The popular expression ‘well, that’s two hours of my life I’ll never get back’ will have never been more appropriately uttered than by anyone who chooses to give up their precious time to experience this messy, pretentious, barely-watchable vanity project instigated in 1965 (and releases two years later) by Dino De Laurentiis in the hopeless, if commendable, desire to raise the profile of his actress then-wife Silvana Mangano. Who, you may cry? Well quite; job not done.
The Witches (or Le Streghe) is a terrible, pointless film even making allowances for the crazy, random excesses of the psychedelic 1960s and truly appalling dubbing on the English language version. Despite its title, there’s absolutely nothing supernatural going on in any of the five stories which make up this shonky ‘portmanteau’ effort unless your definition of ‘witches’ runs to strong, powerful female leads who take matters into their own hands and control their own destinies in a world dominated by men. The film’s quintet of stories are uniformly ill-disciplined, catastrophically irritating and utterly unengaging. None of them are helped by the fact that Mangano herself isn’t exactly Oscar nomination thespian material and she lacks the versatility and screen presence necessary to breathe life into five disparate, if rather dull, characters. The first and last stories (the longest) are the best of a bad bunch. In the opener, ‘The Witch Burned Alive’ a drunken evening leads to unpleasant revelations about the life of a famous, if shallow, actress. Clint Eastwood, at this point in his career post-spaghetti western and on the cusp of a successful Hollywood rebirth, stars as an estranged, listless husband in ‘An Evening Like the Others’ which does at least give him the chance to show a talent for light comedy which his later career would rarely offer. It’s still not much cop though. The film is padded out with two four-minute stories; in ‘Civic Sense’ Mangano plays an Italian motorist who gives an injured driver a lift to a hospital but uses him to help her speed across Rome more quickly (little hilarity ensues) and ‘The Sicilian’s Wife’ is a blink-and-you-missed-it revenge story. If you’re able to endure Pasolini’s absurd, surreal-to-the-point-of-utter-idiocy ‘The Earth as Seen From the Moon’ without turning the air blue and wishing cinema had never been invented then you probably deserve a medal – or, more likely, urgent medical attention.
In fairness, lovers of obscure European cinema might find The Witches’ elusive charms easier to access. But apart from a jaunty Morricone score, a lively animated title sequence and an uncharacteristic performance from Eastwood (the film was never released outside Italy due to the perceived risk of Eastwood’s rising star being dragged to earth by his appearance in something as offbeat as The Witches) there’s nothing of real interest here and certainly nothing to constitute an enjoyable and satisfying movie experience. In short; this is nonsense.
Extras: Commentaries, Ninetto Davoli interview, English language version.
THE WITCHES (1967) /CERT: 12 / DIRECTORS: MAURO BOLOGNINI, PIER PAOLO PASOLINI, VITTORIO DE SICA, LUCHINO VISCONTI, FRANCO ROSSI / SCREENPLAY: AGE AND SCARPELLI, MAURO BOLOGNINI, LUIGI MAGNI, BERNADINO ZAPPONI, FABIO CARPI, GUISEPPI PATRONI GRIFFI, CESARE ZAVATTINI, ROBERTO GIANVITI, ENZO MUZII / STARRING: SILVANA MANGANO, TOTO, NINETTO DAVOLI, CLINT EASTWOOD / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW