Jul 29, 2014

Witchcraft`70

1970 Italy/USA
Directed by: Luigi Scattini/Lee Frost


«You and I are about to explore the mysteries of Witchcraft. The naked truth about the cults, covens and secret sects that still practice the black arts it this modern age.»

A pseudo travelogue/Mondo film that focuses its narrative solely on the concepts of Witchcraft and Satanism, Witchcraft `70 takes us around the globe to witness dark rituals and naked ladies; let's dig in:

We start our journey with a US police officer awkwardly explaining the horrors of animal mutilation, Satanism and drug
abuse in the hippie movement, before we are whisked off to merry old England. Here we witness a ritual to the god Pan, depicted by a man in a plastic goat mask, conducted by a half naked high priestess, swinging a sword as she chants about their great god before the whole scene erupts into an orgy. More weirdness follows from those crazy Brits as we are shown a sexual initiation rite where man and woman become one with Satan. We hurry back to the US for a frantic voodoo ritual in Louisiana, where the making of a zombie involves the drinking of blood and shaking of titties. A quick trip to Brazil treats us to grainy 8mm footage of a cult worshiping the sea, and white witches protecting the world from evil through dancing and drug abuse. Then it's off to Sweden to see faith healing trough song and prayer with the Maran ata sect, an offbeat Christian cult. (this is actually a Norwegian group, mostly active in the 60s and 70s)

Back in the US, we go to San Francisco to get a small tour of Anton LaVey's Church of Satan, and a satanic wedding ceremony, led by LaVey himself. Cutting straight to a hippie cult in devils canyon, filmed with a hidden camera, features shaggy hippies initiating themselves to Satan with LSD around a campfire. Escalating to the usual orgy complete with wannabe Hendrix riffs in the background. Far out man!

Satan sure likes undressing people, «nudity is required by the initiates», the narrator proclaims as almost every scene in the film features a naked lady giving up her soul and body to Satan. Featuring a highly sensationalistic look at what amounts to mostly sex and nudity and a love for the occult that reminds me a of cheap, lurid horror novel. Maybe the Italian version of the film treated the subject matter differently, but I have my doubts. Witchcraft `70 wants to be more alluring and shocking than it manages to be, and it all amounts to ritual upon ritual of naked ladies chanting or dancing. Additional footage for the American version of the film was provided by Lee Frost, the mastermind behind Mondo Bizarro and Mondo Freudo.
 
The inserted American scenes aren't that bad, and the allure of seeing something forbidden is always fun to explore, but the narrator claims that every other scene was filmed with a (badly) hidden camera.. This novelty wears of pretty quickly. Also most of the scenes in the film looks almost mundane, and most of the people in front of the camera seems oblivious to being filmed and bored at what's going on around them. The narrator even comments on this during the LaVey wedding footage, but it's apparent through the whole film.

The Mondo genre has always focused on speculative footage, from the Mondo Cane films to the more subversive efforts of Castiglioni brothers (Mondo Magic, Shocking Africa) outputs. But Witchcraft 70 has less in common with these films, as it features only a few scenes of nudity and not much more. Maybe effective during the 70s occult craze, it now serves more as a bizarre flashback to a worldview where people treated Satanism and the occult like a genuine threat to society.


Little more than an oddity in the Mondo genre, far from shocking enough or interesting enough to be a classic, Witchcraft `70 is an entertaining little occult romp out to scare, sensationalize and amuse. For a better view of the strange rites performed around the world, check out Mondo Magic from 1975. Just be prepared that you might loose your lunch.

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