This is not a Pre-Code film. It’s better known as what I refer to as a Pre-Fame film. For Tom Selleck that is. If he had an opportunity would he have wanted to bury this Philippines production after hitting stardom on Magnum P.I.? Perhaps, but I’m glad it didn’t work out that way. Tom didn’t even make the poster!
Exploitation film that this is, the opening scene of the film is a witch’s mass that includes nudity and whips while a woman is suspended over a pit of spikes. Once we get that out of the way, it moves at a decent pace for this tale of witchcraft and reincarnation. Tom sporting his handy dandy mustache wanders in to a store known as The Treasures of The Orient run by none other than Vic Diaz, proving once again that Vic appears in pretty much anything filmed in the Philippines during the seventies. While in the boutique, Tom is captivated by a painting he finds that shows three witches burning at the stake in the town square. The witch tied to the center stake is a dead ringer for his lovely wife played by Barra Grant.
The painting is dated from 1690 and when he brings it to the country estate, Grant seems frightened of the painting not to mention she recites the date of the burning as 1592. It’s as if an awakening has transpired. Tom is quick to note that there’s a dog hanging around the property that looks just like the one in the paint……. there was a dog in the painting and now it’s missing. Next up is a house keeper that arrives to serve as cook and cleaner. She bares a striking resemblance to the witch in the right side of the painting. When she disappears from the canvas, Tom isn’t sure if he’s losing his sanity so he’s off to see the family psychiatrist.
It’s while in the doc’s office that a strange woman walks in and sure enough she looks just like witch number three. Portrayed by Tani Phelps Guthrie, the actress does a wonderful job as a devious, plotting witch under Lucifer’s influence. Things are converging on Tom and his wife is only growing distant. Women dancing around late night fires, a vicious dog that only listens to the woman of the house, and finally a second painting that clearly shows the witch’s executioner depicted on the canvas is a dead ringer for Tom.
“My church is the Manila assembly of Lucifer.”
Once Grant is baptised into the faith of Lucifer, she’s condemned her soul thus turning her back on her Catholic upbringing. She no longer has use for the crucifix around her neck that up until now has allowed her to keep her own sanity as she doubts who she is.
This Selleck feature is a great example of the “B” circuit horror movie of the era. Overseas production featuring an American leading man tangling with covens, Lucifer and spooky goings on. The Philippines was a hotbed of exploitation cinema during this era with countless films in the horror and action genre being produced. Names like John Ashley, Jack Hill, and Pam Grier come to mind as participants in numerous projects within the countries borders. Aimed at the drive in crowd, this exploitation feature has the customary though needless clips of worship and topless women thrown on the screen for the midnight crowd. Still kind of fun though in a warped way. I for one generally lean towards horror films involving witch’s and religious themes with devil worship. Probably due to my own Catholic upbringing. A good deal of this plot does involve the fight between the symbols of Christ versus the witching hour.
Proving he had range, the film is directed by Hollingsworth Morse who just two years prior to this witchcraft flick gave us the children’s tale of Witchiepoo, Freddy the Flute and Jimmy in Pufnstuf. A kiddie favorite for those that may recall it. The film was produced by Aubrey Schenck who had his hand in plenty of B’s such as Hot Cars, The Black Sleep and Frankenstein 1970.
Spooky enough for those that like this kind of thing and a definite curio for fans of long time leading man Tom Selleck make this one worth your while if you can track it down. I happened upon it thanks to a late night airing on TCM.