Ray Austin made a name for himself directing adventure shows before transitioning to sexploitation feature films in the early seventies. Virgin Witch (1972) was Austin’s debut feature; a combination of softcore erotica and horror that was typical for the British film industry. The film is of some historical significance for having been withheld from exhibitors for two years due to censorship problems.
Virgin Witch is kind of a Hammer knock off. Screenwriter Beryl Vertue clearly draws upon Hammer Studios’ Dennis Wheatley adaptations for both narrative form and atmosphere. The film follows Christine (Ann Michelle) as she climbs the social ladder of a prestigious model firm while simultaneously ascending in the ranks of a witch’s coven. All of this takes place over one weekend at her boss’ home in the country where she’s been invited for a photo shoot. Christine is accompanied by her sister Betty (Vicki Michelle) whom she must protect from her boss Sybil (Patricia Haines) and the ringleader of the coven Dr. Amberley (Neil Hallett).
Scenes of exposition are often punctuated by scenes in which Ann Michelle bares her breasts for one reason or another, lending to the overall languid pace of the film’s first act. Once the coven is introduced things pick up and the erotic moments are no longer interludes, but rather they are folded into the narrative proper. This is a typical issue with these types of sexploitation film where the plot requires more exposition than the mandates for scenes of nudity and sex can allow.
One of the more original aspects of Virgin Witch is the choice to give the character of Christine supernatural powers of telepathy. This makes Christine similar to a John Farris heroine, giving her an arc that is similar to that of Gillian Bellaver in The Fury (1978). Unfortunately this aspect of Christine’s character isn’t really explored in Virgin Witch, existing purely for the sake of horror spectacle.
As far as horror infused sexploitation films go Virgin Witch isn’t the worst I have seen. Ann Michelle’s presence is more effective on a dramatic level than most performers working in this sub genre which helps to give the film some weight. However I’d have to say that Virgin Witch is definitely a film that will be most enjoyable to fans of seventies eurosleaze.