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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Supernatural > Magic > Thriller > Counterculture > Simon – King Of The Witches (1971/Dark Sky Films DVD)

Simon – King Of The Witches (1971/Dark Sky Films DVD)


Picture: C     Sound: C+     Extras: C+     Film: C+



Andrew Prine is one of those great, underrated character actors that could have easily become a lead actor, but no project managed to be a huge hit for him, but when he had a lead role, he could really carry things.  With Bruce Kessler’s Simon – King Of The Witches (1971) he began a noticeable wave of genre work that continued into the Cathy Lee Crosby Wonder Woman telefilm, Kung Fu, Nightmare Circus, Gemini Man, The Bionic Woman, The Evil, Hart To Hart, V, Kolchak: The Night Stalker and Grizzly, which he co-wrote.  But I remember him in this film and it is a better performance than he might have received credit for.


This is one of TV director Kessler’s few feature film outings (see Dark Sky’s release of The Gay Deceivers, reviewed elsewhere on this site) and though the situation of trying got break the witchcraft barrier into black magic is an absurd premise for any film, this works better than expected.  Robert Phippeny’s screenplay has some flaws and issues throughout, but Kessler and Prine take the situation so seriously and with such energy that the film still works better than it might otherwise.


Simon lives in a storm drain (often breaking the fourth wall to talk to the audience, a risk that sometimes backfires) but when he meets a hustler in jail who happens to know some people in high society who are connected and might be interested in his satanic work, even as a joke (this is the counterculture period, after all) then you can see how he lands up meeting some seedy-but-able people all helping him reach his goal to become a master of the black arts.


This has become a cult item of sorts and especially since the 1980s (give or take tough 1970s TV editing standards) has been edited for political reasons and now, you can see this uncut and uncensored for maximum impact.  Still, it is not a great or perfect film, but as it stands, it is an interesting genre piece that works more often than not.  But it is Prine who shines and the supporting cast including Norman Burton and Ultra Violet, are very effective.  Genre fans should see this at least once.



The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image may be a complete print, but it is often soft and uneven, though we wonder how much better this could be on Blu-ray and hope MPI makes this an early entry into that format.  This is the first of four rare cinematography works by David L. Butler, best known for his ace aerial cinematography on films like Terminator 2, Narrow Margin (1990) and The Blues Brothers.  The results here are nicely distinctive.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono fares better with decent clarity for its age, including an interesting music score by the reliable Stu Phillips.  Extras include an original theatrical trailer, radio spot and two interview featurettes: Simon Says with Prine and Making White Magic with Kessler.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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