KING OF THE WITCHES
Review by Troy
= Highest Rating
(Andrew Prine) is a practitioner of "white magic", but when
things take a bad turn he resorts to witchcraft, with dire repercussions...
King of the Witches
is an emblematic cult movie. While watching it one can't help
but get the impression it was made and designed with a cult
audience in mind. Certainly it's odd mixture of counterculture
humor and fantasy made it a hard sell in 1971
the end result being that it failed miserably at that time.
Time has been kind to it, however, and it's now possible to
appreciate it as a unique piece of fantasy cinema
just don't let the title fool you into thinking it's meant to
be a horror movie, that's all.
Andrew Prine (Grizzly)
has a rare opportunity to carry a feature film, an assignment
he clearly relished. Prine is absolutely ideal as the quirky
he's deadly serious about the magic arts and while he generally
uses these powers for entertainment (always with a price attached,
of course) or for the greater good, his vindictive side manifests
itself when he seeks revenge on those who have wronged him.
Prine plays the various sides of the character with subtle charm
and wit, always ensuring that the audience is on his side. The
supporting cast (including Prine's ex-wife, Brenda Scott) tends
to be amateurish, but this adds to the film's quirky charm.
The film has a nicely improvised air to it, and the rocky supporting
players often seem to have taken their stoned-out characters
to Method-level extremes.
Director Bruce Kessler
(The Gay Deceivers) directs with
a light touch. The ultra-low budget doesn't allow for a great
deal of production gloss, but Kessler makes good use of varied
camera angles and movements, and he even manages to pull off
the notoriously difficult "breaking the third wall" rule without
coming across as obnoxious. Kessler clearly wasn't aiming for
a true horror film, and it pays to approach the film with this
it ultimately emerges as a funny and engaging flight of fancy
more than anything else. The use of quaintly outdated visual
effects (including a laser light show that evokes the ending
of Kubrick's monumental 2001: A Space
Odyssey) adds to the film's fairy tale vibe, though some
moments of nudity and sexuality give it a more adult edge. As
such it is something of a one-off in its genre and is sure to
appeal to fans of the offbeat.
King of the Witches
makes its DVD debut courtesy of Dark Sky. As noted above, this
is not a particularly glossy film it was shot in a period of
days on a shoestring, and it shows. That said, Dark Sky have done
a capable job of presenting the film on DVD. The 1.78/16x9 transfer
looks as good as the elements will allow. The source materials
show their age: there's plenty of grain, some scratches and nicks
are in evidence, and the cigarette burns at the reel changes help
to evoke the film's grindhouse origins. Within these limitations,
the image is acceptably sharp and colorful it never looks exactly
stunning, but it is likely as nice as the film has ever looked
in any incarnation. The film is fully uncut. The mono English
soundtrack is also acceptable dialogue is easy to understand,
and English subtitles have been included for the hearing-impaired.
include a trailer, a radio spot and two new featurettes which
feature interviews with Prine and Kessler. Both men come off as
likable, unpretentious sorts, and both seem pleasantly surprised
that the film has finally found an audience. 8/20/08