Season of the Witch is the third film by George Romero and it’s quite different from his debut. Released in 1972, a few years after The Night of the Living Dead (1967), it’s a dramatic film with little or no horror elements in it. The two films do share, and it couldn’t be otherwise, a strong social theme that characterizes almost all of Romero’s works.
In The Witch’s Season, Joan (Jan White) is (un)happily married to Jack (Bill Thunhurst) and they have a twenty-year-old daughter, Nikki (Joedda McClain). Her husband doesn’t care about her and sometimes he even raises her hands on her, and the mother / daughter relationship is problematic. In short, it’s a normal middle-class American family of the early seventies! The film actually opens with a dream of Joan in which she follows her husband in a park with him who doesn’t even look at her, he doesn’t notice her beauty (although she’s undoubtedly beautiful), he wounds her unintentionally, and he finally leashes her and locks her in an animal cage. The beginning couldn’t be clearer!
Thanks to her circle of friends whom she meets in horrible social gatherings, Joan meets Marion (Virginia Greenwald) who claims to be a witch: for Joan it’s an opportunity to shake up her life. She starts making one rite after another and the results… are significant, let’s say. There will be huge impacts on her daughter, her young professor Gregg (Raymond Laine), and above all on her husband in a finale that I won’t reveal.
What about the movie? The themes are very interesting, even if they are not all well developed. Romero himself, apparently, wanted to remake the film to revisit the same ideas with better actors and a higher budget. The film itself had some distribution problems: initially sold as a soft porn entitled Hungry Wives, it was later re-titled Jack’s Wife and finally, with the addition of 6 minutes of shooting (of much lower video and audio quality, at least on my DVD), Season of the Witch, just like the Donovan song featured in a long sequence about halfway through the film.
Some parts of the film are brilliant: the magic rites taken from a real witchcraft book; the numerous symbolisms used by Romero to convey certain messages (the cats, the bull, the man with the green mask…); the dialogue in which a horrified Joan is astonished by Gregg who claims to have sex without love without realizing that she’s a hypocrite herself since there is no trace of love in her marriage; and the mother / daughter relationship in the first part, for example.
But I cannot deny that the film lacks a certain rhythm, and that certain parts of the plot don’t get any satisfactory resolution (for example, the relationship with the daughter). Moreover, and unfortunately, the really tight budget shows, as well as the non-first class acting. In any case, the film deserves to be seen. It’s a beautiful snapshot of the American middle class of the early seventies from a feminine point of view which is certainly thought-provoking. Ciao!