Summer of Forgotten Horror – Return of the Witch (1952)

Summer of Forgotten Horror – Week 6: Return of the Witch (1952)
Cast:      Mirja Mane as Birgit Suomaa
Toivo Makela as Hannu
Hillevi Lagerstam as Greta
Aku Korhonen as The Baron

Return of the WitchBased on the play by Mika Waltari
Screenplay by Roland af Hallstrom (as Viljo Hela) & Kaarlo Nuorvala
Directed by Roland af Hallstrom

Plot: Our movie opens at an archaeological site as two men are digging a hole when they discover human bones. They believe them to belong to a witch who was buried in the swamp some 300 years earlier with a stake through her heart. Archaeologist Hannu has the bones brought to a nearby mansion he is staying at but the townspeople believe the bones must be reburied or the witch will return. Soon, a strange and naked woman appears, driving Hannu and other men in the village into a frenzy. Is she the witch in flesh form and, if so, what are her evil intentions?

Witch 3Personal Thoughts:

This is definitely a unique film with some crazy dialogue and a frenetic style unique for 1952. Nudity and overt sexuality are present throughout and adds to the stunningly beautiful Mijra Mane’s performance as an animalistic and seductive creature. An artist lusts after Greta, the wife of Hannu while Hannu lusts after the witch. The son of a local baron lusts after the witch while she continues to play all three against each other. Her maniacal laughter combined with her dancelike movements make for an amazing performance. Meanwhile, the creepy Baron lurks in from time to time displaying a lecherous attitude. And watching the crazed townspeople try to bury her back in the swamp comes across like a Benny Hill episode at times. The dialogue is laughable at all the right moments and adds to the overall enjoyment of this rare flick. The visuals are also incredible for a low-budget effort. The ending may be a bit of a cheat but doesn’t take away from the overall film. Well worth tracking down if you want to see something different.

Witch 2Trivia:

  • Released in 1952, the same year as another Finnish horror/fantasy film, The White Reindeer.
  • Considered one of the first Finnish horror films.
  • The nudity in the film was very rare for the 1950s and helped sell it in the United States as an “adults only” film. However, only some of the dialogue was censored from the film in Finnish.

Availability:

  • Never released commercially, it is available as burn-on-demand DVD from Sinister Cinema. The print is quite good with easy to read subtitles. It is also available on YouTube but without subtitles and, honestly, some of the crazy dialogue is half of the fun when watching this film.
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