Simon, King of the Witches (1971)

Talented veteran Andrew Prine is featured here in one of his delicious starring roles in 1970s exploitation. This is bizarre, trippy stuff certain to appeal to cult movie enthusiasts. Granted, it’s pretty talky stuff, but it’s still rather fascinating.

Written by a real-life practicing warlock, Robert Phippeny, it casts Prine as Simon Sinestrari, a charismatic “magician” who lives out of a storm drain. Simon is the real deal, and takes himself quite seriously. Seriously enough that when people dare to mock him or mess with him, he takes his revenge.

As directed by Bruce Kessler, this is truly offbeat from beginning to end. It saves all of its credits for the final few minutes, a practice that was far less common back in the early 70s. When Simon first makes his entrance, he addresses us directly, although this device is dropped right afterwards. It’s got a deliberate pace, but Phippeny’s dialogue is truly something to hear. There is a heavy dose of humour at times, especially when Simon has to help his eager young friend Turk (George Paulsin), who’s gotten overly stimulated, if you know what I mean. Highlight sequences include Simon mocking the participants in a Wiccan ceremony, and the wonderful finale which pulls out all the stops.

The main attraction is a fantastic central performance by Prine, who commits deeply to his role. Co-starring are Brenda Scott (to whom Prine was actually married) as Simons’ love interest, Norman Burton as her attorney father, and Gerald York as aging hipster Hercules, with underground celebrity Ultra Violet also making an appearance.

This is just enough of a curio to keep you watching. Undoubtedly it’s very much a product of its era, but that’s part of what makes it fairly compelling. You sure don’t see stuff like this getting made nowadays.