The Witch Who Came From the Sea


1h 23m 1976

Brief Synopsis

Molly was sexually abused by her alcholic father throughout her childhood. Now a disturbed, dysfunctional woman, she works as a waitress at a seaside bar, and begins to turn her sexual encounters with the men she meets there into a series of murders.

Film Details

Also Known As
Witch Who Came From the Sea
MPAA Rating
Release Date
1976

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 23m
Color
Color
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

Molly was sexually abused by her alcholic father throughout her childhood. Now a disturbed, dysfunctional woman, she works as a waitress at a seaside bar, and begins to turn her sexual encounters with the men she meets there into a series of murders.

Film Details

Also Known As
Witch Who Came From the Sea
MPAA Rating
Release Date
1976

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 23m
Color
Color
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Articles

The Witch Who Came From the Sea - Millie Perkins is THE WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA - A Bizarre 1976 Shocker from Direct Matt Cimber


* The following review is based on the 2004 release and not the recent upgraded, improved version

A dozen years after her Hollywood debut in The Diary of Anne Frank (1959), Millie Perkins starred in this low budget psychological thriller written by her then-husband, screenwriter Robert Thom and directed by Matt Cimber, the last husband of Jayne Mansfield. In The Witch Who Came from the Sea, the dark-eyed actress plays a woman bearing the trauma of incest/childhood sexual abuse into a lonely and progressively unsettled middle age. Waiting tables at a Santa Monica dive bar while helping to raise her unmarried sister's young boys, Molly has settled into a comfortable, booze-fueled relationship with grizzled publican Long John (The Birds' Lonny Chapman) but indulges in perverse sexual fantasies that take on an increasingly violent bent. When Molly fantasizes about a threesome with two football players, the morning papers carry the grisly headline of the castration murders of two NFL superstars. As a police investigation (led by George "Buck" Flower) brings detectives too close to home, Molly freaks out at a Malibu house party, breaking the hand of a sexist film actor (Combat's Rick Jason) when he gets too rough and catching the eye of a handsome commercial actor (Stafford Morgan) appearing in sexy TV ads for a close-shaving new razor.

"Everybody's a little crazy sometimes," Molly confesses to her young nephews – a line that evokes the Norman Bates philosophy "We all go a little mad sometimes." In fact, The Witch Who Came from the Sea seems like a female answer to Psycho (1960) tailored to reflect the humiliations faced by women in a culture where their dissatisfaction is considered a failing to be treated pharmaceutically and their sexuality a spoil to be won or taken outright. While Witch certainly stamps the familiar repressed-female-goes-nutzoid terra of Roman Polanski's Repulsion) (1965), Armando Crispino's Autopsy (Macchie solare, 1975), S.F. Brownrigg's Keep My Grave Open (1976) and Herb Freed's Haunts (1977), the film has a few more things going for it – particularly its complex but not unsympathetic protagonist. Called, alternatively, a "loony bitch" and a "goddamned American saint," Molly is lost somewhere in between but is more complex and sympathetic than the pop-eyed basket case that was Catherine Deneuve's murderous manicurist a decade earlier.

Robert Thom borrowed elements from Perkins' personal life (her father really was a ship captain) while working in (and exaggerating for dramatic effect) an incest angle informed by a taboo relationship in his own family history. The presence of child actors (including George "Buck" Flower's daughter Verkina) in scenes involving both inappropriate sexuality and parental substance abuse may strike some as crassly exploitative but these moments feel discomfittingly true and painted from a very pained memory. Not as broadly satiric as the writer's work on Wild in the Streets (1968) or Deathrace 2000 (1975), Robert Thom's script nonetheless nails Hollywood's predilection for style over substance with a cleverly written scene in which Molly baldly declares her interest in the studly commercial actor as his eye candy girlfriend (B-movie queen Roberta Collins), unaccustomed to candor from another woman, bursts into a fit of uneasy laughter. It's a witheringly knowing moment in an otherwise interesting but ultimately uneven and unfocused film.

Essentially ignored in the United States, The Witch Who Came from the Sea was one of the infamous "video nasties" banned in the United Kingdom after the passing of the censorious Video Recording Acts of 1984. (It would not be released uncut in England until 2006!) Although the uncut film boasts some macabre setpieces (not the least of which is a castration capped with an ejaculatory arterial flow), the production was gorier still before being cut down for an R rating at the behest of the MPAA in 1975. Long unseen but for a wretched center-framed standard ratio video cassette on the Unicorn label, The Witch Who Came from the Sea has been given the special edition treatment by the niche DVD label Subversive Cinema. Subversive has restored the film to cinematographer Dean Cundey's original anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1, making the presentation a must-see for anyone who previously judged the film's merits on the basis of the old Unicorn tape. Image grain is appreciable – not surprising for a low budget production of this vintage – but colors and contrasts are strong. The 2.0 Dolby Digital mono soundtrack is clear and noise-free but also limited by the film's meager technical origins.

To have information where none has been offered previously is always a happy thing and for that reason the audio commentary accompanying Subversive Cinema's DVD of The Witch Who Came from the Sea is worth listening to. Director Matt Cimber is joined by leading lady Millie Perkins and DP Dean Cundey for a very informal talk-along. Unfortunately, the poorly-recorded track offers about 20 minutes of useful information buried inside the film's 83 minute run, making the experience, end-to-end, less than satisfying. Perkins is an effervescent delight while Cimber is too much of a hyperbolist to be a good historian and Dean Cundey is so laid back as to be soporific. (That being said, Cundy's comments are the most valuable.) A moderator would have helped energize this commentary immeasurably and could also have filled in the many blanks in everyone's memory (no one can remember Roberta Collins' name – unforgivable!). The featurette "A Maiden's Voyage: Remembering The Witch Who Came from the Sea (36m 7s) reunites Perkins, Cimber and Cundey; while it's great to see these people in thirty-years-later mode, the piece is overlong and recycles too many stories heard in the audio commentary. (Cundey's reminiscence about studying Dario Argento's Suspiria prior to shooting John Carpenter's Halloween should have been left on the cutting room floor.) Talent bios round out the supplements, along with previews of other titles in the Subversive Cinema catalogue. Curiously, a trailer for Witch created by Subversive Cinema is presented standard frame (1.33:1) rather than being letterboxed at the feature's widescreen OAR. On the DVD case, George "Buck" Flower's name is spelled incorrectly – unforgivable!

For more information about The Witch Who Came From the Sea, visit Subversive Cinema. To order The Witch Who Came From the Sea, go to TCM Shopping.

by Richard Harland Smith
The Witch Who Came From The Sea - Millie Perkins Is The Witch Who Came From The Sea - A Bizarre 1976 Shocker From Direct Matt Cimber

The Witch Who Came From the Sea - Millie Perkins is THE WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA - A Bizarre 1976 Shocker from Direct Matt Cimber

