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A bored suburban housewife turns to the occult in George Romero’s fascinating ‘Season of the Witch’
09.25.2017
09:21 am
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Season of the Witch
 
George A. Romero ushered in the modern-day zombie film with his debut motion picture, Night of the Living Dead (1968). Romero, who died on July 17 at the age of 77, was primarily known for his series of zombie movies, but made other types of flicks, too. His third feature is one such work. This fascinating film—which follows a suburban housewife and her dalliance with the occult—is relatively obscure, though the pending release of a new Romero boxed set will surely change all that.

Filmed in 1972 under the title of Jack’s Wife, Romero was given just $170,000 to make the film, though he had been promised a slightly higher—but still very modest—budget of $250,000. So, the picture had to be made on the cheap. In addition to directing, Romero wrote the original screenplay, was the cinematographer, and edited the film. His original cut of Jack’s Wife was 130 minutes, but the distributor, Jack Harris, chopped it down to 89 minutes and changed the title. Released in 1973, it would now be called Hungry Wives.
 
Hungry Wives
 
The marketing materials for Hungry Wives downplayed the witchcraft angle, instead making it seem as though targeted filmgoers were in for a softcore picture, filled with married women who were all stepping out on their husbands (quite misleading, though there is some brief nudity and the protagonist does have an affair). If you’ve seen the movie, you know the Hungry Wives trailer is more than a little deceptive.

Despite (or perhaps because of) the efforts made by the distributor to make the film a box office hit, it failed to find an audience. Understandably, Romero later looked back on the entire endeavor as “a pretty disappointing experience.” There are no existing copies of his 130-minute cut.

After the success of Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978), Harris rereleased Hungry Wives as Season of the Witch. As you can see in the poster at the top of this post, it was not only made to appear as if it was Romero’s follow-up to Dawn, but that it’s a horror movie similar to John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978).

But Season of the Witch isn’t really a horror movie either, though it has elements of the genre, notably the proto-slasher nightmare sequences, in which Joan is being stalked by a man wearing a mask and brandishing a knife. This aspect was exaggerated in the Season trailer.
 
Publicity still
 
Little-known actress Jan White plays Joan Mitchell, the lead character in the film. Joan’s suburban boredom and anxiety regarding her path in life leads to her interest in the dark arts. Joan eventually becomes a witch, and though she believes it makes her more powerful, it doesn’t mean she’s made the right choice.
 
Press Photo
 
Romero’s picture reminded me of Luis Buñuel’s Belle de Jour (1967), in that they’re both character studies about married women dealing with troubling issues that involve their husbands, and it’s often difficult to tell while viewing these films if what we’re seeing on screen is meant to be reality.

In his book, The Cinema of George A. Romero: Knight of the Living Dead, author Tony Williams takes a deep dive into Season of the Witch (he uses Romero’s original title when referring to the picture). I’ve selected a few excerpts, which provide additional insight into the film and how it relates to Romero’s other work.

Despite its production problems [minimal production values, uneven acting, and a tendency to appear as merely a dated product of its time], Jack’s Wife represents one of Romero’s most sophisticated attempts to analyze the personal dilemmas affecting individuals in contemporary society who are often faced with different choices but who end up choosing the wrong path. Romero’s various screen characters variously engage in processes of denial that harm their very personalities and prevent them from releasing their real potential as free individuals.

 
Yellow
 

Like Day Of The Dead, Jack’s Wife opens with a deceptive image which seems realistic at first. But, unlike the later film, it follows another sequence which initially appears realistic but is nonetheless an illusion—despite its placement in the world of everyday normality. Both visions symbolically represent Joan’s real life problems and challenge her to respond to them.

Joan’s daughter, Nikki, has a casual boyfriend named Gregg, who’s a professor at the local university—and a self-righteous jerk. A mutual attraction between Joan and Gregg develops, with Joan later casing a spell on him. The two first lay eyes on each in the most realistic-looking of the multiple dream sequences that appear early on, which is easy to miss upon first viewing.
 
Gregg
 

Gregg’s presence initially appears unusual. It will not be until later into the narrative that audiences actually meets him in the film. This intimates that what initially appears to be a chronologically positioned opening sequence actually belongs to the film’s actual conclusion. According to this system, the end must answer the beginning. By placing a character the audience meets later at the very beginning of the film, Romero suggests that Joan’s dilemma will never reach any firm resolution but is actually circular in nature.

