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Simon, King of the Witches (1967)
Bar Harbor
Kestrell and I recently watched this very odd movie. It’s likely you haven’t heard of it, as even among cult circles it has a very small following. It doesn’t fit into neat genre categories, so was inevitably mis-marketed. Horror is as close to a standard genre as it gets, but it doesn’t approach it very closely at all. Using genre-by-comparison, I would put this in the same category as Marlowe’s Faust; they are both fundamentally about the relationship between magic and power (though the plots are completely different), and they’re both willing to be completely silly at times, despite the heavy thematic load.

(Kestrell chimes in: “it’s Marlowe’s Faust plus Marlow’s _The Long Goodbye_. I don’t actually agree, but I felt the wordplay was too good not to share.)

Andrew Prine plays the titular Simon, a ceremonial magician seemingly built from contradictions. He never actually refers to himself as “King of the witches”, but is certainly arrogant enough that one could see him doing so. His goal is not enlightenment, per se, but to become one of the gods himself, in a very real and literal sense. On the other hand, when we first meet him, he is living in a storm drain; in the first few minutes, the cops arrest him for vagrancy. Simon clearly understands how magic works – and yet is foolish enough to invoke magical harm on his enemies, not once but twice!

This film has the most accurate depiction of ritual ceremonial magic that I think I have ever seen. The scriptwriter clearly knew his stuff. It’s not always a flattering portrait, but it has the ring of truth.

They didn’t seem to have a huge budget, and the production values are very low. There’s often something going on in the cinematography that I’ve never seen before and found incredibly distracting at first. I suspect it comes from some camera fault they discovered by accident, but then used (at least occasionally) with intention. In these shots, the actor stays conventionally in focus, but the background behind them wavers strangely. If you look at the scene that starts about 17 minutes in, all the shots looking at Simon are normal, but the shots of Linda all have that weird wavering effect behind her. Does anyone reading this know enough about how (cheap 1960s) cameras work to guess how this effect could’ve happened? Or know someone who might know? I’m really curious!

I can’t really say it was a good film, but it was certainly different, and I was never bored. If you want to check it out, the YouTube link above has the entire film for your perusal.


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