Christine (Ann Michelle from Pete Walker's House Of Whipcord) and Betty (Vicki Michelle who played Yvette in the BBC's Allo Allo) are two sultry sisters who have just left home and made their way to the swinging London of the early 1970s. They hitch a ride into town with Johnny (Keith Buckley of Dr. Phibes Rises Again), a hip young man who puts the girls up at his pad in the city. Soon, the two girls figure they should find work and so off they go to look for jobs. Christine winds up taking a job at a modelling agency run by Sybil Waite (Patricia Haines who was married to Michael Caine and who shows up in The Night Caller) who is only too happy to bring her into her fold, in fact, she gives her a job that very weekend.
Christine brings Betty along as her chaperone and off the three ladies go into the country where they're going to do a photo-spread at an old home called Wytchwold owned by Dr. Gerald Amberly (Neil Hallett of Can You Keep It Up For A Week?) who just so happens to be a leading expert on witchcraft and a high priest himself. The girls soon find this out for themselves and, after Christine makes out with Peter (James Chase) the photographer, they initiate her into their coven by way of an arcane and very sexual ceremony wherein she's deflowered by the good doctor on an alter in front of a group of naked, writhing occultists. What they don't realize is that Christine is a natural at this sort of thing and she's got powers that are far beyond those that a new recruit should have. She's not happy when she finds out that Sybil has had unclean intentions for her all along, and we all know that Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
Made to cash in on the occult craze that was running rampant through the horror movies of the 1970s, The Virgin Witch is no masterpiece but it definitely entertains. While it's easy enough to figure out where this one is heading (seriously, they head for a place called Wytchworld - what did they expect would happen?) very early on in the proceedings (pretty much from the time that Sybil has Christine disrobe for her in her office!) the film is still a fun ride thanks to a few interesting characters and a copious amount of nudity courtesy of the real life Michelle sisters. Director Ray Austin, who has done most of his work in television on such shows as The Saint, Space: 1999 and Magnum P.I.! uses every opportunity that Klaus Vogel's story allows to get the girls disrobed and the movie is all the better for it - they're both particularly easy on the eyes and quite beautiful in the classic sense with a very natural sex appeal about them. The film takes pretty much any opportunity it can to have the actresses shed their clothing - from the model shoots in which tops and pants come off to the ritualistic elements that become more important in the later part of the movie. The nudity may not always further the plot but it certainly does fulfill the requisite skin quotient that you'd expect from a film like this.
There is a bit more to the movie than simply fine, shapely T&A, however. Not much more, mind you, but a little bit at least. The scenes where the coven gathers outside for their ritualistic ceremonies have some nice, eerie atmosphere and the cinematography makes very good use of the English countryside and the ornate manor that much of the movie takes place in. Of course it all builds up to the big finish and on that level the movie doesn't disappoint. The finale of the film is handled well, with an appropriate if predictable twist thrown in for fun. The movie also makes great use of color, reds and greens in particular and contains a particularly interesting, if fairly weird, nightclub number in which a foxy black chanteuse entertains an audience inside a club that looks more like a cave. This isn't a great movie by any stretch but it's competently made, full of nice scenery, and it's got some nice ambience - that makes it worth a look.
The virgin Witch looks pretty good on Bl-ray, presented in AVC encoded 1.66.1 widescreen 1080p high definition and transferred from the 35mm negative. Colors are reproduced nicely and if detail doesn't compete with the latest and greatest Hollywood blockbuster it is certainly improved over the previous DVD offering from Redemption that came out a couple of years ago. Some mild print damage is apparent throughout the film but it's never particularly distracting and basically relegated to minor white specks here and there and a few tiny scratches. Skin tones look go, there's no evidence of edge enhancement or of noise reduction and while more restoration might have result in a marginally cleaner looking picture, what's here is nice and film like. A few scenes were shot with a 'soft focus' look and that's maintained here as it should be. Close up shots show the best detail but even when the camera isn't right in anyone's face you can still pick out nice textures on the fabrics of the costumes and set decorations.
The only audio option on the disc is an English language Linear PCM 2.0 track that does what we can safely assume is a pretty accurate job of representing the film as it probably sounded when it first played. Dialogue is clean, clear and well balanced and the oddball score sounds good here as well. Some very mild hiss can be heard once in a while but other than that, things sound fine. Of course, this is an older mix for a low budget film and so you have to keep that in mind when the movie plays but it doesn't really suffer from any glaring issues at all, it sounds fine.
There's not too much here in the way of extra features but there is a trailer for the movie and a still gallery of promotional photographs and some advertising artwork. Additionally there are trailers included for a few Jean Rollin titles also available on Blu-ray and DVD from Kino - The Nude Vampire, Fascination, The Iron Rose, The Shiver Of The Vampires and Lips Of Blood. Menus and chapter stops are also included and all of the supplements are presented in high definition.
Virgin Witch is not the 'be all, end all' of British horror films but it's an entertaining and occasionally sleazy slice of seventies occult themed picture with some great style and memorable scenes. Kino's Blu-ray is light on extras but offers up a nice upgrade from the past DVD release in both the audio and video departments, making this one that fans of horror and exploitation films can consider recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.