Latest News:
February 18, 2019: Website updated and revised.

Film Review: “Simon, King Of The Witches”

SimonThe early ’70’s were a weird time of flux in the movie  industry. The break up of the old studio system along with the replacement of the Hayes Code by the much more permissive rating system led to a lot of different, daring experiments in film, some rated as among the most interesting, challenging efforts to come from Hollywood.

It also led to an incredible amount of shlock with really no artistic value whatsoever, just pure exploitation and titillation with an increased emphasis on sex and violence to draw young viewers to drive-ins and grindhouse theaters.

This review pertains to the latter category. Simon is an excellent example of an early ’70’s grade Z trash flick, right down to the almost non existent production values, cruddy special effects, acting both wooden and hammy, ludicrous dialogue replete with lines plainly meant for laughs, and a fair amount of naked female flesh, all played up to seem as decadent and sinister as possible.

The zero budget is reflected from the beginning when the protagonist, Simon (Andrew Prine), walks out of a storm drain into pouring rain and casually announces to the camera that he’s a magician.  Prine (a cousin of now ailing folk/country singer John Prine) does a lot to carry the film forward with his matter of fact, downright blase at times portrayal, often affecting an Orson Welles manner with a cigar clenched in his teeth and jovial bonhomie. Inexplicably well groomed and dressed for a guy who lives in a sewer, Simon takes up company with a cheerful male prostitute, Turk (George Paulsin), who introduces him in turn to Hercules, a rich, flamboyant gay man with a wide circle of friends. Through his charm and magical prowess, Simon manipulates Turk, Hercules, and everyone in their circle, most especially hippy chick Linda (Brenda Scott) who also happens to be the district attorney’s daughter (Whoa!).

Things proceed in this silly, tacky, entertaining vein for over ninety minutes. Simon casts spells with his magic dagger with nothing but trouble and doom as the result for wealthy thrill seekers, hippy dopers, a ridiculously gay man out cruising, and most of all, poor, sweet Linda (although not a conventional beauty, Scott was an exceptionally pretty young woman). In addition to flaunting a lot of previously taboo subjects, Simon is an interesting period piece with a strange mix of outfits from straight hippy to early disco, all garish beyond belief, from the very beginning of the ’70’s, the era that good taste forgot. There’s a funny scene where Simon and Turk attend a witches’ coven with Warhol actress Ultra Violet as the den mother. The dialog is pretty snappy with Prine getting a fair share of the yuks. Example:  at one point in the film, Simon rents a basement apartment. In the grumpy landlord’s presence, he chalks a five pointed star on the stairwell. The landlord looks at the star and says: “Forgive me, rabbi! I didn’t mean to seem prejudiced. I hope you enjoy your stay.”

I recommend this film to ’70’s shlock aficionados. It should be right up their alley.

Comments are closed.