Wednesday, March 25, 2020


Return of the Witch (1952) d. Roland af Hallstrom (Finland) (80 min)

Released the same year as The White Reindeer, here is yet another surprisingly underviewed effort from the Land of Fin, with yet another supernatural menace taking the form of a beautiful woman. Here, the plot (adapted from a play by Mika Waltari) revolves around an archaeologist (Toivo Makela) who unearths a 300-year-old skeleton with a stake buried in its chest, but after he transports the bones indoors to be studied, the makeshift grave is filled once again – this time with the shapely naked body of a young woman (Mirja Mane)!

At first afflicted with amnesia, the comely lass soon recalls her name is Birgit and promptly sets about driving all the men in the village wild with lustful infatuation and has all the women (many of whom recall that a similar witch roamed the countryside three centuries ago...hmmmmm) reaching for the nearest rolling pin or pitchfork.

While not exactly groundbreaking in terms of screen narrative, what is notable is the amount of bare skin and frank sexuality on display considering the time-stamp; there is a refreshing coarseness to how these villagers refer to the goings-on between the sheets, especially when referring to the lecherous Baron (Aku Korhonen) who has apparently had carnal knowledge of so many women in the village that his poor son (Sakari Jurkka) fears dating anyone since they could be related!

At the same time, the laughing and smiling Mane spends a goodly portion of her onscreen time gallivanting about in her birthday suit, which might account for the film’s cult reputation, being sold Stateside as just another “nudie cutie” as opposed to the social commentary fairy tale that it is.

Thanks to an enthusiastic cast and Hallstrom’s lively pacing, this is a delightfully amusing diversion packed with memorable dialogue and stimulating visuals.

Return of the Witch is available now on DVD (no supplemental features) from Sinister Cinema and can be ordered HERE:


1 comment:

  1. wow, i look at these things with so much less amusement now, having done a lot of homework on the whole timeline of how healerwomen were demonized when the church took hold, along with the church's utter fear of sexuality in general, but women's sexuality in particular. they played a really great long game, taking every natural impulse in humans and making it evil, along with taking folk remedies that actually worked, and turning the names of healing plants into things like "demon weed", or "witch flower". i mean, sure, on the surface, a movie like this seems like a fun diversion. but then you think about where this whole worldview comes from, where the stereotype of the comely lass creating urges in the townsfolk and the men who cannot control themselves... that's church doctrine. but it has bled so thoroughly into our consciousness that the trope is as familiar as any other.

    that second photo, the one of the three guys basically restraining her, and the guy in front of her, especially... that's an incredibly telling and offensive image. that's three white dudes controlling a woman. because that's what men HAVE to do, lest women just run wild, at least according to the fearful among us. i was reading your review and looking at the imagery and it reminded me of how much we've lost in terms of human knowledge and potential, because a few repressed power brokers way back when decided that the best way to consolidate power over half the population was to make up lies about them/us.

    and movies get made and are called "entertainment". i wrote all this because i find it fascinating, how culture and belief can be shaped, molded, and then promoted in all manner of ways (books, movies, stereotypes, words, phrases). and that doesn't even address how many women were robbed of life because their knowledge of healing or midwifery, etc, was just too threatening. in some ways we're still in the dark ages, even now.