FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Feb 2, 2010

The Witches Mountain

I knew going in that Category 7 of Operation: 101010, movies pulled from my 50-packs, would frequently cause me to find myself swept up in a Category 7 storm of crap. If the Spanish film The Witches Mountain (1972), the first film I'm ticking off that list, is any indication...well, I may have to upgrade it to a Category 10 and call in Nancy McKeon or Randy Quaid or someone else who's portrayed a Stormologist to help me survive.

Now, I'm not gonna lie: the first five minutes of The Witches Mountain are completely awesome and completely insane. As some of the softest soft rock plays, a woman arrives home and finds that someone has plunged a knife through a wig, pinning it to her front lawn. Wanton wig abuse! I was immediately smitten with this movie.

She goes upstairs and spies her cat all bloodied and dead on her bed. A little girl comes in, calls the woman an infidel, admits to the kittycide, then heads to the garage to play with her pet snake (not a euphemism). The woman follows and...promptly SETS THE CHILD ON FIRE. Cue The Witch Chorus Singers (redundant I know, but it sounds better), the opening credits, and a look of What the fuckery? that would remain until it was time to cue the end credits.

Wait, there are no end credits in The Witches Mountain...but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Whenever I set a child on fire, the first thing I want to do afterward is go on a nice vacation with my boyfriend. This mystery woman is no different, so she gets two tickets to one paradise or another and tells Mario (Cihangir Gaffari) to pack a bag. Mario is the very picture of delightful 70s sleaze, from his fluffy proto-mullet to his ambitious moustache to his chest carpet and medallion. He is kind of amazing.

At this point, I would like to remind everyone that a moment ago the woman SET A CHILD ON FIRE.

Perhaps he can sense that she's a nutcake, or perhaps he's just a cad. Whatever the case, Mario declines the offer of a free vacation and calls his boss to ask for a new "photo assignment" starting, like, now.

Mario must be a photographer for the CIA or something, because all we ever find out about his assignment is that he must go take some pictures of some mountains. Where, exactly? Eh, somewhere in the Pyrenees, it looks like. Why, exactly? 'Tis a mystery.

Along the way, Mario stops to take some photographs of a woman out sunbathing. The two begin talking and the woman, Delia (Patty Shepard) agrees to accompany Mario on his trip. This makes total sense. I mean, who wouldn't drive for hours deep into the middle of nowhere with a total stranger? It's not like anyone knows where she's going, so no one's going to bitch that it's a bad idea.

Anyway, they end up at a hotel run by Andorra's own answer to Marty Feldman. He is kind of amazing.

Thus begins our slog through the excruciating middle 65 minutes of The Witches Mountain. People talk, people sleep. Mario takes some pictures. Delia sleepwalks. They encounter a mysterious goat herder. They walk around. They say everything twice to the Marty Feldman innkeeper because he's deaf. Delia says she sees a face in the window in her room, but as usual, the picture is too dark for me to see anything.

mysterious goat herder

At one point, Mario and Delia are out taking pictures- well, Mario is talking pictures...Delia just sort of stands there- and someone drives off in their Jeep. They run after it and find it abandoned far down the road, outside of some little village that appears abandoned. It turns out that one house is occupied by a little old witchy-looking woman who claims she knows nothing of the Jeep thievery and she's totally the only person around.

Hey, remember when that woman set that kid on fire? Me too.

Mario and Delia invite themselves to stay with the old woman. Lest the sounds of The Witch Chorus Singers (they're back) lead you to think something is actually going to happen...well, don't get your hopes up because we're still ensconced in the 65-minute negative zone. They talk, they sleep, the old woman makes a big cauldron of something or other, Delia sleepwalks, Mario goes out and takes pictures. He stays out too long and after the sun goes down, the eeeevil fog rolls in. He gets lost, but spots some robed figures carrying torches and singing; yes, I think we've found The Witch Chorus Singers' Secret Hideout.

The next morning, Mario makes his way back to the old woman's house. He busts out his portable picture developing kit and...develops his pictures, anxious to see those robed figures again. The pictures of them are blank- however, random women appear in other photographs despite the fact that Mario did not see them and what's even more eerie, there's a photo of Mario and Delia that they did not take. Then some women drag the old woman out of her humble abode.

Finally, some GD action and stuff in this movie! Mario and Delia follow. They end up at the spot where The Witch Chorus Singers were hanging out...then they leave. Then Mario goes back. Then Mario finds some blood on a rock. Then I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that The Witches Mountain will probably never make any sense.

Now, I'm going to sum up the rest of the film using this series of rapid fire questions my roommate asked me when it was over. My answers are in parenthesis:
  • So, they grab her...and she wears a bridal gown? (yes)
  • Then she's in a dungeon? (y-yes)
  • And there's...a hairy, oily guy in there? (umm...)
  • And the witches are dancing? (It's like a failed musical.)
  • Then someone hits him over the head? The lead guy. (I think so.)
  • Then the girl he likes runs away? (yeah)
  • And he chases her. (yes)
  • And she runs off a cliff. (that was awesome!)
  • So he sets the village on fire. (It looked like it...)
  • Then all the witches are at his house. (I guess so.)
THE END, no credits.

The Witches Mountain leaves one with oh so many questions. What's the deal with the witches? And the bridal veil? And the dungeon? And the guy in the dungeon? And...why? And what the fuck is the thing that one of the witches is holding at the end? Seriously, your guess is as good as mine: I see a door hinge and a Zuni Fetish Doll.

AND WHAT ABOUT THE WOMAN WHO SET A CHILD ON FIRE? Well, she was there at the very end, but that doesn't explain anything. Oh, Witches Mountain, thou art verily a place of mystery.

This movie is so, so bad. So bad. Bad. Bad movie. If it consisted solely of the first and last 5-minute portions, though, I'd be sitting on a 50-pack of gold! The Witch Chorus Singers are purely and simply awesome, and they need to be heard by all. How you can achieve this without sitting through the film, I don't know. It may not be possible, but it may be worth the risk.

Nah, that's not true. The Witches Mountain may be a bad movie that's just plain bad. That's so hard for me to say, especially because of all the wig violence and singing and Mario's moustache. Siiigh.


Bill Walsh said...

I think we can all agree that Mario is the epitome of ’70s style.

And, damn, I thought this was going to be Escape to Witch Mountain. Man, I had a crush on Kim Richards. It even drove me to watch Hello, Larry.

Kmork said...

What's Nancy McKeon up to these days?

Chris Otto said...

Watched this one last summer. Didn't make a lick of sense. Some entertaining moments, which you outlined, but it's no "Cathy's Curse." .... Now here's a question: What if the beginning had been a showdown between Cathy and The Witch Who Turned Out Not To Matter? Officiated by Mickey Rooney from "The Manipulator."

Stacie Ponder said...

Good Lord, my head would explode!

Bill, I wanted to make some Witch Mountain-related post title, but nothing came to me beyond "Escape from The Witches Mountain", which is kinda blah. They can't all be gems!

highwayknees said...

I think Mario is my kinda dude! So sexy! But I'm a bit of a facial hair fetishist-so you can't go by me!