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The Witchmaker (1969)

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  • The Witchmaker (1969)

    Title The Witchmaker
    Year 1969
    Rated M
    Released 01 May 1969
    Runtime 99 min
    Director William O. Brown
    Writer William O. Brown
    Actors Anthony Eisley, Thordis Brandt, Alvy Moore, John Lodge
    Plot A psychic researcher and his assistants investigate a series of murders of beautiful young women.
    Language English
    Country USA
    Awards N/A
    Production Arrow Film Associates
    Website N/A
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    People hyping up latest comic book movie to be the GOAT and I'm like "psshh, you guys must not have seen Bigfoot rip off a man's dick before in 1980's Night of the Demon."

  • #2

    The recent viewing of this was via Code Red's BD. Compared to the DVD (used for screen caps), it's a step up in presentation. It isn't as dark for one and the colors seem to pop through better. The DVD is certainly watchable, but go for the BD if you can.

    Like the description states, a professor brings along his assistant, three students, and some guy whose job is to complain about everything out into the swamps of Louisiana to research witchcraft. It's probably not a good idea for a professor to engage in such a dangerous field trip and endanger the lives of his students, but he takes the idiot award to new heights. The area they're investigating not only has a history of witches, but has had a string of unsolved murders. When this fact is brought up to the professor, his response is to shrug it off because the last murder was six months ago. It's only been a half of a year and that's enough time to assume any crazed lunatic roaming the deadly landscape full of bogs, critters, and quick sand has probably moved on and the area is secure? The professor is played by Alvy Moore of TV's Green Acres so maybe viewers are to assume he's playing his TV counterpart, Mr. Kimball, and really is that absentminded. If you check out Moore's filmography, he's been in a few horror movies. In addition to The Witchmaker, he pops up in The Brotherhood of Satan (another L.Q. Jones movie), 1981's Scream, and Mortuary. He really wanted to go against type.

    The professor's poor decision skills aside, this movie works well in generating an isolated atmosphere in which college students are cut off from help as they hold up inside of a cabin out in the middle of nowhere while supernatural shenanigans occur. It's similar to The Evil Dead. Even the victims are buried near the cabin, complete with their own makeshift cross. The likeness between the two movies is so close that it makes me wonder if Sam Raimi had been aware of this. It's doubtful and the other portions of the movie make it even less likely.

    Everything in the cabin or the swamp involving the victims is good stuff. What I don't care is the choice to spend nearly as much time on the antagonist--Luther the Berserk. Yes, that's his name. Some really big guy that could body slam a tree happens to be a witch that torments the good folk. At first, it's just because he's a dick and kills anyone in the area. Then he sets his eyes on Anastasia, one of the students who is a psychic medium of sorts due to her grandmother being a witch, and decides he must bring her into the coven. Not that the coven is close by. They're scattered around the world, but are scheduled to show up at Luther's psychedelic pad in a few days for Candlemass Eve. It's an entire gang of goofy witches, each with their own distinct names and wardrobes. It reminds of the monsters in Neon Maniacs except the witches act more like your drunken relatives who come over on Thanksgiving. They show up, eat some food, dance, and make out for fifteen excruciating minutes before the plot decides to kick in again. That's the biggest flaw in The Witchmaker. The witches themselves suck the life out of the story! Every so often, the focus changes from the survivors to Luther and his pals. Luther's the worst of the time wasters. He spends his screen presence talking about what's going to do in future scenes. C'mon, just go do it! Surprise me instead of telegraphing it. The cutaways to Luther remind me of the gods in Jason and the Argonauts. The story mostly focuses on Jason and his crew, but there are moments when it changes to the gods who comment on what happened and say something cryptic about future events. However, their scenes are brief and to the point. Luther likes to take his sweet time. When he gets down to business, he uses magic to raise one of the dead students to torment the group and magically teleports (or maybe he walks through the front door. I don't know, the lights go out so who knows) into the cabin and lays the smack down on everybody.

    Luther suffers from villain superiority syndrome yet you wouldn't guess it by how fast he brutalizes a victim in the opening scene. A random girl swims around in a watering hole out in the swamp, comes out, changes, and Luther the Berserk lives up to his name. There's a hard cut where he rips her shirt open so it's not graphic. The movie is filled with ways to get around nudity. The psychic girl, Anastasia, runs away from Luther while she's topless yet makes sure he doesn't get a peak of her chest. It's so blatant that it's almost comical considering she's running for her life. Another moment involves careful placement of the actress, foreground objects, and the camera. ​​

    As cute at Anastasia (portrayed by Thordis Brandt) is, what first drew me to The Witchmaker is that it's one of three films Patricia Wymer did. It also happens to be the movie that has the least amount of her. After you watch The Babysitter and The Young Graduates, this is all that's left. She gets one line of solo dialogue and another in a group chant. If you're into 60s or early 70's witchcraft movies with half of the movie resembling The Evil Dead and the other half looking like something out of Roger Corman / Poe movies of the timewith its multicolored witch crypt that Luther calls home, it's worth a viewing. For Patricia Wymer fans, it's no Babysitter. You may be better off looking for her in the background of the video where Leonard Nimoy sings about Bilbo Baggins.
    People hyping up latest comic book movie to be the GOAT and I'm like "psshh, you guys must not have seen Bigfoot rip off a man's dick before in 1980's Night of the Demon."