VIRGIN WITCH (1971) Reviews and overview

 

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‘She’ll blow your mind!’

Virgin Witch is a 1971 British horror film about a model who ends up joining a coven of witches and reveals she has psychic powers.

Directed by South African-born Ray Austin (Journey to the Unknown TV series; House of the Living Dead) from a screenplay by one ‘Klaus Vogel’ – actually a pseudonym for Hazel Adair, one of the creators of worst-of-the-worst TV soap series Crossroads and a mainstay of 70s British smut films (some sources also credit script work to Beryl Vertue, her fellow TV producer).

Austin went on to work extensively in television and directed episodes of Space:1999The New AvengersThe Love Boat, Magnum, P.I., and Highlander: The Series.

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Main cast:

Ann Michelle – Psychomania; House of Whipcord; Haunted
Vicki Michelle – later in popular TV sitcom ‘Allo ‘Allo
Patricia Haines – The Night Caller
Neil Hallett – X The Unknown; Ghost Squad
Keith Buckley – The Pied PiperDoctor Phibes Rises Again
James Chase – Out of the Unknown
Garth Watkins – Twins of Evil; Queen Kong

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Virgin Witch was produced by Ralph Solomons for Tigon distributors and previewed in the December 1970 editions of Mayfair and Continental Film Review.

Plot:

Betty (Vicki Michelle) and her sister Christine (Ann Michelle) are two young models who are lured by a lecherous older lesbian to spend a weekend at a country house being photographed by a trendy photographer. In reality, Ann is being set up for a virgin sacrifice and induction into a witch’s coven…

 

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Special features:

Trailer
Gallery: A viewer-directed gallery with 16 stills
Redemption trailers: The Shiver of the Vampires, The Nude Vampire, The Iron Rose, Lips of Blood, and Fascination

Reviews [click links to read more]:

“The movie does take a few steps towards horror in the final act when Christine tries out her newfound powers (once a full-fledged witch, she discovers she can control people’s minds), but it’s too little too late. Truth be told, Virgin Witch is more likely to terrify the National Organization of Women than it is members of its target audience.” 2,500 Movies Challenge

“Virgin Witch is a likeably honest film that manages to deliver everything you might conceivably expect from a film with that title. It’s Britsploitation at its simplest and most unpretentious, but Hallett and Haines manage to add a welcome touch of class, even when they’re writhing about naked.” Jumble Sale Frenzy

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Virgin Witch is by no means a lost classic, then, but as a look back at a largely forgotten era of British filmmaking, and a demonstration of how attitudes toward sexuality and gender have changed since then, it’s certainly got curiosity value on its side.” Brutal as Hell

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‘Overall, Austin approaches the project with plenty of zest and he does turn Virgin Witch a visual winner, but as a serious horror film, it’s a massive failure. If you’re in the mood to watch a bunch of people run and dance around in their birthday suits, this is the film for you, but if it is sheer thought-provoking terror you seek, it’s best to start looking for a different coven of witches.’ Anti-Film School

The Virgin Witch is not very good, but it is relatively watchable thanks to some atmospheric touches and Anne Michelle’s mildly erotic presence.” The Horror Film, Cinebooks

“One could almost read a feminist subtext into Vogel’s script, given ‘his’ eschewing of the standard lascivious warlock as the central villain, were there any additional evidence that the makers intended this to be anything other than Night of the Eagle with pubic hair.” Steve Green, 10 Years of Terror: British Horror Films of the 1970s

” … a shoestring story about a lesbian-led witches’ coven, giving plenty of excuses to show near non-stop T&A. It’s hokey, not creepy at all, and only marginally erotic, but it is frequently hilarious—in mostly unintentional ways—and certainly good for 80-odd minutes of wink-wink ironically enjoyed entertainment.” Blu-ray.com

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” …a damn sight more spooky and sexy than most of Hammer’s early seventies efforts. The Michelle sisters strip off with apparent gusto at every available juncture and Haines, also seen ripely nude is creepy par excellence as the pervy priestess.” Simon Sheridan, Keeping the British End Up

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” … the charged relationship between Haines and Vicky Michelle is presented with some skill. Even the obligatory heavy-breathing sequences fail to dispel the film’s overall suggestion of an intense but repressed sexuality desperately struggling for expression and escaping the control of the male protagonists who are forced into trickery to achieve their prosaic goals. Unfortunately, the shooting and the editing of the rest of the picture is below par.” Phil Hardy (editor), The Aurum Encyclopedia of Film: Horror

