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Burn, Witch, Burn


Watch, you, watch.

Rod Lott June 7th, 2011

Two and a half minutes of darkness greet you upon the opening of “Burn, Witch, Burn,” so do not adjust your TV sets.

burnwitchburn

It just allows narrator extraordinaire Paul Frees to have your full and undivided attention as he warns, “Ladies and gentlemen, the motion picture you are about to see contains an evil spell. ... I am now about to dispel all evil spirits that may radiate from the screen during this performance! ... We ask you to enjoy ‘Burn, Witch, Burn.’”

Enjoy this 1962 offering from AIP you will. Its simple story shows what happens when skeptical psych professor Norman Taylor (Peter Wyngarde, whom a generation knows only as Klytus from 1980’s “Flash Gordon”) finds a dead spider and dirt from a graveyard around the house, and suspects that his wife, Tansy (Janet Blair), may be practicing that old black magic.

Tangent: Tansy?!?

Yes, she says, she’s been dabbling in witchcraft, starting two years prior when he nearly died. Ever since, she’s used it and its mini voodoo dolls to deal with hostile neighbors. Trouble is, now Tansy — again: Tansy?!? — is possessed by a curse that wants to kill him. Ah, those housewives of the early ’60s — couldn’t they just have stayed barefoot and pregnant?

Written by two giants of the genre, Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont, from Fritz Leiber’s famous work of fiction, the black-and-white shocker from Sidney Hayers (“Circus of Horrors”) is dated, but still generates some tension during a severe storm, as Tansy (?!?) implores her hubby not to open the door, and he does anyway. The film culminates in him fighting off an eagle, which is something to see, but not as much as the gruesome, get-what-was-coming-to-you final shot.

“Do YOU believe?” asks a title card at the end. No, but I sure liked trying to be convinced otherwise. Watch, you, watch. —Rod Lott


 
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