Witchcraft ’70 (1970) reviews and overview

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[Total: 20   Average: 2.3/5]

‘The shocking truth about Witchcraft as it exists today in our cities and suburbs!’

Witchcraft ‘70 is an Italian Mondo-style documentary feature film originally titled Angeli Bianchi… Angeli Neri (“White Angel, Black Angel”) directed by Luigi Scattini (Sexy magicoSweden: Heaven and Hell) from a screenplay co-written with Alberto Bevilacqua (Planet of the Vampires; Black Sabbath; Atom Age Vampire). It was also released as The Occult Experience and, in the UK by Miracle Films (censored by BBFC prudes, of course), as The Satanists.

The movie features a notable loungecore soundtrack by Piero Umiliani that has been issued on CD and a gatefold vinyl album.

Plot:

Examining alleged witchcraft (quite an umbrella term, it turns out) in modern times, this is a contemporary (for 1969/1970) documentary that, in original publicity terms is “a picture on the new menace, giving a vivid inside account of the current drug-inspired cult rituals, orgiastic sex ceremonies and lavish dens of witchcraft where animal and human sacrifice are integrated into ceremonial symbolism, to bring film audiences an up-to-the-minute account of the new evil sweeping the world.”

Review:

Well along in the run of Italian “Mondo” documentaries, this globetrotting survey of alleged demonism appeared. The timing was at least on the tacky nonfiction epic’s side: the murderous Charles Manson affair had been shaking Hollywood and esoteric and paganish-occult practices were meshing well with certain subsets of the “hippie” counter-culture (the opposite, of course, were the “Jesus freaks”), who went in the other direction).

The original Italian version by Luigi Scattini, Angeli Bianchi… Angeli Neri, was shot and released in 1969 as was then augmented by material from American softcore/mondo monger Lee Frost (Love Camp 7; Mondo Freudo; Mondo Bizarro). We are unknowing of who is guilty of the psychedelic opening credits. Could it have been… Satan himself?!

English actor Edmund Purdom narrates episodic and ill-organised bits. A California resort-town cop worries about kids in the hippie movement turning increasingly to devil worship and animal sacrifice.

There is a satanic wedding among affluent white devil-worshippers in Grosvenor Square, London; an Italian spirit-medium; what claims to be ecstatic New Orleans Voodoo rites in some swampy bayou environment; and a visit to Anton Levay’s infamous Church of Satan in San Francisco (which even the commentary complains looks pretty dull).

One American initiate in the UK states that Christianity has brought about a modern world of racial unrest and the Vietnam War, so out of that disenchantment she’s going over to the alternative. We even visit a Swedish Christian sect that rejects modern medicine in favour of prayer, even though the die-off rate of parishioners sometimes presents an embarrassment.

For a few sequences the aspect ratio of the picture suddenly shrinks down and we are informed that what we are about to see is so forbidden that the film team was not allowed; only close associates of the worshippers using Super 8 rigs had permission to capture a Balinese ritual dance of symbolically fighting a costumed “witch,” and Brazilian women writhing for hours (supposedly brutally bashing themselves on the ground although it just looks like choreography to us) to atone for the entire community’s sins. Picture quality and multi-camera views of these so-called Super 8 peeps are virtually identical to the rest of the production, which suggests that these ceremonies were not so exclusive after all.

Despite an MPAA X' rating and much toplessness and butt shots, everyone is diabolically careful to avoid full-frontal nudity, a tipoff that the "hidden camera" footage is carefully staged, never mind what you are told. No one uses the politically correctWiccan,’ and actor Purdom’s voiceover pronounced “coven” with a long `O,’ which has been a topic of controversy from time to time in supernatural circles. So if nothing else, the gamey Witchcraft ’70 supposedly cleared that one up.

Meanwhile, stick with Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby or even Simon, King of the Witches for latter-day witchcraft shown that might actually raise a good shudder or two.

Charles Cassady Jr., MOVIES and MANIA

Other reviews:

“Unfortunately, there was no variety. No real soul. No unintentionally artsy photography, mind-blowing sound collages, or gore-sex rampages involving people wearing goat heads. Witchcraft ’70 didn’t go far enough. The filmmakers came up with one great idea and simply repeated it seven or eight times.” Bleeding Skull!

“This silly pseudo-documentary on the evils of witchcraft circa 1970 will keep you entertained if you like seeing lots of naked (not necessarily attractive) women and people supposedly into the occult trying to look natural on camera. It all looks a bit too set-up, but it’s still damn funny.” Buried.com

“It gets rather dull at times, largely because there really isn’t enough variety between the various rituals to keep one from being bored. The Anton LaVey footage is interesting, in that the commentator talks about the subdued and rather bored feeling to the Satanic rituals, which he attributes to the fact that they go through it almost three times a day; there’s nothing that sucks the magic out of a ritual like its over-repetition.” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

“Animal sacrifice is prevalent, including a voodoo practice in which a bare nubile is a basted in the blood of a freshly decapitated boar. Witchcraft ’70 is a spookily psychedelic time capsule that will prove of most use to occult completists or very specific fetishists only.” Mike “McBeardo” McPadden, Heavy Metal Movies

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