Written by: John White on February 15th, 2006
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1966
Director: Damiani Damiano
Cast: Richard Johnson, Rosanna Schiaffino, Gian Maria Volontè, Sarah Ferrati
DVD released: October 4th 2005
Approximate running time: 110 mins
Aspect Ratio: 4:3
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono
DVD Release: Sinema Diable/Eclectic DVD
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $12.95
Sergio is a philandering scholar whose carefree love life is disturbed when he sees an older woman, Consuelo, who seems to be following him. On chasing her he notices she is carrying a newspaper and finds out from a news seller that she was interested in a job advert for a librarian. When he reads the advert the description so describes him that he is intrigued and arranges to see the lady. He is convinced that she is after him as a toy boy but his doubts subside when he is introduced to her gorgeous daughter, Aura. First he needs to dispense with the services of the current librarian, Fabrizio, who is equally in Aura’s thrall. Once he succeeds he begins to suspect that all is not as it seems and starts to understand Fabrizio’s madness as he begins to be convinced that he too will be replaced.
The Witch is a very ambitious tale from Damiano Damiani adapted from a novel by Carlos Fuentes. Damiani is well known for his spaghetti westerns, A Bullet for the General and Nobody is the Greatest but this is a different beast altogether. The Witch is a tale of erotic misadventure where Sergio is taken into the spider’s web of Consuelo and Aura and unwittingly finds himself first as an assassin and secondly as the next victim. The Witch is deliberately enigmatic and slow paced and reminds me a little of Kafka’s The Trial in Sergio’s descent into lust then almost into madness.
Richard Johnson is the lothario who loses his senses when he first sees Aura and whose initial misgivings prove correct, Gian Maria Volonte is all mad eyes as the lost jealous Fabrizio and Rosanna Schiaffino is the object of obsession. The film’s languorous pace allows for plenty of erotic endeavour and these scenes are both unnerving and sexy, when Aura and Consuelo begin to dance the viewer is first aroused and then disgusted.
In the end this is a tale of lust, labyrinths and bewitchment. Reassuringly literate and intelligent, creepy rather than scary, and an original piece overall. The Witch is rather good.
The DVD is transferred from a rather aged print with lots of scratches and an overall faded look. The transfer is a full frame affair which suits such a claustrophobic piece as this and is surprisingly sharp given the faded nature of the print.
The sound is dull and shows some crackling at times. The audio is an English dub and it doesn’t seem to be Johnson’s voice.
The disc is a barebones affair.
Overall this film will appeal to literate film fans. It is cultish enough to suspect that further DVD releases are unlikely so if this sounds like your cup of tea then this very cheap disc is worth a look.