The 1976 classic “The Witch Who Came From The Sea” is, simply put, a film that must be seen to be believed—or more accurately, it’s a film that must be seen and felt, since it’s about as emotionally gripping and character-driven as any film that ever played The Deuce. Nathaniel Thompson of Mondo-Digital and DVD Delirium has described it as a movie that feels as “if Tennessee Williams wrote an exploitation film,” and I can’t really top that description it’s so completely apropos given the themes of dark family secrets, alcohol abuse, and distorted memories of the past (and perceptions of the present) which dominate this story , so I won’t even try.
In brief, Molly (played by Millie Perkins, best known for her starring turn in the TV version of “The Diary Of Anne Frank”) lives in a quiet, sleepy little seaside resort town where she works as a waitress and indulges in her favorite vices of heavy drinking, random, meaningless sex, obsessing over television celebrities, and filling in the gaps in her memories of childhood by concocting a rich fantasy world where her father was a noble seafaring captain. Molly also dreams about castrating muscled beach hunks and steroid-ripped NFL players, but as the film goes on we come to realize that these may not be fantasies at all and that these brutal castration scenarios tie into chapters of her past that she’d sooner forget—and is, in fact, trying her damnedest to.
Directed by Matt Cimber (Jayne Mansfield’s last husband for all you trivia buffs out there), who’s best known for helming blaxploitation favorites like “The Candy Tangerine Man” and “The Black Six,” this is a moody, evocative, dreamlike film beautifully shot by renowned cinematographer Dean Cudney and featuring a finely nuanced, touching performance from Perkins at its core. While the subject matter is no doubt harrowing and violent in every sense—physical, emotional, and psychological, the dreamy, naturalistic flow of the film provides the velvet glove wrapped tightly around the subject matter’s iron fist.
Available on DVD from the fine folks at Subversive Cinema, this title is, sadly, out of print, but still readily available at modest prices, especially if you’re willing to get a used copy. The 16:9 anamorphic transfer on the disc is absolutely lovely, and there’s a fine “making-of” featurette and an engrossing commentary by Cimber, Cudney, and Perkins among the disc’s fine bonus features.
While the poster for the film certainly makes this look like your typical “barbarian sorceress” type of flick, and the promotional slogan “Molly Really Knows How To Cut Men Down To Size!” evokes images of a grindhouse bloodbath, the truth is that this is a sensitive, poignant, and emotionally jarring film that will reward any adventurous cinephile who’s willing to go with it’s flow. Very highly recommended indeed!