Colin Timothy Gagnon (sacredspud) wrote,
Colin Timothy Gagnon

31 Days of Halloween: The Virgin Witch

Yesterday's viewing of Argento's Dracula put me in the mood to watch Susperia again, but it's not available on Netflix, which sought to rectify the situation by offering The Virgin Witch as a "title related to Susperia". This was not a good idea.

I know I've discussed it before, but when American movie industry replaced the Production Code with the MPAA ratings system, formerly taboo graphic material began to sneak into mainstream, studio films. The first decade or so of R-rated movies has always seemed an awkward fit, in that weird bits of innocence were retained amid scenes that pushed the boundaries of onscreen sex and violence. The British film industry had had a similar ratings system in place for much longer, but they played things relatively safe until the late '60s.

I think the reason these movies are awkward for me is that they look like relics; the fashions and the film stock and the music all mark them as products of a much earlier time, but you will see things in these movies that you don't see anymore. The sex and the violence are much more overt than they are in modern movies. There are crazy cultural reasons for this: somehow, you can take a movie from NC-17 to R or from R to PG-13 by shaving a few seconds out of a scene of rape or murder. The offensive concepts are still there, but don't worry--your kids won't be assaulted by any stray nipples.

This is a real pet peeve of mine. I'm trying not to moralize here (although frankly, without the moralizing The Virgin Witch is probably worth a two-paragraph review), but it drives me crazy that the PG-13 rating is used as a target to sex up movies that should be acceptable for kids, and to neuter movies that are really only appropriate for adults. And it drives me crazy that in our quest to protect children, the movie industry has introduced all kinds of technicalities to remove adult content from depictions of adult concepts. It makes the movies more lucrative, but it doesn't make them better.

Where was I? Oh, The Virgin Witch. It's a British film from 1970 (released in '72) which falls into what I will refer to as the Uncomfortable Valley, a period of time where movies were somehow innocent but more graphic, and watching them messes with my mind.

So, what's it about? The story follows Betty and Christine, two sisters who are looking for modeling jobs in London. Christine interviews with a agency whose owner, Sybil Waite, hand-picks her for a special assignment: she is to go to a secluded castle for a photo shoot over the weekend. Christine agrees on the condition that Betty be allowed to come with her. Once at the castle, Betty discovers a "witch's chapel" in the basement, and Christine learns that she has been selected for induction into a coven of witches.

And that, really, is all the summary The Virgin Witch is worth because it's clear that nobody was very concerned with the plot: the primary concern of the filmmakers was obviously titilation, and the nudity is almost constant. It's not pornography, but it's about as close as you can get (and I mean that officially--the censors and the producers went back and forth making cuts to the movie for at least a year before its release). Nobody enjoys "almost porn", because whether you're looking for sex or a a good story, it only delivers half of what you want. It's too bad, really, because running through the plot in my head, it's more complicated than I suggest, and worthy of a much more serious movie. I've left a lot of characters and events out of my description, but do you care? The filmmakers obviously did not.

Here's the trailer, perv.
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