There’s never been a better time to veg out in front of the television, but narrowing it down to what you select is crazy impossible considering the myriad of channels & streaming services available. If you like falling asleep in front of the warm glow of the boob tube, then you know it’s a special brand of program that’s required for that purpose. Seeing the poster for the 1976 film The Witch That Came From The Sea put me in mind of that, so I clicked play, snuggled beneath the covers, and readied for this old movie to sing me it’s discordant lullaby. I love old school supernatural horror, and you know the pace is just plodding enough to knock you right out when you’re drowsy.
The movie opens with people frolicking on a beach set to flute music so terrible you’ll want to gouge your eardrums out, (I’m already scared!). We meet young and single Molly on this beach caring for her two nephews named, (I shit you not) Tadd & Tripoli. I got a chuckle out of Tripoli swearing, knowing back then folks gasped in mock horror at a child uttering profanity. It still gets played for laughs in movies all these years later, and I’m not sure why.
Molly spins the boys an idealized tale of their long gone grandad, the sea captain, and how he died at sea. Just as I had begun guessing where this movie was headed, it swerved wildly out into what-the-fuck country starting with musclebound dudes in Speedos exercising. After a few tight shots of their crotches, focusing awkwardly on their humongous, veiny dicks, they die in gruesome exercise mishaps that seems unlikely.
Oh no. This movie is not going to put me to sleep. What the hell did I get myself into?
After a footrace down the beach past the still alive muscle dudes, Molly & her nephews come across a tattoo parlor called Jack Dracula’s in a dilapidated neighborhood. They were only put off by the idea that all three of them should get tatted up by the appearance of Jack Dracula. He leans out of the doorway looking like Salvador Dali would have if he passed out at a biker bachelor party, and Molly asserts to her young wards that tattoos are for shitty people.
Back at her sister Cathy’s place, Molly continues her tribute to Papa through comparison to the gallant football players, and celebrities the boys watch on TV. Cathy offers up a harsh rebuttal that Papa sexually victimized Molly repeatedly when she was a child, and the movie will soon begin illustrating that in revolting flashbacks & dream sequences.
Egads. This isn’t some Supernatural Horror movie, but I’m wide awake now, and I have to see how this plays out.
Now triggered Molly believes the actor in a razor commercial on tv is talking directly to her, and she scrambles to the liquor cabinet to gulp down some forgetty sauce while her sister tries all she can to console her. It’s worth noting here that this movie has nudity, and buckets of blood, but is wielding a mountain of realistic emotional trauma that few ever succeed at when dealing with harrowing subject matter.
We cut to what looks like any random scene from pornography of that era with Molly in a hotel room with two football studs we saw earlier on the tv. She ties them up while sings them a sort of pirate shanty before murdering them with a razor. It’s just as trippy as the other lurid scenes like the muscle beach dudes. So, you’re not sure if this is occurring in Molly’s daydreams, or did it really happen?
She reports to work where you discover she’s banging her sleazy, old boss named Long John (played by the amazing Lonny Chapman), and she’s three hours late. Her dialog is about tv celebrities shows, and what the seductive power television has in providing a glamorized version of masculine men. And when we’re thrust into a flashback that confirms her Papa did molest her, we also see how she began numbing herself with the aid of watching television.
Molly in bed with Long John (aw fuck gross), telling her that those two football players were found dead, and she has no memory of having anything to do with it. Okay, what I thought was Supernatural Horror is now a Slasher film, and it’s a crummy movie to be sure. But watching Molly resolve her past trauma with each atrocity, and the blackouts that follow, feel astonishingly real.
Long John takes Molly to a swinging party with celebrities where she discusses a print of The Birth of Venus with an aging actor. This cringey monologue draws a parallel between how Zeus’s balls fell to the sea, and created Venus, to Molly and her Dad, whom used to describe sex with her as “getting lost at sea”.
Well, Molly was quite taken with this gray-haired gent enough to head to his bedroom where she bit him, he belted her, and she broke his wrist before he managed to bounce her off the floor in front of party goers which kind of dampened the vibe. Knocking a woman out even back then is a serious no-no.
None the less, Molly’s still up for some fun after coming to in the arms of the tv actor from the razor commercial, who she steals away from his girlfriend. Not to be deterred, the spurned lover returns to his apartment to shriek dementedly while shooting his car (it’s my favorite scene, and worth watching the entire movie). This puts razor guy in a room with the sadsack cops trying to solve these murders, but razor guy has been seduced by Molly, so he gets his dick cut off and slashed up.
The action gets pretty frantic now with more stomach-churning flashbacks, and trippy sequences involving a boat deck littered with dismembered people. We learn that Papa died of a heart attack while molesting Molly, and at this point the people around her KNOW that she murdered these dudes, but are sympathetic enough not to turn her in. Tadd & Tripoli show up to pour booze down her throat, and we see Molly sail away on a raft.
That’s how that movie ends.
Must have been a solid mood killer to take your date to this movie back then, thinking that it’s going to be all spooky so she’d close in that distance with some canoodling, but then they spring this psychotic mess at you. Given what we’re beginning to understand about sexual assault in this culture, it’s likely a great deal of audiences were victims, and everyone’s white-knuckling through it because it was unfortunately marketed as a horror movie. There isn’t even a witch in this movie. It’s just an hour & half freakout concerning childhood abuse, and celebrity worship that still rings true, but ultimately won’t garner The Criterion treatment.
It’s likely nobody else would recommend it, but you bet I would.
If you dug this, say so in the comments below, and keep checking back in as I’ve got a ton of these movies to recommend to you dear reader!