The Witch Who Came from the Sea (Matt Cimber / U.S., 1976):

A thorough transmutation (and purposeful degradation) of "Annabel Lee," with groovy pads and stoned soirees comprising Poe’s "sepulchre by the sea." Blankly eyeing Speedo-clad bodybuilders until in her mind the beefcake gets doused with gore, the heroine (Millie Perkins) is not quite a witch, a mermaid perhaps, a damaged maiden most definitely. A vanished seafaring father (an idolized "evil bastard"), a cocky actor (Rick Jason) and assorted gridiron louts figure in the maelstrom of seedy macho swagger, the Almighty TeeVee projects fantasies, peddles prurience, and perpetuates the need for bogus idols. Variously described as "a liberated woman" and "captain of her own ship" by folks who don’t know their castrating-goddess mythology, Perkins glides through, shaving razor in hand. "Her father was a god. They cut off his balls. The sea was knocked up and Venus was the kid. My chauffeur told me that." Matt Cimber seeks a port of lost souls in rundown Malibu and finds it in a mise-en-scène of sexual brutality, fishing nets and the amplified crying of seagulls and waves, grimy to the touch. Madness as hallucinatory purgative, the ocean as escape, consummation, death. A grindhouse poem, its blunt traumas rendered with unnerving etherealness and denuded pictures enriched by Dean Cundey’s ‘Scope framing and lighting. Very much part of the searching ‘70s horror of Romero and Craven, yet closer to the Freudian dreamscapes of Harrington’s Night Tide or, why not, Tourneur’s Cat People. With Lonny Chapman, Vanessa Brown, Peggy Feury, Mark Livingston, Jean Pierre Camps, and Roberta Collins.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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