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” … use of lesbianism as a sort of shorthand indicator for nefariousness rankles a bit, and the film’s kettle-drum-and-bongo-driven depiction of Christine’s ritual defloweration, which is lit like Christmas, is naively sensationalistic in a way that reads today as far more crude than, say, the equally lurid sex-with-Satan sequence in Rosemary’s Baby.” Deep Focus

“… typical of the kind of sniggering and unflatteringly shot sex romps that began to proliferate on British screens in the early 1970s.” Jonathan Rigby, English Gothic

“The film’s opulent, heady reality is again channelling the period; in fact, the film’s narrative can be symbolically summarised in its totality by the behind-the-scenes Witchfinder photo, only replacing the Suffolk cottages with a low budget, faux-opulence of the swinging, sexualised bourgeoisie of Surrey.” Adam Scovell, Folk Horror

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” … the film moves at a stupefyingly slow pace, while a lack of clearly defined villains means that there is no sense of threat. Those members of the audience not outfitted in a dirty raincoat have to rely on a token chase sequence as the only sign of action. The only tension comes from wondering what excuse will next be produced to get the girls naked.” John Hamilton, X-Cert 2: The British Independent Horror Film 1971 – 1983

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” … precisely because it does situate itself in the trackless frontier between horror and softcore in the manner of contemporary Continental European exploitation movies, it deserves recognition as part of a revolution in British cinema— one which the formerly all-powerful censors fought against tooth and nail, to shockingly little effect.” 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting

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“The British don’t do this kind of exploitation very well, largely because they tend to either throw the nudity in our faces, or hide it in the shadows … But the Brits know how to write a literate script. Thus Virgin Witch offers a novel approach to witchery and Black Masses. No Satan here, no pentagrams. The small coven feels it is reviving an ancient religion.” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers

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“Surprisingly well-staged low-budget tits-and-bum horror in the seventies tradition.” Howard Maxford, The A – Z of Horror Films

“Much of this “adult” movie is naked dancing (to bongo music) and hard-to-see orgies, but the Michelle sisters are worth a look.” Michael J. Weldon, The Psychotronic Video Guide

” … it is marginally more successful than the Hammer attempts at such things. This is partly because it has a contemporary setting, and has acquired a kitsch period feel a quarter of a century later, and partly because it makes no pretence to be anything other than what it is – pure exploitation.” Andy Boot, Fragments of Fear: An Illustrated History of British Horror Films

“This truly lousy sexploitation film is more for the “raincoat crowd” than horror fans. It pulls no punches as even the opening credits are over a succession of bare breasts.” Gary A. Smith, Uneasy Dreams: The Golden Age of British Horror Films, 1956 – 1976

Choice dialogue:

Sybil Waite [Patricia Haines]: “Now what ideas have you for selling this cider? It’s filthy stuff to drink.”

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Filming locations:

Admiral’s Walk, Mill Lane, Pirbright, Surrey, England (also featured in Satan’s Slave, 1976)

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Cast and characters:

Ann Michelle … Christine
Vicki Michelle … Betty
Keith Buckley … Johnny
Patricia Haines … Sybil Waite
James Chase … Peter
Paula Wright … Mrs Wendell
Christopher Strain … Milkman
Esme Smythe … Horsewoman
Garth Watkins … Colonel
Neil Hallett … Gerald Amberley
Helen Downing … Abby Darke
Peter Halliday … Club Manager
Jenny Klingman
Maria Coyne … Coven Member
Prudence Drage … Coven Member

Filming locations:

Admiral’s Walk, Mill Lane, Pirbright, Surrey, England (also featured in Satan’s Slave, 1976)
Worpleson Place Hotel, Perry Hill, Guildford, Surrey

Censorship:

When it was submitted to the BBFC – the British censors – on 27 April 1971 it was initially (and absurdly) rejected outright. It then received an ‘X’ certificate from the more enlightened and relaxed Greater London Council (GLC) for a capital-only release. The BBFC puritans finally relented and allowed a cut version to be released across the UK in January 1972. All later UK video and DVD releases are fully uncut and society has not fallen apart.

In the US, Virgin Witch was distributed theatrically twice by legendary exploitation outfit Joseph Brenner Associates, its 1978 re-release was a double-bill with The Devil’s Rain.

Trailer: