The Witch Who Came From the Sea is new to DVD, but it was released in 1976 (and looks like it was actually shot about five years before that). There’s nothing terribly remarkable about the movie now, but back in its day it was very controversial — a controversy no doubt sparked by its makers in hopes of drumming up interest — for its themes of sexual sadism and child molestation.
The story centers on Molly (Millie Perkins) the grown-up daughter of a sea-faring pedophile who’s having trouble coming to terms with her besmirched childhood. So what does she do — Read the Bible? See a therapist? Drown her sorrows in gallons of ice cream? No. Molly picks up the beefiest, buffest, most manly men she can find and once she and her straight razor are done with them, they are not only missing their manhood but their lives as well. (But Molly feels so relieved! For a while…)
The Witch Who Came From the Sea is an extremely low-budget movie with all the trappings — sub-par acting, barely dressed sets, bad sound, and a porn-like soundtrack. However the writing is a, er, cut above, and so is the cinematography. Although the new DVD packaging is emblazoned with Dean Cundy’s name (Cundy is John Carpenter’s favorite DP), a different cameraman is actually credited in the opening, with Cundy’s name at the bottom as “additional”. Still, he does add quite a lot to the additional release material with his thoughts on low-budget filmmaking and his impressions of The Witch Who Came From the Sea almost 30 years on.
Also participating in the additional release material is the film’s director, Matt Cimber (he directed Pia Zadora to infamy in the 1981 bomb, Butterfly), and the star, Millie Perkins. There are on-camera interviews with each of them, plus they both do an over-the-film commentary. Unfortunately, the commentary sounds like it was recorded from inside an iron lung — add that to the already poor sound on the film itself, and no captions, and you’ve got yourself a totally frustrating listening experience. Skip it and just watch the on-camera interviews.
Although The Witch Who Came From the Sea does have its horror elements, it is more a study of a woman whose sanity teeters on the edge. Perkins does have some serious acting chops (her first role, in 1959’s Anne Frank was critically acclaimed and she has dozens of high profile movies and TV shows to her credit) but she seems quite lost in the thankless role of murderous Molly. (Her husband, Robert Thom, wrote the screenplay so it is understandable as to why she took the part.) The supporting cast’s performances range from catatonic to chaotic.
The story, while not without an interesting premise, is “at sea” and drifting a great deal of the time. It is less ‘Grand Guignol’ than one would hope (the violence takes place off screen, with the occasional blood spurt hitting the murderess) and despite its black magic title, there is not even a hint of the supernatural.
The Witch Who Came From the Sea will appeal to low-budget buffs and those interested in vintage off-beat murder flicks, but for those looking for a fast-paced, slick slasher flick… keep on looking.
Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson