Remember Orson Welles? He starred as Charles Foster Kane in one of the greatest movies of all time, Citizen Kane. He also happened to have a hand in writing it and directed the picture as well and it was his first big feature film which is highly regarded by all of movie-dom. Later he starred alongside Rita Hayworth in The Lady From Shanghai, a film about murder and mystery which was also well looked upon by most, though it would take a while. Welles would go on to star in many pictures over the years including another tale of corruption and murder alongside Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh called Touch of Evil. He would even lend his unmistakable voice to Transformers: The Movie as Unicron. The man, without a doubt was a genius in the film world, but even the best of men might stumble once or twice.
The Witching or Necromancy in its unaltered form as it is known as, is not necessarily a stumble, but Welles is the best thing about the film with Pamela Franklin a close second. The question is why he ever agreed to appear in such a low budget production? Presumably he must have needed the work as the script by Bert I. Gordon, fine purveyor of sci-fi classics The Amazing Colossal Man, War of the Colossal Beast, Attack of the Puppet People and more, was not the greatest to have ever come across his desk. Suffice it to say, he agreed to star in this film and the end result, which by no means ended up being as great a movie as Citizen Kane, was also by no means the worst. It definitely could have ended up being a whole lot better if he had had a hand in any of the production, writing or direction though.
The film such as it is, is about a small town that just so happens to be inhabited by a coven of witches of which Orson Welles turns out to be the leader of. Playing Mr. Cato, Welles wants to resurrect his dead son and he cannot do so without the help of Lori Brandon played by Pamela Franklin. The coven is full of interesting people, most of whom like to get naked and have orgies. They also like to be nude while performing some of the rituals, and in the opening scene even break out the oil to massage the new inductee’s breasts. Lori would go on throughout the movie seeing visions of Mr. Cato and past events, and would also appear in the buff herself. The film was not all nudity though. It would contain murder and a fair amount of psychedelia and surprisingly, decent acting.
Gordon also happened to direct this picture and while it would be nice to say he did a great job, it was a little lacklustre. The reason for this might have been with the editing of the film, which was abrupt and choppy in places and supposedly even worse than the original version of the movie, of which this was not. It did however give it an almost frenetic pace at times and due to that the picture never felt overly long or boring. The soundtrack and music could have been better and the sound could have been boosted a bit as the film was a bit quiet in places making volume adjustments necessary. This was definitely a different kind of outing than what Gordon would normally do, and it is interesting to see that he was able to stretch his wings once in a while.
The film would be written by Gordon and Gail March and would star other notables like Lee Purcell as Priscilla and Michael Ontkean, of Twin Peaks fame, as Lori’s husband. They did a fairly good job with the material, but the show belonged to Pamela Franklin and to a lesser extent, the legendary Orson Welles. There are always what-if’s in every movie, and here, it would have been nice to see what the actors could have done with a stronger script if it had been available, not to mention a general improvement overall. The rest of the cast is forgettable and it is expected as their roles were minor compared to the rest. It would be good to see Necromancy in its original form and compare that print to this edited version. It is said that the films are quite different from one another in some places with Necromancy making more sense than this particular cut of the movie. Overall, it was fun in spots and for a horror film; it was an okay C grade shlocker. The Witching is what it is – enjoyable, cheesy and dated, but worth a gander.
3 out of 5