Wednesday, August 31, 2016
The Naked Witch (1964)
It's easy enough to see every inch of someone nude in crystal clarity nowadays, thanks to the internet, but back in the 60's, if you wanted to see a naked woman, you'd either have to get married, or watch a low-quality super softcore skin flick in a seedy theatre filled with Travis Bickle types, and religious fundamentalist nutjobs who decree what you're watching as sinful, yet are, without fail, always in these theatres watching these movies. Enter Larry Buchanan's The Naked Witch, bearer of a much more enticing title than it in any way deserves...
A college student is working on as essay about customs and superstitions in the German settlement of Luckenback, Texas, and comes across the story of a witch. He finds he grave, and disturbs it, bringing the vengeful witch back to life, and on a bloodthirsty rampage...
The Naked Witch starts off with almost 10 minutes of what's pretty much a history lecture, albeit extremely inaccurate, told over Heironymous Bosch paintings that he apparently misinterprets, too.
Once that narration ends, another begins, and the remaining 50 minutes (yes, really) are from the point-of-view of a college student, who's got to be one of the worst protagonists in an horror movie ever! To start with, his priorities are just messed up, like when he gets the book on the Luckenbach Witch from the likable innkeeper's daughter Kirska, who's in a black nightie and clearly coming onto him. Dude, an extremely horny hot chick wants to bang you-Forget about researching witches! Also, what kind of psycho digs up graves in the plight of college research? Jesus! Your midterm paper is not that important. Getting into the big stuff, he's a massive dick! He starts off pretty unlikeable already, clearly going to break the confidence of those who help him but then he goes ahead and digs up the grave of someone, and tampers with their corpse! This of course resurrects the witch, and she goes on a killing spree against the Schoennig family, killing them all besides Kirska. All through this, the lead's narrating about how he wanted to tell the townspeople of his involvement in this horror, but 'just couldn't' Eventually he goes to hunt down the witch, but upon finding her, he elects to watch her skinny dip, then they have sex. She proceeds to hunt down her last remaining victim, and three minutes before the end of the movie, the dude's still snoozing after banging the witch he was meant to kill! Only in the last few seconds does he save Kirska...Save her from the problem that he caused! The reason why her entire family is now dead. I bet she immediately buried him alive with a few water moccasins following the events of the film! To finish, I also kept yelling "Stop referring to women as creatures!" at the screen. Overall, this guy is so dreadful that it's actually quite amusing viewing him as an unreliable narrator, who's meant to be awful, and laughed/booed. That's of course not the case, and it's just bad writing to blame, but it does make the story more fun if you view it that way!
The Naked Witch is extremely guilty of breaking the 'Show, don't tell' rule. The majority of dialogue is narration, and it's really only when Kirska is talking that we get any proper conversations. It's clear the filmmakers were able to have dialogue and sound, yet they chose to do what Doris Wishman did with A Night to Dismember, even though that movie had a very good reason for it's constant narration and lack of much dialogue (that being soundtrack vandalism and destruction). The most egregious moment is when a character calls out "Kirska", then the lead's narration immediately says "Her name was Kirska". WE KNOW! What acting we do hear doesn't exactly impress either.
Now, this movie may be bad, but what about the good stuff, you ask? The nudity!...Sadly disappointing. When we first see the titular witch running around nude, she's strategically hidden by various objects, or camera shadows. Later on, in a skinny dipping scene, we see some boobs from afar, then a few closer shots, but that's it. And the quality's so low and lighting so poor that the actress might as well be wearing clothing for all we can tell.
The title is also a lie in more ways than one! The movie may open with a lecture on witches, but then the movie goes ahead and ignores all of that, instead making the so-called witch an innocent women who was persecuted and murdered by an evil cockhead. I suppose she must've become a witch in the interim of her death and resurrection? Assuming she even is a witch at all, but there's nothing to suggest that besides the title. Whatever the case, she certainly has every right to be pissed off at the town! And she's certainly more likable than the useless lead, that's for sure.
It's this aspect to The Naked Witch where it actually threatens to be interesting! Despite being a horror movie about a witch, the flashback plainly shows a corrupt magistrate accusing an innocent woman of being a witch simply because the truth is inconvenient for him. Man, most horror B-pictures just go the easy route of 'They were witches the whole time!', not often admitting to the fact that they were innocent victims of a corrupt, borderline fascist government. A somewhat interesting line is when the lead talks to Kirska about his thesis, all about how old fashioned and deadly/paranoid fears of things like witchcraft have been replaced with ideas such as nationalism and racism. A shame the movie isn't good enough to support this, but hey, it tries!
The effects are mostly lousy and unconvincing. The old corpse of the witch looks fake, like it's just a rubber mask placed in the dirt, but kinda neat. The effect when the student removes the stake from its body though, not so much. I've always found the folklore that say a vampire/witch/etc. can be brought back to life by removing the stake from its heart to be stupid-How the heck do you literally unkill something? It's DEAD. Finito! It's like resurrecting someone you shot by removing the bullet from their head! I could accept it for this movie though...What I can't accept is when the body's so rotted away, there's nothing the stake is even in anymore! The lead just picks the darn thing up! The staking at the end is pretty bad too, though the shot of the witch with the implement poking out of her is better handled.
Other little oddities about the movie are the set that's the same in an 1860's flashback as it is in the modern day, or how the townspeople are conspicuously absent throughout the film. The witch isn't even doing that great a job of hiding herself, what with skinny dipping, and running around the town in broad daylight, yet no-one notices her! And finally, the witch has a little motto when killing her victims, saying 'one by water' and 'one by fire' respectively, but she stabs both of them! And in the case of the latter, that's all she does! "One by fire!", she says as she stabs the guy with a stake, and leaves him to die where he sits, rather noticeably not alight.
The direction in The Naked Witch is bad! Full of simple, yet crippling mistakes, like holding on the silent person's face too long in a conversation before cutting back to the one speaking, for example. Asides from stuff like that, it's barely serviceable.
The score isn't terrible, but not exactly thrilling either. It's completely unremarkable.
The Naked Witch is not a good movie by any means, not even as a skin flick! It's so not worth watching, despite it's short 59 minute runtime!...