Friday, March 13, 2009

Vamp or Not? The Naked Witch

This was a 1964 feature directed by Claude Alexander and Larry Buchanan and not to be confused with the lost film of the same name, from the same year by cult ‘icon’ Andy Milligan that, ostensibly by the imdb pages, has a similar base story to this.

What I should say at this point is that I really do watch some rubbish on the off chance that they are vampiric in nature. That said I also watch some rubbish that is definitely vampiric in nature so I guess it all balances out!

This came onto my radar for two reasons. Firstly I have seen it on a vampire filmography – though that is an imprecise science as we have seen over the years we have played this ‘Vamp or Not?’ game. Then there was a screenshot I saw that looked, for the world, like a vampire bite in action. It is amazing what you can see into things for, in its place in the film, this was no bite and more a seduction… but we’ll get to that.

I mentioned watching rubbish and this film starts off with the most bizarre narration by Gary Owens, concerning witches. It lasts around 9 minutes (of a 59 minute running time) and is kind of an OTT documentary style spoken over imagery, mainly by Hieronymus Bosch. By the tone and content of the narration it is clear that we are meant to believe that witches were real, that the witch trials were the forces of goodness stopping the tide of evil and that are twentieth century view is the position of ignorance.

Anyway, once the film starts, a student (Robert Short) who is never named is driving to a village in Texas that was founded by German settlers. The villagers still use German as the main language of conversation and have choral festivals. It has to be said that most of the film is narrated by Short, rather than having actual dialogue, and the man’s performance is as wooden as any I have seen.

Anyhoo he runs out of petrol and walks the rest of the way, aware of an ominous feeling. He meets a miller who points the student to the inn (run by his brother) and gets his niece Kirska Schöennig (Jo Maryman) to show him where it is. Kirska informs him he missed the festival (which he wanted to see due to his thesis) and both the Miller and the innkeeper are unwilling to talk of the supernatural (his thesis is actually on the superstitions of the German settlers). Kirska lends him a book that explains all about the widow witch (Libby Hall), however.

It seems that 100 years ago the widow was carrying on with the innkeeper, the Schöennigs forebear, who happened to be married but his wife was invalided. The widow wanted him to leave her and take her away from the place (the villagers were talking and accusing her of being a witch). Schöennig was actually the source of the rumour and he had proclaimed her a witch to the village elders. She was taken, without so much as a trial, to the nearby graveyard and staked, whispering all the time that she would have revenge on all the descendants of Schöennig.

Hold on one moment. Staked? Surely the normal punishment was burning at the stake. Staking, as mentioned, is a thing you do to vampires. Well the student is rather excited about the idea of her being buried nearby (and being somewhat of an unsavory character it has to be said) digs up her grave (which was shallow enough to do with his hands) and uncovers her mummified corpse. The stake is still in her and he pulls it out. So grave robbing and, I guess technically, corpse desecration and all on his first night there.

He legs it back to the inn with his macabre souvenir (what did you get on your trip, Timmy? Mickey Mouse ears? No, momma, I got a stake I pulled out of the corpse of a widow murdered for being, allegedly, a witch). And falls asleep. Meanwhile the witch reforms in that way that is normally reserved for vampires (but with really poor effects) and then sneaks into his room and steals the stake back.

She then goes into Kirska’s room and literally pulls the black nightdress of her back before vanishing into the night. She goes to the mill next and kills the miller, the first of the three remaining Schöennigs to die and she kills him… by stake. The method by which she was killed is her method of revenge. The next day the village elders cut the village off until she is found, they know it is her as the grave is open and the miller is murdered. The student wants to say something but can’t (That’ll be guilt then).

Anyway, after the innkeeper is killed he decides to act. Nice of him that. He works out that there are caves in which she might be hiding and goes there as night is falling. He sees her swimming in a pond and we are treated to what amounts to five minutes worth of naturalist feature as he voyeuristically watches her, the dirty little sod. She realises he is there and leads him to a cave. She disrobes, takes his shirt off and then suddenly she is dressed again and dancing (with underwear suddenly appeared below the black chifon). We then get the scene I mentioned where she looked as though she was biting. No, it was not a bite but actually a seduction, and then she creeps off as he sleeps (presumably sated following acts unseen).

She goes after Kirska and draws the girl out to the graveyard, her power seems to put the young girl into her grave. The student has woken up however, and realising the witches intention, comes a running. The witch falls into her own grave, accidentally staking herself and quick decaying back to mummified version. There you have it. Was she a witch? To me she was a spurned woman back from the grave to get revenge. However, witch or not, was she a vampire?

The staking is curious, killing by stake, reformation after it is removed and dissolution when staked (again) is curiously vampiric but nothing else within the film suggests vampire. It is just a very poor movie, with wooden acting, about someone they decided to call a witch. Not Vamp.

The imdb page is here.


Bill Dan Courtney said...

I think I may have to watch this rubbish for "research" purposes. Never heard of it but I am going to collect some Andy Mulligan soon.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hiyah Bill. Remember this is not to be confused with the Milligan film of the same title - which is, as far as I know, lost.

Milligan wise, do check out the The Body Beneath and Blood.