Virgin Witch (1971) – By Josh Samford

The world of British horror is divisive and full of wonders. During the sixties and the seventies, the world would see numerous filmmakers arise from this area, and many of them rocked the world of genre cinema forever. Filmmakers such as Pete Walker (Frightmare) and Ken Russell (The Devils and Lair of the White Worm) are but only two great filmmakers to emerge from both this incredible era. Virgin Witch is one of the films that has been forgotten by many mainsteram horror fans throughout the years, but thanks to its new release by Kino Lorber it may find new life within the DVD/BD marketplace. Directed by Ray Austin, who is less known stateside than the two previously mentioned filmmakers above, he is no less important in the great scheme of things. Considered a master by many, his work is often heavily regarded by cinefiles who focus on cinema from The UK. Virgin Witch is an erotic horror story that focuses on two sisters, Christine (Ann Michelle) and Betty (Vicki Michelle). When Christine is offered a modeling job by a seemingly sinister woman, her sister decides to travel with her to the countryside where this modeling job is to take place. When this duo arrive at the mansion that this photo shoot will take place in, they find that there is much more at foot than simple photography. The folks who own this mansion are quite morbid, and it appears that they are tied in with the occult. Soon enough, Christine is wrapped up in the world of black magic and witchcraft. Unknown to her, this coven of witches do not want her as a member. They want her virgin sister to be sacrificed on the alter. Ray Austin doesn’t play games with his audience. He wants them to know up front that they are in for genuine exploitation and creepiness. Opening with a still photo of a woman’s bare breast shot from the side, Austin delivers the upfront titillation (no pun intended) that audiences likely expected. Combined with this sense of exploitation is also a sharp sense of stylistic panache. Insane closeup zooms that defy logic, and extremely fast moving editing that seems as if it could have inspired Sam Raimi and his Evil Dead trilogy, this is a very stylish movie. During the opening minutes of the film, there simply seems to be no filler with Austin’s style. Everything serves a purpose, and the pace that exposition is delved out in remains lightning fast. In this regard, the first thirty minutes of the film is intense. So, as the movie establishes the story that we will be following, audiences have to keep their attention on the film. Everything seems to move at such a quick pace, that it could even be a bit hard to keep up with. However, once we move the story out to the main location where the rest of the movie will remain, it loses a great deal of steam.

Although the plot does slow down considerably after the opening thirty minutes, the movie ultimately turns into something very different than what might be expected. The supernatural/witchcraft obsessed world of horror cinema during the seventies took upon many different forms, but Virgin Witch certainly develops itself in a way that is different from the flock. Although audiences might initially expect this to be a sexually heightened version of Rosemary’s Baby, with our heroine discovering a witch’s coven and then doing her best to stop it, but that is not the route our film takes. Instead, what we follow is more akin to a film dealing with political intrigue and espionage. Multiple characters vie for power within this world of black magic, and our heroine actually attempts to become head priestess of this cult. In this regard, the film takes a subtle detour that is seldom seen and it at least makes it a more interesting film because of this choice. Even if it isn’t top of the food chain in terms of horror, Virgin Witch attempts to take the genre into some brackish and strange waters. And it is all the better because of it.

Real life sisters Ann Michelle and Vicki Michelle star in this feature that they both now try to disown. They do this despite the fact that for a sexualized film such as this one, it is genuinely quite artistic. This, in my mind, is the leading success of the feature. Although it is most assuredly a piece of exploitation, Virgin Witch is certainly one of the more respectable variations on the horror / sexploitation hybrid. Overall, this is a worthy purchase for any fan of European cult cinema. Intensely stylish, devilishly sexy, and as bizarre as a witch films generally get. It has its flaws, but it remains relatively fun. You can pick up the DVD and blu-ray through Kino Lorber.