THE WITCH’S MIRROR
(1965), B/W, 72 minutes
Distributed by Trans-International Films
Produced by K. Gordon Murray
Directed by Paul Nagel (as “Paul Nagle”)
DVD-R comes packaged as shown in color DVD case, wrapped in plastic!
This is one of the oddest and most exciting of the Mexican movies imported by Mr. Murray. It is true gothic horror, with references to many genre sources, as well as boasting some very spooky elements that seem avant-garde, even virtually psychedelic at times.
The opening credits roll over some strange and engaging footage of two horrified women looking into a mirror, where they, and we, see some bizarre reflections: a gruesome monster (in forward and reverse motion); a burnt and severed hand; a strangely symmetrical blob, not unlike a Rohrshach ink blot. These may be mere spook show thrills, or an overt allusion to a psychological horror film, but they certainly do pass for bargain-basement emblems of the Jungian pysche!
What’s most fun about this movie is perhaps its odd structure: the first segment is pure, unvarnished ghost story, and then we segway into most curious “mad scientist” territory.
This flick is full of occult action, not unlike SPIRITISM, with a touch of SNOW WHITE thrown in, via the fortune-telling mirror. Statues of saints move, and the mirror sends creepy images to its viewers.
The bimbo Deborah’s plight is surely tragic, but her bandaged head is comical, looking like a swollen Michelin Man after taking Novacaine!
There is some major chatting with the devil here, yet one believes that Sarah is trying to do good with her demonic requests. Its an odd sort of theology, and after awhile, we wonder just “who” she is praying to, god or the devil? Well, as they say in the philosophy chat rooms, “the god you pray to is the prince of darkness…”
The film’s obsession with distorting quasi-Catholic ritual borders on the perverse (although all Mexi-horror film of the period seems imbued with a curious pseudo-Catholic sociopatholgy…). Literary refs abound; there are touches of Hawthorne, Poe, Shelley, maybe even Lovecraft here.
The lurid, somewhat convoluted storyline gives us an opportunity to witness a veritable parade of skid-row shock icons, such as: a witch turning into a black cat; amputation; disembodied heads; severed hands; bloody limbs; inserts of owls; graverobbing; being buried alive; ghosts and apparitions; mad scientists; female mutilation; resuurection of the dead, and demonic invocations. This weird array of f/x is sort of gruesome, in a corny way.
THE WITCH’S MIRROR is a wild and wooly apparition from the borderlands of horror exotica, and the closest thing one is likely to find to an all-out Mexican “Spook Show”. We love it.
* (updated 02-14-06) Thanks to a terrific new book we just received, “Ghouls, Gimmicks and Gold” by Kevin Heffernan, (2004, Duke University Press), we have been able to update the U.S. television release date for this Murray horror title to 1965. The appendices to this study of the horror film in America, circa 1955-1968, include complete listings of syndication feature film packages from many distributors, including American International Television, who subleased the K. Gordon Murray film catalog under the title THRILLERS FROM ANOTHER WORLD. It seems that 1965 was the watershed year for genre film sold to television, with a veritable flood of titles released by both domestic and foreign distribs.
* (effective 05-01-03) After a very brief window of availability, this long-sought K. Gordon Murray title is once again out of print, due to international copyright issues. Used video tapes of this title may be found on online video dealers and auction sites. Stay tuned for further developments!
* According to Mexican film historian David Wilt, EL ESPEJO DE LA BRUJA was a popular enough horror film to warrant that most beloved, and missed 60’s mass market tie-in: a photo-comic book!
* According to AFI, THE WITCH’S MIRROR had its US premiere on May 29, 1969 in Maryland, with its theatrical co-bill THE LIVING HEAD; another classic drive-in double bill to wax nostalgiac over!