VHS Vednesday: Simon, King of the Witches
SIMON, KING OF THE WITCHES (1971). Directed by Bruce Kessler. Starring Andrew Prine, Brenda Scott, and George Paulsin.
It's October, the season of monsters, ghosts, and witches...so let's start off the month with the obscure oddity Simon, King of the Witches.
Andrew Prine (a familiar face in movies ranging from The Miracle Worker to The Dukes of Hazzard) stars as Simon Sinestrari, a practicing magician who lives in a storm drain and becomes something of a celebrity when various high-society types decide it's amusing to have a genuine warlock at their parties. However, magic is no joking matter to Simon, and he (aided by a couple of hippie followers) eventually decides to turn his powers against the establishment that mocked him. In particular, he singles out one wealthy patron (Angus Duncan) who had paid him off with a bad check...for a practitioner of the mystic arts, Simon is awfully petty.
According to the IMDB, screenwriter Roger Phippeny was a practicing warlock himself, and many of Simon's speeches come across as self-conscious attempts to clear up misconceptions about magic. However, Roger/Simon frequently seems as intolerant and ignorant as he accuses the "uninformed" of being; one scene in which Simon attends a meeting of Wiccans (led by Andy Warhol superstar Ultra Violet), then viciously mocks their beliefs and practices, is particularly hard to take. If Simon is a Mary Sue for the screenwriter, he's one of the most unsympathetic authorial stand-ins ever.
Who's Leaving This Off Their Resume?
Despite the flaws of the scripted character, Andrew Prine's talent and charisma manage to make Simon an occasionally appealing character (failing only during Simon's most egregious behaviors, see above). Still, Prine has admitted that there's really only one movie he's embarrassed by, and it's not this one. (For the record, it's Alan Rudolph's Barn of the Naked Dead.)
Labels: vhs vednesday