Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Naked Witch (1961)

After a disembodied voice has treated us to nearly ten minutes of droning nonsense about witches that will have no bearing on anything to come, the droning voice of our protagonist for the day takes over. Protagonist guy (Robert Short) - as we will later learn the owner of a chest as hairy as Feroz Khan's - is a nameless student, using the last day of his school holiday to visit beautiful Luckenbach, deep in the most German part of Texas.

He's mostly looking for stories and legends about witchcraft, but the good people of Luckenbach seem strangely reluctant to share. Only village beauty Kirska (Jo Maryman; and can I just say here: what's wrong with her hair!?) is willing to help. After some painfully awkward flirting, she hands the student a book that relates the story of the Luckenbach Witch, some poor widow (Libby Hall) who was unfairly staked for witchcraft centuries ago, but is supposed to return some day to take vengeance on the descendants of the people at fault in her death.

Our hero does the obvious - he sneaks out of his hotel at night, stumbles onto the witch's grave, digs her out and removes the stake to take it with him as a souvenir. Of course the witch comes to life again, steals the stake and starts to kill people with it.

Learning of the killings, the student decides that he just won't stand for witchy business like this and randomly stumbles around the country side to stop our witch gal. That is, until our hero witnesses the witch's skinny dipping activities. Her awesome powers of being naked overwhelm him, she does some dancing, they have off-screen sex and she sneaks away to stake Kirska. Will our especially heroic hero wake up early enough after a night of fun to prevent the worst?

The Naked Witch is the first feature film directed by legendary master of boredom Larry Buchanan, and Buchanan already shows an early mastery at making an hour-long movie that feels as if it were three hours long. At times, the director's utter lack of talent gives the film an awkward charm, especially in those sequences where Buchanan's failures combine with the equally absent talents of his actors to produce some sort of black hole of suckiness only specialists in bad movies should dare enter.

Of course, even for us, there's not much reason to enter said hole, unless one feels the overwhelming need to learn that Larry Buchanan's oeuvre is without a single moment of excitement.

It's really quite fascinating how drab and boring this little film is. In theory, it is filmed in interesting locations, and the plot might not be very original, but it is the kind of old standard that usually just works for a mildly entertaining time. Somehow, Buchanan manages to drag what should be awkward and charming into the realm of the dreadfully boring. In a sense, his work here is quite impressive.

As is the fact that the film's nudity that takes place outside of the water (it is titled "The Naked Witch" after all) is censored by thick black bars so that Libby Hall's evil breasts can't corrupt the youth. I know, the film was made in 1961, but still - you either put nudity into your film or you don't.

As a German, I was at least vaguely amused by the "authentically German" culture of Luckenbach and the dreadful German the people there speak. It looks as if the Luckenbachians were trapped in a dreadful limbo, refusing to accept any sort of change and still pretending they were living in a Germany that never existed in the first place, and most certainly didn't exist anymore in 1961. This does come quite close to what I imagine hell would be like.


Anarchivist said...

May I just add the learned comment: Bwa ha ha ha! This movie is intolerable, yet I remember it fondly. Which I guess makes me crazier than Larry Buchanan!

houseinrlyeh said...

I'd rather not remember it at all. Sadface.

Pauline said...

"This does come quite close to what I imagine hell would be like."

Uh-huh. I remember this one, and I here ya.

Pauline said...

I think it is only on your blog that I do this but "hear". I meant "hear". Jeez.

houseinrlyeh said...

I just realized that the spellcheck in my blogging client doesn't always save the changes I make, so this seems like a fitting place to do that on.