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  Witchcraft Reimburse Or Face The Curse
Year: 1964
Director: Don Sharp
Stars: Lon Chaney Jr, Jack Hedley, Jill Dixon, Viola Keats, Marie Ney, David Weston, Diane Clare, Yvette Rees, Barry Linehan, Victor Brooks, Marianne Stone, John Dunbar, Hilda Fenemore
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: You cannot stop progress, and if that means bulldozing a graveyard which has gone unused for many decades, so be it, though there is a small protest from the Whitlock family and their adherents whose distant relatives were buried there. Their leader, Morgan (Lon Chaney Jr) nearly gets run over by the vehicle, but he cannot say he wasn't warned as the plans for this development have been in place for some time, giving him plenty of notice to do something about relocating the graves. Nevertheless, he is incensed enough to head over to the head architect of the plans, Bill Lanier (Jack Hedley)...

He happens to live nearby, which is handy both for Morgan and the plot as the characters split their time between the Lanier home and the graveyard, where all that disruption has broken open the tomb of one Vanessa Whitlock (unspeaking Yvette Rees), a witch who was sentenced to be buried alive way back in the seventeenth century, but now she has been disturbed and is returned to the living, looking right as rain and, well, there's no getting away from it, looking like Barbara Steele in Black Sunday, the Mario Bava classic which had been released a few years before and was proving influential. That said, you could also trace the narrative back to the Mummy movies.

They also featured a curse from the distant past revived and visited upon the modern day, so at least the makers of Witchcraft could offer a twist on the more historical settings the Bava movie had concerned itself with, as did the works which followed it. Let's face it, it was cheaper to use the trappings of the modern day rather than build whole sets from medieval times or whatever, and while this didn't look impoverished exactly, it was clear they were not exactly blessed with a huge budget, much of which must have gone on flying American import Lon Chaney Jr over from Hollywood. He wasn't alone in arriving back from The New World to the old to make a quick movie, but it was curious to see him nonetheless.

Perhaps because Chaney was so identifiably American he stood out more against the English surroudings than say, Vincent Price did, and we should be thankful he did not attempt an English accent, even if his blustering drawl did make you wonder where he was supposed to have hailed from if his ancestors were from around the region the movie was set in - was he one of those Americans obsessed with tracing their family tree who had thrown himself into the exercise with a shade too much gusto? It certainly seemed that way when we discovered he was the head of a coven of thirteen witches and warlocks (and Whitlocks) who were assisting the vengeful Vanessa in her endeavours.

First to succumb to the curse, delivered via voodoo doll to drag in another horror movie cliché, is Lanier's partner in business who is airily attending to his ablutions in the bath when the witch pushes the mannequin under the surface of some water and the partner is forced under too, thereby drowning him (though weirdly the detective investigating claims the man was strangled, suggesting script rewrites hadn't reached the actor in time). Soon it's the Lanier family under threat, and there are a lot of them, with Bill's wife Tracy (Jill Dixon) the one who uncovers the true terror of just what is up in the crypt, his mother (Marie Ney) facing death on the stairs when the magically materialising Vanessa looms up behind her, and aunt Helen (Viola Keats) meeting unintentionally absurd peril when the sorceress guides her car a liittle too close to the cliff which a sign ominously tells us is "unfenced". Although it took itself with a commendably straight face, Witchcraft managed to walk a tightrope of silliness which could be very enjoyable if you were in the mood. Music by Carlo Martelli.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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