Friday, 30 March 2012

Witchcraft '70 (1970)

The ultimate of infamous 60's shockumentaries, featuring fake native rituals, set-up occult ceremonies... and even couple of original rites from around the world. Italian director – Luigi Scattini, delivers gibberish footage from Europe, Asia and South America with a lurid voice-over meant to spike up the thrills. This basket of sleazy exploits was produced by Italians and initially titled "Angeli Bianchi, Angeli Neri", but when distibution got handled by Trans American Films ("Hallucination Generation"), it was repackaged as "Witchcraft '70" in USA and "The Satanists" in UK. In both countries it played as a typical exploitation picture, fixed for the youth market by yellow journalism sort of narration and sordid publicity. The topic at the time had all heads up with rising coverage of Manson's Family activity, great popularity of sexploitation movies and the success of "Rosemary's Baby". A right time to cash on satan related nonsense indeed!

Although this material was never praised seriously enough by anyone to become a big classic, much less a reponsible study of the subject, it got through the door of many occult movies collections anyway as a sort of B-class oddity. If you wonder, where's the contemporary lure, there's a rare opportunity to see on the screen such cult individuals as Anton Szandor LaVey or Alex Sanders. However, on the concept level this stuff is so miserable, that laughing might become difficult. Couple of absurd spoken sentences might bend you down a bit, but in general there's not much quirky humour going here. It's a blatant exploitation after all – a marathon of storytelling drivel, which unfortunately doesn't have much of a genuine, ritual footage to cover, instead packed in with so called tourist ceremonies - acted and directed versions of occult, tribal and religious rites, which overemphasize carnal elements and produce "sacred hysteria" going after Western expectations.

Not all of the sequences are fake though, but the real ones like a possession of a woman from south of Italy, who's mounted by spirit of Alberto and is thus able to pass the messages from the other world, are not very funky unfortunately. The same applies to "secretly captured on 8 mm camera" Candomble & native Indonesian ceremonies. The most valuable thing about this inane pile of bullshit seems capturing Alex Sanders and his wiccan coven's activities. This is one of very few video materials featuring this mythical personality, once called "King of the Witches" in England, who founded his own branch of wicca in schism with the original Gardnerian order. He let the crew watch his wiccan marriage ceremony, revealing the temple and his sky-clothed coven. Camera rolls while he's closing the circle with a sword and then kissing the body of The Goddess, but after that turns to shooting all the nice tits around!

But that's what this shockumentary is about (and the whole subgenre in general) – mixing sensational agenda about Satan worshippers popping up like popcorn all around the world with shots of naked cultists... and their beautiful breasts on the first plan. I don't know how successful this stuff was in drive-ins (or on TV), but it's dimy setting, paternal tone and rather slick pitch do not make for much entertainment nowadays. It's true, that they show some nice pieces of ass and from today's perspective nobody cares if they belong to a satanist, wiccan, hoodooist, neopagan or an Amish dropout. Still, narration is a real downslope, an essence of worn out gibberish, but there's an option of turning off the volume, if nothing else comes to mind. You might also try to read a book and turn your eyes when you hear something exceptionally gross, which happens every 15 minutes.

If you're here for LaVey, he comes on the screen by the end of this showcase opening the door of his San Francisco temple and then performing one of these famous pop-satanic rituals in his legendary outfit with flashing red horns on the top. Fascinating indeed! Nevertheless, from a necessary distance „Witchcratft '70” salacious agenda opens up to an interesting, off-screen analysis of the late 60's – creation of modern satanism by Anton Szandor LaVey, rising force of neopagan movement, exemplified by wicca covens in Great Britain and USA, sudden appeal of hybrid possession cults and the exposure of dark underbelly of the 60's counterculture, honked up by the media after Manson's Family gruesome acts. You definitely need to go around with this flick!

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