A Forgotten Grindhouse Female Slasher Flick From the 70s

Looking for sleazy cinema that epitomized the grit of grindhouse features in the 1970s? Look no further than The Witch Who Came From the Sea. Starring Millie Perkins (The Diary of Anne Frank), the 1976 American movie features a rarely seen type of protagonist as its primary character, the female serial killer. Almost ahead of its time, this is a raw movie that would have been considered a giallo in Italy.

The Witch Who Came From the Sea deals in rough subject matter. Sexually abused as a young girl by her father, Molly (Millie Perkins) grows up to be a disturbed woman with a Jekyll and Hyde personality split. Her everyday personality has a spacey, confused approach to life, constructing an elaborate fantasy version of her deceased, abusive father. She has repressed her father’s behavior, even arguing with her sister that knows better. Molly suffers from headaches and other problems, no doubt from her mind being unable to cope with the trauma she has suffered. Weird visions penetrate her consciousness and disturb her thoughts.

A second personality occasionally emerges from the sweet Molly’s increasingly fractured mind. It seduces famous men like athletes and actors, luring them into situations where Molly can brutally kill them in sadistic fashion. Molly’s submerged dark side has a penchant for torturing her male victims, often going after their most private anatomy. The combination of sex and death is nothing new in exploitation filmmaking, but it feels wholly different with a woman being the murderer instead of the victim.

… problematic is the direction by Matt Cimber, which is overloaded with stylistic sequences that would have been better left out.

The movie is raw and rough around the edges, even for a low-budget exploitation flick from the Seventies. Having first come to fame in The Diary of Anne Frank years before, moviegoers at the time would have been startled and shocked to see Millie Perkins acting in this trashy slasher. The actress apparently did it for the money. Perkins admits she didn’t tell her friends or some of her family about her role in it. It’s an uneven performance, though it is a tough role to be fair. More problematic is the direction by Matt Cimber, which is overloaded with stylistic sequences that would have been better left out. There is its strange vibe as Molly wanders in and out of the lives of her lovers.

This is no cinematic masterpiece but an interesting underground film for its edgy subject matter. The Witch That Came From the Sea will definitely be an acquired taste, even for veteran exploitation fans. It’s worth a look if you enjoy off-kilter, sleazy slasher fare.

Movie ★★★☆☆

The Witch Who Came From the Sea Blu-ray screen shot 9

The Witch Who Came From the Sea lands on Blu-ray in rough shape. There is little way to positively spin this presentation. Taken from the best extant film elements of the 1976 genre movie, an inferior film print with significant damage and visible wear, it is a soft, muddy transfer that looks and feels appropriately grindhouse. No significant restoration has been applied, which isn’t unexpected for the low-budget exploitation thriller. Arrow Video hasn’t cleaned this print up as much as their other recent releases, they leave it completely unprocessed. Expect a rough-looking movie print from the Seventies.

The 87-minute uncut main feature was filmed in the Todd-AO 35mm process, shot by legendary horror cinematographer Dean Cundey early in his career. Arrow Video properly retains its 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio. The movie receives a film-like transfer of spotty elements. The negative, likely lost to history, could have done wonders for this Blu-ray.

Released on a BD-50, the one thing you can almost always count on from an Arrow Video Blu-ray is its fantastic compression quality. This is no exception, receiving an AVC video encode that completely replicates the rough grain structure of the surviving elements. There is adequate definition and clarity when director Matt Cimber avoids his overly stylized scenes.

Video ★★☆☆☆

The original English soundtrack is presented in 1.0 PCM. Much like the video, The Witch Who Came From the Sea has some audio problems. It is a recording of poor fidelity, with constant hiss and crackles. The monaural mix has limited depth and a thin, reedy presence. It could be called serviceable at best.

Optional English SDH subtitles display in a white font, inside the scope framing at all times.

Audio ★★☆☆☆

The Witch Who Came From the Sea is only available for the moment in a limited edition set, Arrow Video’s American Horror Project: Volume 1. The six-disc set comes with three movies, the other films being The Premonition and Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood. Each film comes on a Blu-ray and DVD edition in the set.

A lot of thought and effort was put into the packaging, it’s a handsome and lavish affair that almost feels too classy for three obscure, underground genre movies. Reversible sleeves for each film features original movie posters and newly-commissioned artwork by the Twins of Evil. A limited edition 60-page booklet has new articles on the films from Kim Newman (Nightmare Movies), Kier-La Janisse (House of Psychotic Women) and Brian Albright (Regional Horror Films, 1958-1990).

The special features dig up lead actress Millie Perkins, cinematographer Dean Cundey and director Matt Cimber for several different interviews. There are audio problems found in the commentary, making it a poor listening experience at times.

Optional Introduction by genre expert Stephen Thrower (04:52 in HD) – A somewhat pretentious opening which attempts to give this exploitation film a more serious perspective.

Tides and Nightmares (23:28 in HD) – Director Matt Cimber, cinematographer Dean Cundey, and actors Millie Perkins and John Goff are interviewed separately in this nice look back at the film. It’s an excellent, new making-of documentary that covers the film’s censorship, how they achieved some of the more disturbing scenes and Millie Perkins’ frank thoughts on her role and the film itself. Apparently the movie was written by her husband at the time with her in mind as the star.

A Maiden’s Voyage (36:14 in SD) – An older archival featurette consisting of interviews with director Matt Cimber, Dean Cundey, and actress Millie Perkins. Somewhat repetitive material but different production information is brought up.

Lost at Sea (03:55 in HD) – Director-producer Matt Cimber goes over his movie’s financing and other issues in this short interview segment.

Audio Commentary – A group recording with Matt Cimber, Dean Cundey and Millie Perkins. This must have been recorded in a phone booth. The audio quality is terrible. This is an adequate discussion of the film from its key principals but the audio quality is so poor that this is a skippable commentary.

Extras ★★★☆☆

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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