Season of the Witch: Special Edition (Blu-ray Review)

  • Reviewed by: Tim Salmons
  • Review Date: Mar 19, 2018
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Season of the Witch: Special Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Director

George A. Romero

Release Date(s)

1972 (March 13, 2018)

Studio(s)

The Latent Image/Jack H. Harris Enterprises (Arrow Video)
  • Film/Program Grade: C
  • Video Grade: B+
  • Audio Grade: B
  • Extras Grade: B-

Season of the Witch (Blu-ray Disc)

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Review

After the passing of George A. Romero, I had the distinct feeling that many of us would be going back and reevaluating his work – specifically his less popular work. Post-Night of the Living Dead, he went through, what I consider to be, a “wandering” artistic phase. If he was able to get the backing and the support to do so, he would dip his toes into foreign creative waters and try to make whatever he wanted. At the same time, he wasn’t interested in repeating himself or being typecast as nothing more than a horror director. Eventually, that did come to pass, but only because he had decided to make a sequel to Night of the Living Dead of his own free will. But before Dawn of the Dead changed the course of his career forever, he attempted a few things that wound up not working critically or commercially.

This pre-Dawn phase began with There’s Always Vanilla, but following the disappointment of that film was Season of the Witch, which had no less than two title changes (Jack’s Wife and Hungry Wives) before eventually settling on what we know it as today. A different beast altogether, it examines the life of a suburban housewife (Jan White) who has reached middle age and is finding herself to be lost and longs for something different. She begins practicing witchcraft, coming to believe that it’s actually working and affecting her and her deepest aspirations, but at the possible risk of her sanity.

Although the film wasn’t a success, things seemed a little more promising for George as he was more satisfied with the results of Season of the Witch creatively. The feministic views and oftentimes surrealistic approach to the material make it a film that’s certainly intriguing. Personally, I find that it has serious pacing issues, and just the thought that it was once longer by nearly forty minutes is shocking. It’s not a bad film as its meditations on women’s liberation through the eyes of someone a tad off center makes it an unusual but attractive piece, especially for its time. It was also a bit of a starting point as aspects of it would be further explored in future films. However, I don’t believe it holds up well as a whole.

For Arrow Video’s presentation of the film, a new 4K restoration of the original 16mm AB camera negative was carried out. It’s also the original 89-minute theatrical version of the film. George’s original 130-minute director’s cut is now considered lost, but a slightly extended version, clocking in at 104 minutes, does exist and is included in this set as an extra. As for the main presentation itself, it’s quite satisfactory. Coming from 16mm film, it’s highly grainy with some crushed blacks, but in motion, it’s organic in appearance with strong detail. The color palette isn’t overly striking, which has more to do with the set design and costumes more than the transfer itself. Everything has an inherent 70s brown and green tint look to it with only occasional splashes of blue and red. Overall brightness and contrast are good and the image itself is stable. Next to no damage is leftover, other than minor speckling and occasional scratches, which didn’t stick out all that much. The audio is presented via an English 1.0 LPCM track with optional subtitles in English SDH. Season of the Witch definitely has a strong emphasis on the sound design, particularly the nightmarish and surrealistic sequences, but nothing overly dynamic. Dialogue is mostly clean and clear while sound effects come off a tad thin. The score, as well as Donovan’s title song, have a slight bit of breathing room, but the overall quality of the track is limited.

As for the supplemental features, there’s a new audio commentary on the main feature with film journalist Travis Crawford; the aforementioned 104-minute extended version of the film, assembled by Michael Felsher using standard definition inserts to complete it; When Romero Met Del Toro, a fantastic new interview piece between the two men; The Secret Life of Jack’s Wife, an archival interview with actress Jan White; 3 sets of alternate opening titles; two separate image galleries (filming locations and collectible scans); and 2 theatrical trailers for the film. All of this is the same material that’s found in the previously released George A. Romero: Between Night and Dawn Blu-ray boxed set, which we also reviewed. Missing altogether from the Anchor Bay DVD release of the film is The Directors: George A. Romero documentary.

For anyone interested in George’s career outside of straight horror movies, Season of the Witch is an interesting look at his interest in the subject matter at hand. It definitely isn’t perfect, but it does manage to demonstrate a filmmaker who is learning both how to make films and how to navigate the business of them. For that reason alone, it’s a wonderful lesson in low budget filmmaking against adversity, regardless of your opinion of the film itself. And with a quality high definition transfer and entertaining extras, this release is a must for fans.

- Tim Salmons

 

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