October 11th, 2019

Mermaid Sub

The Thinnest Seaweed



Often the loudest voices in the room are the ones with the least conviction, which is what I think makes 1976's The Witch Who Came from the Sea so interesting. The idea of a woman becoming a serial killer because she was abused as a child isn't in itself an interesting idea but this film presents a woman fiercely defending ideals she herself has no belief in. With an effective and unrestrained lead performance by Millie Perkins, this exploitation film centres on an intriguing character study.

Molly (Perkins) is devoted to her two little nephews and believes part of a good upbringing for the lads is to buttress their faith in heroic male role models. Football players, TV stars, and especially her own deceased father, a sea captain she claims was lost at sea one terrible night before they were born.



The boys' mother, Molly's sister, Cathy (Vanessa Brown), irritates Molly by continually punching holes in the simplistic myths she weaves around their father. Cathy tells the boys that the man is actually buried in a cemetery, not lost at sea, and all but directly says he sexually abused both his daughters. Of course, one might justly wonder if Molly sets up the impossibly idealised stories specifically to provoke Cathy.



Molly's compulsion to craft heroic impressions of men in spite of the past Cathy alludes to is one of the many contradictions that make up her personality. She's known as a saint in the bar where she works as a waitress--a place with a nautical theme, of course. But she's a heavy drinker. She tells the boys she deplores tattoos and then later in the film is seen getting tattooed by the very tattoo artist who made her scream in terror at the very sight of him.



This is Jack Dracula (Stan Ross) and the scene has a broader significance for the whole movie in several ways. Most important is the conversation the two have in which Molly tells him how she made up her name at one point, she wasn't born Molly, and then asks him when and why he made up the name Jack Dracula. And he tells her simply that Jack Dracula is his real name. Molly, who loudly promotes the importance of fantasy, is confounded to meet someone who actually walks the walk. In practice, Molly builds fantasies with the intent to knock them down, ritualistically recreating the experience of a traumatic event undermining her faith in her father. So she seduces men by presenting a front of devotion and then she kills them in ways that generally involve some kind of emasculation, like cutting off their genitals.



One might argue there's nothing supernatural going on in the story, despite the title, except she does manage to break one man's wrist with one hand and also manages to subdue two football players. I would have liked at least one scene of Molly encountering a witch or something. But this is a decent movie as it is. The tragedy of someone who invests so much of her spirit into something she firmly believes is a lie is brutal but all too credible.

The Witch Who Came from the Sea is available on Amazon Prime.

Twitter Sonnet #1286

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