Is Simon King of The Witches or Queen of The Bitches?

Bruce Kessler ’s Simon King of The Witches was released in 1971. It was surely inspired by Russ Meyer’s masterwork “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” which came out a year prior. Kessler probably had less than a quarter of the budget Meyers had but money wouldn’t have helped save Simon King of The Witches anyway.

Its unclear what this film is trying to say, or who we are meant to root for, or why the whole thing was made. You get your blood and guts and your boobs and butts, and a main character with pants so tight you can feel his future children disappearing. It was rumored that the film was trying to cash in on the Manson Family case which was in the news but I don’t see it.

In the opening scene the titular character, Simon, breaks the fourth wall and introduces himself to the audience. Simon is a grumpy, misunderstood magician. His problem seems to mostly be one of semantics. He calls himself a magician but he is a practitioner of witchcraft. People misunderstand and underestimate him except for Turk, a young, blonde adonis in a leather fringe jacket. Turk is enthralled by Simon. Actually Turk seems kind of enthralled by everything, in fact he seems like he’s always very high.

There is a homoerotic current running through the film propelled by Turk and a plethora of colored handkerchiefs tied around various people’s necks. There are references and innuendoes but it never seems to come to much. Anything gay is subsumed under a torrent of naked ladies.

Like most films in the 1970s Simon King of The Witches has plenty of groovy party scenes. One of these far out happenings is a wicca ceremony full of naked witches. Turk stumbles across a buxom blonde lying on an alter holding two skulls and goes to touch her but she exclaims, “Don’t touch me I’m a religious object.” The whole vibe of the party is ruined when Simon gives one of his many incoherent speeches and so the film cuts directly to a different party where Simon continues to prattle on eg.

“I’ve got it! I see it! Its nothing but a plain, old-fashioned double bind. Someone who really turns me on will also be someone to make me lose control right? That was the problem with Linda. And unless I am turned on there’s no charge to control. The charge my boy, the charge! Nothing matters but the charge, but there’s another way. Another mode where by the person, the vehicle, might serve to build the charge. The charge that I will send into the divine effluvial condenser. Ritual flagellation. Violence! To strike! Not to strike simultaneously.”

This soliloquy makes no more sense in context or out. It is delivered to Turk while a gay man tries flirtatiously to gain Turk’s affection. There is quite a lot of attention paid to effluvia in the film. Turk is made to produce some for one of Simon’s ceremonies.

While not demanding Turk’s semen, Simon spends most of his time waving a dagger around while chewing on a cigar and feeling disrespected. In the climatic final throws of the film he has a prolonged psychedelic vision inspired by the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey. The film doesn’t so much resolve as just end. Which by the time it happens we are grateful for.

I have an MFA in painting and I’m an art professor but I managed to convince my school to let me teach film.

I have an MFA in painting and I’m an art professor but I managed to convince my school to let me teach film.