Directed by Riccardo Freda [Other horror films: I vampiri (1957), Caltiki il mostro immortale (1959), L’orribile segreto del Dr. Hichcock (1962), Lo spettro (1963), L’iguana dalla lingua di fuoco (1971), Estratto dagli archivi segreti della polizia di una capitale europea (1972), Murder Obsession (1981)]
Known sometimes as The Witch’s Curse, this Italian production isn’t a bad film, but is can be somewhat tedious, so ends up in the middle of the road.
I’ve seen this story done before in the 1925 Italian movie of the same name – in both, strongman Maciste goes down to Hell, and must defeat evil and resist temptation before coming back to the over-world. Though I like the somewhat intense framing for the reasoning Maciste went into Hell in this movie more, I’ll say that the 1925 version is a lot more fun.
There’s a Corman-Price movie from 1963 titled The Haunted Palace, which I recently revisited, and what struck me as amusing was how the first 15 minutes of this film follows that beginning of The Haunted Palace almost exactly – a witch/warlock is burned to death and puts a curse on the village, years later an ancestor of that witch/warlock moves back into the castle to the horror of the superstitious townspeople, and instantly the the townspeople want to rush to the castle and set the ancestor to the flame.
In The Haunted Palace, though, the townspeople hold off a bit. Here, though, on the first night that the ancestor and husband get there, they rush the castle with torches and pitchforks, and drag the woman out to be slain. All hope looks lost until the shirtless Maciste comes forth to save the innocent woman, and enters hell to do so.
From a modern, American viewpoint, Maciste is pretty much Superman. He’s an embodiment of all that’s right and good, strong and virtuous, and even when he gets into Hell, he tried to help some of the people suffering, which shows strong character. In relation, I did think Hell looked better in the 1925 version of this story, but here it’s in proper color, and doesn’t look all too shabby.
Kirk Morris is the handsome feller who played Maciste, and I think he did a pretty fair job. Any time he struggled to lift something (which was about half of what he spent time doing), he did a fair job acting like what he was trying to lift was actually heavy. Vira Silenti did pretty good – it was tense that, while Maciste was slowly trying to through Hell to find the witch, that Silenti’s character was getting closer and closer to being burned to death. And playing her husband, Angelo Zanolli did great showing his devotion, perhaps foolishly so, to his wife.
Believe it or not, I wasn’t a young boy in Italy back in the 1960’s, but if I were, I would think that I’d find The Witch’s Curse a moderately fun romp. I don’t personally think this is a great film, but I am somewhat surprised by how it has only a 5.1/10 on IMDb as of this writing. The film has it’s charm, and for a pre-giallo Italian horror/fantasy/adventure film, I think it’s decent.