THE WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA (1976) Reviews and overview

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‘Molly really knows how to cut men down to size!!’

The Witch Who Came from the Sea is a 1976 American horror feature film directed by Matt Cimber from a screenplay by Robert Thom. It was shot by cinematographer Dean Cundey (The ThingHalloween). The movie stars Millie Perkins, Lonny Chapman and Vanessa Brown.


Molly (Millie Perkins) is a dysfunctional and disturbed woman who, after suffering repeated abuse at the hands of her alcoholic father, embarks on a spree of gruesome carnal encounters with men who she meets during her job as a waitress in a seaside bar…


On December 4th (UK) and 5th (USA), 2017, the film is released by Arrow Video on Blu-ray and DVD with the following special features:

  • 2K restoration from original vault materials
  • High Definition Blu-ray presentation
  • Original Mono Audio
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Introduction to the film by Nightmare USA author Stephen Thrower
  • Audio commentary with producer-director Matt Cimber, actress Millie Perkins and director of photography Dean Cundey
  • ‘Tides and Nightmares’: brand new making-of documentary featuring interviews with Cimber, Perkins, Cundey and actor John Goff
  • ‘A Maiden’s Voyage’: archive featurette comprising interviews with Cimber, Perkins and Cundey
  • ‘Lost at Sea’: director Cimber reflects on his notorious cult classic
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by The Twins of Evil


Matt Cimber’s film is less a grubby gorefest than a genuine curiosity, one that sits uncomfortably in the no man’s land between Lemora – A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural and I Spit On Your Grave.

The story of mentally unbalanced Molly (Millie Perkins), who was abused by her father and no may or may not be castrating footballers and TV stars (how much of the film’s narrative is ‘real’ and how much the daydreams of the increasingly damaged Molly is left for us to decide), Matt Cimber’s movie is unlike anything else you’ll ever see.

There’s a strange melancholy atmosphere – helped by a fine score by Herschel Burke Gilbert – and Robert Thom’s screenplay is more a character study than a traditional psycho slasher – which makes the scenes of nudity and genital mutilation (strong stuff if not overly explicit) all the more unsettling when they arrive.

Of course, the film’s weird hybrid nature makes it a tough one for many audiences – you almost feel as though it has been designed to alienate as many viewers as possible. But this is a film that lingers for years after you first see it – you can never quite shake it. And this one of those films that is a lot better than it should be.

Cimber – who has had a colourful career ranging from sex education adult movies to Yellow Hair and the Fortress of Gold, via blaxploitation, Pia Zadora films, The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling and marriage to Jayne Mansfield – ensures that the film remains unsettlingly odd throughout. Meanwhile, Dean Cundey’s cinematography adds a touch of class and the main performances are excellent, Perkins being at once tragic and terrifying.

David Flint, MOVIES and MANIA

Other reviews:

“While its low budget and extreme subject matter … certainly seem to fall well within the realms of exploitation cinema’s favorite tropes, Witch is ultimately more of a character study about one woman’s descent into madness – not unlike Polanski’s Repulsion – than an out-and-out sleaze flick.” IGN

The Witch Who Came from the Sea is a very dark and disturbing film. They are some scenes that are absolutely chilling. Nothing is overly graphic, but the subject matter is difficult to deal with and you see enough that it hits you. What makes this film truly special and work is the performance from Perkins. She’s stunning in a role that is not easy to pull off.” Bloody Disgusting


“Cimber pulls out all the stops to create a dreamy, yet subdued portrait of a woman’s psyche imploding, complete with solarized flashbacks, a minefield of distorted audio effects, extended slow-mo staging of certain key sequences, and, of course, flash cuts of a thoroughly creeped-out angry clown. The film doesn’t always hit on all cylinders – but the indisputable high point is the bravura cough-syrup-paced seven-minute sequence towards the beginning of the film…” Birth. Movies. Death.

