The Witch's Mirror (1960)
First, imagine a film that combines elements of Hitchcock's gothic melodrama Rebecca, Georges Franju's haunting Eyes Without a Face and Karl Freund's fiendish classic Mad Love (just to name three). Next, throw in witchcraft, a burning bride, a sexy ghost on the loose, and enough fog to choke a Londoner with a pipe penchant, and you've got an inkling of what the Mexi-horror classic The Witch's Mirror has in store. Recently resurrected on DVD (alongside The Curse of the Crying Woman) by CasaNegra, The Witch's Mirror is a fun-filled fright film, awash with eerie, shadowy atmosphere, highly detailed, luxuriant set designs, and to top it off, features some supremely beautiful and evocative black and white cinematography.
The film's story is simple but effective, and as mentioned, bears several references to other films. Despite this, or because of this, the combinations tend to create unusual and enjoyable results, not merely through juxtaposition alone, but also because director Chano Urueta brings his distinct style and creativity to the familiar material. The Witch's Mirror revolves around the battle between a mad, femicidal surgeon and a witch seeking revenge for the killing of her adoptive daughter. It is interesting that the witch operates as the film's moral center, and the surgeon (who was also the husband of the deceased) is the film's primary "monster" - attempting to right one wrong by committing a slew of other atrocities as he works to restore his new wife's former beauty. In many horror films simply using the "witch's revenge" storyline would be sufficient; however, The Witch's Mirror does a nice job of combining its myriad elements to often interesting, but always entertaining, effect.
Complementing the story of The Witch's Mirror are some truly striking visuals. In all, the cinematography fully exploits the vast gradation of light and shadow that can be achieved with black and white film, creating images that have wonderful texture and tactility. Especially memorable is a scene in which a woman swathed in surgical bandages moves like a phantom through a bedroom, while nearby a witch summons her powers in an attempt to raise the dead. The shots of the bandaged woman in the bedroom are a haunting and beautifully realized sequence of images that would make any filmmaker proud. Add to this, clever, low-budget effects that, more often than not, elevate the film rather than make it look cheap or silly, and you have a splendid, visually arresting horror film that's essentially a lot of fun to watch.As with their release of The Curse of the Crying Woman, CasaNegra has done a spectacular job bringing The Witch's Mirror to DVD. The newly restored print looks fantastic and it's unlikely that the film has ever looked quite this good before. The remastered sound is presented in Dolby Digital Mono, and for those who don't speak Spanish optional English subtitles are included. The DVD also features a handful of nice extras including, audio commentary with Frank Coleman (founder of IVTV), another one of those neat CasaNegra Loteria game cards, an essay entitled Chanovision: The Films of Mexican Cult Moviemaker, Chano Urueta, cast bios, and a poster and stills gallery.
Suffice it to say, for fans of classic horror films The Witch's Mirror and Curse of the Crying Woman are easily two of the best DVDs to be released in 2006 thus far, and are well-worth adding to your collection. Enjoy!
Labels: casanegra, dvd, mexican horror, review, the witch's mirror