Simon, King of the Witches
|This article relies largely or entirely on a single source. (October 2015)|
|Simon, King of the Witches|
|Directed by||Bruce Kessler|
|Produced by||Joe Solomon|
|Written by||Robert Phippeny|
|Music by||Stu Phillips|
|Cinematography||David L. Butler|
|Edited by||Renn Reynolds|
|Distributed by||Fanfare Films Inc.|
Simon, King of the Witches is a 1971 film directed by Bruce Kessler and starring Andrew Prine. Not technically a straight horror film as the title might suggest, it also falls in the realm of camp and psychedelia. It is considered a cult classic.
Simon Sinestrari (Andrew Prine), a cynical Ceremonial magician, is on a quest to become a god. Simon is living in a storm sewer, selling his charms and potions for money, when he is befriended by a young male prostitute named Turk (George Paulsin). Turk introduces Simon to his world of drugs, wild parties, and bizarre Satanic rituals featuring a goat and Andy Warhol star Ultra Violet. Death, freakouts and mayhem ensue, along with romance for Simon with the district attorney's vague daughter (Brenda Scott).
- Andrew Prine as Simon Sinestrari
- George Paulsin as Turk
- Brenda Scott as Linda
- Gerald York as Hercules
- Norman Burton as Rackum
- William Martel as Commissioner Davies
- Ray Galvin as Chief Boyle
- Art Hern as Mayor
- Ultra Violet as Sarah
- Harry Rose as Landlord
The misleading advertising campaign, which set up Simon as a Satanic sex orgy film cashing in on the Charles Manson trials, seriously hurt the film at the box office. The film is practically bloodless, with only brief nudity (which, again against the norm, actually serves a purpose in the story) but no explicit sex and no parallels whatsoever with Manson. Like many other more eccentric 1970s low budget genre films, Simon has become a cult film over the years, albeit an extremely marginal one.
There was also a paperback novelization of Simon by Baldwin Hills, more than likely a pen name, which took the satirical camp of the film one step further into full-on absurd comedy. Long since out of print, the book comes up occasionally on eBay and online used book stores.
What sets Simon, King of the Witches apart from the legion of occult genre films of the late-1960s and early-1970s is the script, which is far more literate and versed in the esoteric than the norm, both offering new twists to and poking fun at the clichés of the genre.
- The movie begins with Simon walking in the rain, reciting a monologue about being a powerful warlock, after which he is immediately busted for vagrancy.
- Simon lives in a storm drain, where he performs rituals to the Goddess Aphrodite, and advises us on magical etiquette.
- A rainstorm floods the storm drain and washes away his magical paraphernalia.
- Simon's fortunes improve and, per the stereotype of many "powerful magicians", takes up residence in a basement (though, breaking another stereotype, it is not his parents' basement).
- Turk and Simon crash a "Wiccan" ceremony presided over by Ultra Violet. Every cliché in the book is dragged out, from spooky music, sinister chants, references to "Queen of the Night", to people undressing and eventually worshiping a real live goat. In a separate room, Turk is getting it on with a nude woman on an altar who refers to herself as a "sacred object" (a reference to the Church of Satan tradition of woman-as-altar). Simon is thoroughly unimpressed with the goings on and eventually ridicules the coven much in the way Frank Langella mocks Lena Olin's devil worshipers in the Roman Polanski film The Ninth Gate. The amused couple make a hasty exit with the angered "Wiccans" on their tail.
- Simon commands a pulsing ball of light that attempts to harm him, pointing his athame (ritual knife) at it and declaring, "I am Simon! I am God!"
- Simon shares with us his elaborate plans to enter the realm of the gods via sex magic, a special mirror, and the importance of proper timing.
- Simon attempts to hex "the establishment", to the manic, scenery-chewing delight of drug dealers and petty criminals.
- Simon yells at the gods, "Yea, though you may cast me down, I will rise and rise again until I stand among you!"
Through all of this, Simon's approach to his magic and the world is nothing short of cynical, and simultaneously practical yet grandiose. He holds absolutely no romanticism at all towards his work and reacts to everything else with laconic amusement.
- Gods In Polyester: A Survivors' Account Of 70's Cinema Obscura [ISBN 90-808700-1-3] features a chapter by Bruce Kessler on the making of Simon.
- "Simon, King of the Witches". darkskyfilms.com. Retrieved 2011-03-31.