 
Orange
 

Joan fails to comprehend the nature of her personal entrapment. Her attempts to seek out false alternatives that harm her potential for true independence lead to escalating patterns of supernatural chaos and violence. The original nightmares emerged from her uneasy relationship with her boorish husband. But they also take on a sinister form of development as a result of her flirtation with a world of witchcraft which is as equally conformist as the deadly world she seeks escape from.

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Bart Bealmear
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09.25.2017
09:21 am
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George Romero wanted ‘Lady Aberlin’ to star in ‘Night of the Living Dead’ but Mr. Rogers said ‘no.’
09.08.2017
07:45 am
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George Romero, director of Night of the Living Dead and its sequels, sadly passed away in July of this year. In researching a different topic related to Romero, I stumbled across a short but informative interview with the director that appeared in SFGate in 2010.

In this interview, Romero discusses getting his start in filmmaking, working for Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood fame.

Romero describes Mr. Rogers as “the sweetest man [he] ever knew,” and the first person who ever trusted him to shoot film. According to Romero, most anyone working in film in Pittsburgh got their start with Mr. Rogers.

Remarkably, according to Romero, Mr. Rogers had seen both Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead and enjoyed them both. On Dawn of the Dead Mr. Rogers remarked: “It’s a lot of fun, George.”

But, most mind-blowing to me was the revelation that Romero had originally wanted to cast Betty Aberlin (“Lady Aberlin” from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood—MAJOR childhood crush) as the lead in Night of the Living Dead. Unfortunately, Mr. Rogers was not keen on the idea.

According to Romero, “he wouldn’t let me use Lady Aberlin.”

More after the jump…

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Posted by Christopher Bickel
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09.08.2017
07:45 am
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Horror roundtable discussion with masters Stephen King, George Romero, Ira Levin, and Peter Straub


 
Shout Factory TV has given us an early Halloween treat by posting a twenty-five-year-old roundtable discussion from The Dick Cavett Show with Stephen King, George Romero, Ira Levin, and Peter Straub.

The discussion, in two parts, was originally broadcast on October 16 and 17 in 1980, shortly before Stephen King and George Romero began collaborative work on the film Creepshow.

King at that point was “the best-selling author in the world.” Romero’s greatest successes to that date were with Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead. Peter Straub’s major accomplishment up to that point was Ghost Story, which would be adapted into a motion picture the following year. Ira Levin represented the old guard on the panel, having written Rosemary’s Baby in 1967 and The Stepford Wives in 1972.
 

Ira Levin
 
The fascinating discussion takes place over two separate 30-minute programs. Personally, I could have watched another two hours of these guys talking about their work and inspirations. If you are a fan of any of these individuals, or the horror genre in general, the conversation is crucial.

The panel analyzes the appeal of horror, which Stephen King describes as a healthy way of exorcising the dark emotions of fear, aggressiveness, anger, and sadism in a harmless way. He calls it a way of “blowing off anxieties and bad feelings.” According to King, “You seek out the things that [as a child] scared you the most and you try to get rid of them.” Romero states that the success of horror is based on the ability to induce involuntary responses in the audience.

Much more horror talk after the jump…

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Posted by Christopher Bickel
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10.08.2015
12:43 pm
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‘Martin is a boy with problems’: Soft Cell sing of teenage vampire, 1983
12.10.2012
01:36 pm
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image
 
On a 12” record bundled as a free bonus with the initial release of the their Art of Falling Apart album in 1983, Soft Cell did a boffo extended Hendrix medley (trust me, it’s way, way better than you might think) and what producer Mike Thorne called “a monstrously over-the-top extravaganza” (one clocking in at 10:16) based on Martin, George Romero’s classic 1978 horror film about a teenage vampire on the loose in a Pittsburgh suburb.

In this incredible clip from The Tube, the synthpop duo perform an ass-kicking shorter take of the song. What I wouldn’t give to see a ten-minute version! (Actually I have, they did it during the encore of their show at the Wiltern Theater in 2002.)
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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12.10.2012
01:36 pm
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