Friday, December 5, 2014

Simon, King of the Witches (1971)



          A strange melodrama that blends elements of campy comedy and supernatural menace, Simon, King of the Witches apparently has its admirers, who consider the picture a wry send-up of the horror genre. However, the storyline is so befuddling and the tone is so inconsistent that the picture is perhaps best described as an acquired taste, and I most definitely did not acquire the taste. Andrew Prine, a workaday actor who spent much of the ’70s appearing in bad horror movies and second-rate Westerns, plays Simon Sinestrari, a would-be magician. For reasons that are never particularly clear, Simon lives in a storm drain and his best friend is a gay hooker, Turk (George Paulsin). Turk introduces Simon to debauched party people who dig the idea of a magician doing tricks at parties, so Simon becomes friendly with a rich queen named Hercules (Gerald York) and starts dating a girl named Linda (Brenda Scott), whose father happens to be the police commissioner. Working the party circuit gets Simon laid and provides some cash, but he has grander designs to pursue—mastering an otherworldly force and becoming a god. However, Simon’s ambitions don’t prevent him from getting distracted, so he spends lots of time on nonsense.
          In one scene, he crashes a Wiccan ritual and heckles the high priestess. And in the film’s major subplot, Simon puts a curse on Hercules and one of Hercules’ rich friends, all because of some perceived slight. When combined with the weird scene of Simon practicing his sexualized power ritual while standing over a gay man who’s on all fours and wearing only briefs, Simon, King of the Witches becomes so homoerotic and sarcastic that a better title might have been Simon, King of the Bitches. There’s a vague sense of irreverence running through the picture, and Prine’s world-weary vibe suggests that he’s in on the joke. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to discern just what the joke is supposed to be. If the picture was meant to satirize self-important mystics who use mumbo-jumbo to rip people off, then why does the movie contain actual magic? And why is the magic depicted through such cheap special effects as large glowing orbs? And what’s with the downbeat ending? Some fans of bizarre cinema may have fun parsing these mysteries, but Simon, King of the Witches will leave most viewers bored and confused.

Simon, King of the Witches: LAME

1 comment:

Steven Thompson said...

You forgot to mention that Prine looks incredibly like porn star John Holmes in this...or at least what Holmes would look like by the end of the decade. I wonder if he stole his "look" from Simon maybe?