In the mid-sixties, famed producer Dino De Laurentiis brought together the talents of five famed Italian directors for an anthology film. Their brief was simple: to direct an episode in which Silvana Mangano (Bitter Rice, Ludwig) plays a witch.
Luchino Visconti (Ossessione, Death in Venice) and screenwriter Cesare Zavattini (Bicycle Thieves) open the film with The Witch Burned Alive, about a famous actress and a drunken evening that leads to unpleasant revelations. Civic Sense is a lightly comic interlude from Mauro Bolognini (The Lady of the Camelias) with a dark conclusion, and The Earth as Seen from the Moon sees Italian comedy legend Totò team up with Pier Paolo Pasolini (Theorem) for the first time for a tale of matrimony and a red-headed father and son.
Franco Rosso (The Woman in the Painting) concocts a story of revenge in The Sicilian’s Wife, while Vittorio De Sica (Shoeshine) casts Clint Eastwood as Mangano’s estranged husband in An Evening like the others, concluding The Witches with a stunning homage to Italian comic books.
According to Michael Munn in his 1992 book, Clint Eastwood: Hollywood's Loner ‘Le Streghe was never released outside of Europe as United Artists bought the film when Clint Eastwood's career began to take off. United Artists decided not to release it in theatres but instead kept it in their library vault to prevent its viewing’.
I've never believed that to be necessarily true, as I always come back to the same question. Why did United Artists have a 1 sheet poster produced if their only intention was to bury the film? I think United Artists did release The Witches, around 1969 and only after Eastwood had established himself through the success of the Dollar trilogy and once Hang em high had been released. The Witches remains a very strange movie, there's no doubt about it. It’s very eclectic and very arthouse in its style. But it's also a fabulous chance of obtaining this Eastwood oddity, which in some ways is quite amusing looking back at it now.
Arrow has done a fabulous job on the presentation. Picture detail is very nice, especially in comparison to the MGM/UA manufactured on demand DVD-R, which was the only other previous way of obtaining this movie. For starters, there’s a brand new 2K restoration from original film elements produced by Arrow Films and exclusively for this release. Audio is presented in its original Italian mono (uncompressed LPCM). Bonus material includes a brand-new audio commentary by film critic and novelist Tim Lucas. The complete English-language version of The Witches, on home video for the first time in any format, presented in High Definition and with optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing And, in line with Arrow’s usual policy, there’s a reversible sleeve option featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys. I hasten to add, despite a rather nice example of ‘new’ artwork; mine has already been reversed to display the original U.S. pink artwork. For its first run, there is also a 32 page illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Pasquale Iannone and Kat Ellinger. There is also a postcard featuring the U.S. poster artwork.
Well worth grabbing and adding to your collection, especially for completest reasons.
Region Code: B, Running Time: 121 mins, Number of Discs: 1, Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1, ColourCheck it out at Arrow here