Friday, March 26, 2010

A naked witch not worth checking out

The Naked Witch (1964)
Starring: Robert Short, Libby Hall and Jo Maryman
Directors: Larry Buchanan and Claude Alexander
Rating: One of Ten Stars

A graduate student (Short) researching the history of a VERY ethnically German town in Texas digs up the corpse of a long-dead witch (Hall) and restores her to life. She the proceeds to take bloody revenge on the decendents of the transplanted Teutonics who murdered her.

To describe "The Naked Witch" as awful is to give it a backhanded compliment. Awful is the mildest of terms one can apply to this film. To make it even worse, it's BORING. What we have here is enough content to barely fill an episode of "Tales From the Darkside" or "Ray Bradbury Theater" but it's stretched out to twice that length. And, although the film barely clears one hour of running time, it feels like twice that.

The fact the script was suitable for a 23-minute TV show rather than a movie is only part of the awfulness here. It's compounded by the film's cast.

First, there's leading man Robert Short, an actor who was born 50-60 years too late. He would have been perfect for slient movies, because he can act with his face and his body language, but whenever he tries to deliver a line, he spoils everything. I am convinced that if you were to put a loaded gun to Mr. Short's head and say, "Act frightened or I will blow your brains out!" he's say "Please, no. Spare me. I have a wife and kids" in a wooden monotone. And we get to suffer through that wooden monotone as Short narrates many of the movies events.

Second, there's Libby Hall, the Naked Witch of the title. She is slightly better than Short when it comes to the acting but not by much. With her, the problem is more a physical one. Although I like nudity as much as the next guy, there really are some women who should keep their shirts on. Ms. Hall is one of them. I don't mean to pick on her, but someone involved with the production should have realized that if you're going to try to sell you movie with sex, you need to have someone a little more sexy doing it; Hall's breasts would have looked just fine if they had been left to the imagination, but when they're exposed, you find yourself seeing something you wish you hadn't. (That said, we don't get to see much of her breasts--not only does the Naked Witch not spend a whole lot of time Naked but when she does, there are often censor bars across the unfortunate boobies.)

Third, there's the fact the fact that every bit of dialogue in the film is atrociously bad... and it sounds even worse coming from the mouths of untalented actors. This isn't entirely the fault of the actors, but good actors can make bad lines at least sound passable. No such luck here.

The only thing that saves this film from a 0-rating is that Buchanan does show the occassional flare for dramatic visuals. There are some great scenes of the Naked Witch walking through the Texas landscape, and there's an almost-great scene where the blood from one of her victims spreads in a body of water. However, such visual moments are shattered by the bad acting and Buchanan's otherwise incompetent directing. He misses more moments to create spookiness or great visuals than he grasps.

All-in-all, I have to wonder why anyone would think this film was worth preserving and re-releasing on DVD. There is so little about it that is worth anything that it was truly wasted time and effort.

1 comment:

  1. And I thought a naked witch was always worth checking out... disillusioned again!