12 September 2004 | django-1
lowbrow but fun Spanish-made Witchcraft/time-travel comedy
This Sidney Pink production was one of many quirky films the indie expatriate producer made in Spain in the 1960s, many of which featured well-chosen American stars. This was the first of two Pink films starring Jeffrey Hunter, best known as playing Jesus in KING OF KINGS and of being the original Captain in the Star Trek pilot (the second film in his two-film contract with Pink was the interesting allegorical western THE Christmas KID aka JOE NAVIDAD). Here he plays a Madrid University professor who imagines he sees a lovely young lady (played by the wide-eyed Maria Perschy) sitting in the front row of his class, but who is seen by no one else. She turns out to be a bumbling witch who likes him, and who winds up sending him to different periods in time in her attempt to bring him to her time period or to the present time. So about half the film (or so it seems)takes place in the Roman era with Hunter as a slave--that part of the film plays like a sword and sandal comedy. It also winds up in a futuristic period (1999 was the future in 1967) where humanity has been wiped out in a world war and only seven women are left, women who expect Hunter to repopulate the world with them! With the popularity of I DREAM OF JEANNIE and BEWITCHED during this period, a witchcraft comedy must have seemed like a safe bet for a feature film, but this film is a lot rawer and less refined than either TV show. Originally from Austria, Ms. Perschy is a distinctive-looking lady and fine dramatic actress who is quite a charmer and plays comedy well. During the 60s she appeared in all kinds of films in many countries and has continued working regularly up through the late 1990s...any fans of 60s eurocinema can probably name a dozen films of hers they've enjoyed. She also worked for Pink in the excellent "female western" THE TALL WOMEN the year before. Jeffrey Hunter was much underrated during his lifetime and died young--much of his later output was made overseas. I don't remember him doing a lot of comedy, but he is fine here playing an uptight college professor who is bumbling yet lovable. He looks uncomfortable in the sword and sandal sequences, but fortunately he is SUPPOSED TO look uncomfortable because he is after all a 20th century college professor, NOT a Roman slave! He carries the whole film well and any Hunter fan should seek this out. Overall, another interesting entry in the Sid Pink canon (see my reviews of two other Pink comedies...THE FICKLE FINGER OF FATE with Tab Hunter, and MADIGAN'S MILLIONS with Dustin Hoffman). This does not at all look like a Hollywood film, which gives it much of its interest. The comedy is not particularly sophisticated, and some of the supporting players' voices are not synchronized too well, but it's a pleasant comedy and those looking for something different will probably not regret the time spent. I'll spend 86 minutes with Maria Perschy anytime, and Jeff Hunter died while still a relatively young man, so any performance of his is worth watching, particularly those made outside the Hollywood studio system (check out THE Christmas KID or FIND A WAY TO DIE sometime).