spend the night in a penthouse apartment. After being wined and dined, a voice on the radio informs them that they will be murdered unless they manage to outwit the ninth guest: Death.
Roy William Neill
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Italy put out some interesting horror films in the 1960s and, as Italian horror is the best in the genre as far as mood and psychological drama is concerned, The Witch is worth viewing if for no other reason.
Which is not to say it is a masterpiece because it is not. The pacing is a bit slow even by the standards of the time and the English dubbing is in places atrocious. The main character Sergio, played by Richard Johnson, (the only American in the cast), is male chauvinistic to the extreme, but to be fair we must remember that not too many years ago this was thought to be a desirable quality in any self-respecting male. But even with these shortcomings I found this to be a very interesting and disturbing film, as good horror should be. The Witch also benefits from being shot in black and white, something I wish more of today's directors would realize about these types of stories and take advantage of when filming said stories which depend upon dark mood.
Sergio has noticed an old woman (Consuela, played by Sarah Ferrati) who seems to be around him and near all the time and is quite surprised to learn that it was she who placed an ad in the local newspaper for somebody to chronicle her deceased husband's papers, which are quite erotic in nature. Sergio has doubts about this but accepts the job when he meets Consuela's' beautiful daughter Aura, ably portrayed by Rosanna Schiaffino, a dark-haired beauty who reminds somewhat of the great Italian horror actress Barbara Steele. The remainder of the story is the three-sided psychological duel between Aura, Consuela and Sergio. Sergio, very much a man of the world, surrenders his soul and self respect when he murders Aura's current lover in order to win the right to stay in the old woman's house to be near Aura. Only, the old woman has other plans, for she is a witch and can force Aura to come and go at will. For all practical purposes Consuela and Aura are one and the same person, and Consuela has been enamored of the handsome Sergio for a long time.
I won't give the ending away, will say only that Sergio at long last re-asserts himself, hopefully to rebuild the pieces of his broken life. We are led to believe at film's end this is quite possible, probable even.
Some reviewers have stated this is a film about woman hating. I do not agree as the degradation and destruction of Sergio psychologically are the main elements of the story. I would say it is a film about the hatred of men, not women.
You probably won't find this one anywhere although I have been pleased to see a number of obscure films hit the market this year on DVD at very reasonable prices. My VHS copy came from Sinister Cinema. If you do find it, happy viewing. For students of obscure horror films, it is a can't miss.
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