“The low-stakes affair is often a total chore to sit through since there’s rarely a lot happening onscreen, and the characters aren’t exactly compelling. By the end, it feels like a lame Psycho ripoff, but without any of the things that made Psycho great, or even entertaining. It’s a complete mess.” Cinema Slasher

“Unpleasant, yet it has an intelligence behind it that is compelling.” John Stanley, Creature Features

“Director Matt Cimber’s vision is like that of an artist painting a mural. We are immediately treated to the beautiful scenery of the Pacific ocean as the film begins and then are taken to the slow mutilation of the two football players. Not with graphic violence, instead it is our own mind that provides us the visuals.” Horror Talk


“Thanks to a poetic touch, striking Malibu-shot visuals […] and a fine central performance from Perkins, the film avoids sliding into either grindhouse sleaziness or unbearable pretension; its methodical pacing and extreme visuals all feel well-integrated and nicely judged (apart from a few fleeting missteps like the tacky psychedelic effects used for the more intense hallucination passages).” Mondo Digital


“Those expecting a blood-and-guts horror shocker with liberal doses of nudity and sex will be sorely disappointed with Witch. It is a psychological drama first and a horror film second. But the horror scenes are really over-the-top and gut-wrenching when they do show up!” DVD Drive-In

The Witch Who Came from the Sea feels hewn from late night conversations, private reminiscences; it drifts and sways like seaweed, like thoughts in a cannabis fugue. The structural timer of the horror genre is cast adrift. Horror, overt horror at least, is concentrated in the early part of the film, and what follows is a sad, sleepy tidal shift into psychological portraiture. Imagery and allusion are uppermost in the latter half…” Stephen Thrower, Nightmare USA

Buy: | |

” …less a grubby gorefest than a genuine curiosity,  a film that sits uncomfortably in the no man’s land between Lemora – A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural and I Spit On Your Grave […] There’s a strange melancholy atmosphere – helped by a fine score by Herschel Burke Gilbert – and Robert Thom’s screenplay is more a character study than a traditional psycho slasher – which makes the scenes of nudity and genital mutilation (strong stuff if not overly explicit) all the more unsettling when they arrive.


Cast and characters:

Millie Perkins as Molly – The Haunting Passion

Lonny Chapman as Long John – Phantoms; Nightwatch; The Screaming Woman; Night GalleryThe Birds

Vanessa Brown as Cathy

Peggy Feury as Doris

Jean Pierre Camps as Tadd

Mark Livingston as Tripoli

Rick Jason as Billy Batt

Stafford Morgan as McPeak – The Forest; The Capture of Bigfoot; The Alpha Incident

Richard Kennedy as Detective Beardsley

George ‘Buck’ Flower as Detective Stone – The Curse of the KomodoBody Bags; Puppet Master II; The Fog; Drive-In Massacre; Criminally Insane; Suckula; et al

Roberta Collins as Clarissa – School Spirit; Saturday the 14th; Eaten Alive; Death Race 2000Kolchak: The Night Stalker; Sweet Kill

Stan Ross as Jack Dracula

John F. Goff as Molly’s Father – The Screaming; Ripper Man; Grotesque; Maniac Cop; Berserker; The Fog; Alligator; The Capture of Bigfoot; Nurse Sherri, Drive-In Massacre; Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS

Previous releases:

The film was briefly banned in Britain during the early days of the ‘video nasty‘ scare. In 1983, the United Kingdom’s Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP) compiled a list of 72 video releases that were not brought before the BBFC for certification and declared them prosecutable. This list of “video nasties” included The Witch Who Came From the Sea, but it was in the sub-group of 33 titles that were unsuccessfully prosecuted and subsequently dropped from the DPP’s infamous list.

In 2004, Subversive Cinema released the film on DVD in a 16:9 transfer that was overseen and approved by Dean Cundey.

The film was eventually released completely uncut in Britain in 2006 with a complete running time of 87m 43 secs.

Buy American Horror Project Blu-ray set:

In March 2016, The Witch… was released in the US on Blu-ray by Arrow Video as part of the American Horror Project box set.

Filming locations:

Malibu, Santa Monica and Venice Beach, Los Angeles, California

Film Facts:

Although credited as a 1976 production, it has been suggested that the film was shot much earlier but had trouble finding a distributor due to its downbeat subject matter.

Screenwriter Richard Thom was married to lead actress Perkins.

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