April 16, 2018  (Web Review)

The Witches

Arrow, 121 min., in Italian w/English subtitles, not rated, Blu-ray: $24.99

Reviewer rating: 2.5/4

Produced by Dino De Laurentiis in 1967, The Witches comes out of the ‘60s boom of anthology features made up of short, thematically linked films from notable filmmakers and marquee stars. The link in this Italian entry is Silvana Mangano as a “witch.” Luchino Visconti directs the first sequence, in which Mangano plays a famous actress trying to escape the glare of celebrity at a protective friend’s (Annie Girardot) mountain chalet, where the aristocratic guests are just as catty as the public. Vittorio De Sica directs the fifth and final sequence, a witty portrait of middle-class malaise with Clint Eastwood as the white collar husband of neglected wife Mangano, the latter slipping into fantasy to escape their dull existence. These bookend segments are the longest sections, and the filmmakers use the opportunity for social commentary about women in the modern world, be it high society or middle-class domesticity. In between is a cartoonish comedy from Pier Paolo Pasolini featuring Italian comedy star Totò as a widower in a clownish wig and Mangano as a deaf-mute beauty, and two very brief shorts with comic punchlines: filmmaker Mauro Bolognini sends Mangano speeding through the streets of Rome like a madwoman, and Franco Rossi spoofs revenge melodramas and spaghetti Westerns with a rapid-fire opera of violence. Extras include an alternate shorter English language version and an audio commentary by film historian Tim Lucas. A strong optional purchase. (S. Axmaker)