The first surviving feature film by no-budget Texas filmmaker Larry Buchanan (ZONTAR, THE THING FROM VENUS, GOODBYE NORMA JEAN) is a makeshift affair of interest only as an example of regional filmmaking (although genre buffs may be interested to note some surprising plot and visual
similarities to Mario Bava's 1960 BLACK SUNDAY). Although it was unreleased until 1961, Buchanan shot this tale of a vengeful witch in 1957 in Luckenbach, Texas, at the time still home to the descendants of a German community that settled there in the 19th century.
A student (Robert Short) heads to central Texas to research his thesis on the Germans who came there in 1846 in search of religious freedom. The residents are friendly--until he asks about certain superstitions, at which point they clam up. Kirska (Jo Maryman), an attractive young woman, helps him
find lodgings and explains that her father and uncle are particularly sensitive about the legend of the "Luckenbach witch." She gives him a book to read, from which he learns that the witch was a widowed woman who had an affair with Otto Schoennig, a local landowner whose wife was ill. Wishing to
end the affair, Schoennig denounced her as a witch, something easily believed by a community which had recently lost a third of its population to disease and other calamities. Before she is executed with a spire (wooden stake), the widow vows vengeance on the Schoennig family.
Fascinated, the student goes out to find the widow's grave. When he does, he digs it up and finds her mummified remains. He pulls the spire from the corpse, causing it to revive. As he flees in panic, the widow stalks and kills one of the three surviving Schoennigs. The next day she kills his
brother as well. The student tracks the witch to her lair, intending to stop her, but instead falls under her seductive spell. He awakes just in time to return to town and stop her from killing Kirska, the last Schoennig. Instead, the witch falls and is impaled the same spire that had been removed
from her earlier.
NAKED WITCH is filmmaking of the most minimal sort. Aside from a few frolicking children, there are no actors other than the featured players, the few sets are practically devoid of decoration, and the bulk of the dialogue consists of voice-over narration. Buchanan's idea of shooting
"day-for-night" is to have a character walk through the woods in broad daylight and talk about how bright the moon is. The brief film is padded with an opening sequence running a full eight minutes in which, over shots of weird Hieronymus Bosch paintings, an uncredited Gary Owens talks about the
gruesome history of witchcraft. The only known print is missing an unknown amount of footage, which doesn't entirely account for lapses in a plot that can most charitably be described as "convenient." (The same print also censors the titular nudity with crude black blotches.) Still, in spite of as
much as because of these faults, NAKED WITCH has a crude charm: its exploitative elements have an almost innocent quality, and Buchanan was genuinely interested in preserving on film a since-vanished pocket of Americana. (Violence, nudity, adult situations.)
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- Rating: NR
- Review: The first surviving feature film by no-budget Texas filmmaker Larry Buchanan (ZONTAR, THE THING FROM VENUS, GOODBYE NORMA JEAN) is a makeshift affair of interest only as an example of regional filmmaking (although genre buffs may be interested to note some… (more)