* The following review is based on the 2004 release and not the recent upgraded, improved version A dozen years after her Hollywood debut in The Diary of Anne Frank (1959), Millie Perkins starred in this low budget psychological thriller written by her then-husband, screenwriter Robert Thom and directed by Matt Cimber, the last husband of Jayne Mansfield. In The Witch Who Came from the Sea, the dark-eyed actress plays a woman bearing the trauma of incest/childhood sexual abuse into a lonely and progressively unsettled middle age. Waiting tables at a Santa Monica dive bar while helping to raise her unmarried sister's young boys, Molly has settled into a comfortable, booze-fueled relationship with grizzled publican Long John (The Birds' Lonny Chapman) but indulges in perverse sexual fantasies that take on an increasingly violent bent. When Molly fantasizes about a threesome with two football players, the morning papers carry the grisly headline of the castration murders of two NFL superstars. As a police investigation (led by George "Buck" Flower) brings detectives too close to home, Molly freaks out at a Malibu house party, breaking the hand of a sexist film actor (Combat's Rick Jason) when he gets too rough and catching the eye of a handsome commercial actor (Stafford Morgan) appearing in sexy TV ads for a close-shaving new razor. "Everybody's a little crazy sometimes," Molly confesses to her young nephews – a line that evokes the Norman Bates philosophy "We all go a little mad sometimes." In fact, The Witch Who Came from the Sea seems like a female answer to Psycho (1960) tailored to reflect the humiliations faced by women in a culture where their dissatisfaction is considered a failing to be treated pharmaceutically and their sexuality a spoil to be won or taken outright. While Witch certainly stamps the familiar repressed-female-goes-nutzoid terra of Roman Polanski's Repulsion) (1965), Armando Crispino's Autopsy (Macchie solare, 1975), S.F. Brownrigg's Keep My Grave Open (1976) and Herb Freed's Haunts (1977), the film has a few more things going for it – particularly its complex but not unsympathetic protagonist. Called, alternatively, a "loony bitch" and a "goddamned American saint," Molly is lost somewhere in between but is more complex and sympathetic than the pop-eyed basket case that was Catherine Deneuve's murderous manicurist a decade earlier. Robert Thom borrowed elements from Perkins' personal life (her father really was a ship captain) while working in (and exaggerating for dramatic effect) an incest angle informed by a taboo relationship in his own family history. The presence of child actors (including George "Buck" Flower's daughter Verkina) in scenes involving both inappropriate sexuality and parental substance abuse may strike some as crassly exploitative but these moments feel discomfittingly true and painted from a very pained memory. Not as broadly satiric as the writer's work on Wild in the Streets (1968) or Deathrace 2000 (1975), Robert Thom's script nonetheless nails Hollywood's predilection for style over substance with a cleverly written scene in which Molly baldly declares her interest in the studly commercial actor as his eye candy girlfriend (B-movie queen Roberta Collins), unaccustomed to candor from another woman, bursts into a fit of uneasy laughter. It's a witheringly knowing moment in an otherwise interesting but ultimately uneven and unfocused film. Essentially ignored in the United States, The Witch Who Came from the Sea was one of the infamous "video nasties" banned in the United Kingdom after the passing of the censorious Video Recording Acts of 1984. (It would not be released uncut in England until 2006!) Although the uncut film boasts some macabre setpieces (not the least of which is a castration capped with an ejaculatory arterial flow), the production was gorier still before being cut down for an R rating at the behest of the MPAA in 1975. Long unseen but for a wretched center-framed standard ratio video cassette on the Unicorn label, The Witch Who Came from the Sea has been given the special edition treatment by the niche DVD label Subversive Cinema. Subversive has restored the film to cinematographer Dean Cundey's original anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1, making the presentation a must-see for anyone who previously judged the film's merits on the basis of the old Unicorn tape. Image grain is appreciable – not surprising for a low budget production of this vintage – but colors and contrasts are strong. The 2.0 Dolby Digital mono soundtrack is clear and noise-free but also limited by the film's meager technical origins. To have information where none has been offered previously is always a happy thing and for that reason the audio commentary accompanying Subversive Cinema's DVD of The Witch Who Came from the Sea is worth listening to. Director Matt Cimber is joined by leading lady Millie Perkins and DP Dean Cundey for a very informal talk-along. Unfortunately, the poorly-recorded track offers about 20 minutes of useful information buried inside the film's 83 minute run, making the experience, end-to-end, less than satisfying. Perkins is an effervescent delight while Cimber is too much of a hyperbolist to be a good historian and Dean Cundey is so laid back as to be soporific. (That being said, Cundy's comments are the most valuable.) A moderator would have helped energize this commentary immeasurably and could also have filled in the many blanks in everyone's memory (no one can remember Roberta Collins' name – unforgivable!). The featurette "A Maiden's Voyage: Remembering The Witch Who Came from the Sea (36m 7s) reunites Perkins, Cimber and Cundey; while it's great to see these people in thirty-years-later mode, the piece is overlong and recycles too many stories heard in the audio commentary. (Cundey's reminiscence about studying Dario Argento's Suspiria prior to shooting John Carpenter's Halloween should have been left on the cutting room floor.) Talent bios round out the supplements, along with previews of other titles in the Subversive Cinema catalogue. Curiously, a trailer for Witch created by Subversive Cinema is presented standard frame (1.33:1) rather than being letterboxed at the feature's widescreen OAR. On the DVD case, George "Buck" Flower's name is spelled incorrectly – unforgivable! For more information about The Witch Who Came From the Sea, visit Subversive Cinema. To order The Witch Who Came From the Sea, go to TCM Shopping. by Richard Harland Smith

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1976

Todd-AO

Released in United States 1976