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“Here, young maiden, take a potion of cat feces and dove hearts, boiled during the full moon. A drop of this in a man’s drink will soften his heart at once.” Yummy, yummy, yummy. I’ve got love in my tummy. Join this episode’s Grue-Crew – Whitney Collazo, Chad Hunt, Jeff Mohr and special guest host Ralph Miller – as they learn about witchcraft through the ages with Benjamin Christensen’s innovative silent film, Häxan (1922).
Decades of Horror: The Classic Era
Episode 79 – Häxan (1922)
Part history lesson followed by re-enactments with actors, this film depicts the history of witchcraft from its earliest days through to the present day (in this case, 1922 or thereabouts). The result is a documentary-like film that must be among the first to use re-enactments as a visual and narrative tool. From pagan worship to satanic rites to hysteria, the film takes you on a journey through the ages with highly effective visual sequences.IMDb
- Writer/Director: Benjamin Christensen
- Cinematography: Johan Ankerstjerne
- Selected Cast:
- Benjamin Christensen as the Devil
- Ella la Cour as Sorceress Karna
- Emmy Schønfeld as Karna’s Assistant
- Kate Fabian as the Old Maid
- Oscar Stribolt as the Fat Monk
- Wilhelmine Henriksen as Apelone
- Astrid Holm as Anna
- Elisabeth Christensen as Anna’s Mother
- Karen Winther as Anna’s Sister
- Maren Pedersen as the Witch
- Johannes Andersen as Pater Henrik, Witch Judge
- Elith Pio as Johannes, Witch Judge
- Aage Hertel as Witch Judge
- Ib Schønberg as Witch Judge
- Holst Jørgensen as Peter Titta (in Denmark called Ole Kighul)
- Clara Pontoppidan as Sister Cecilia, Nun
- Elsa Vermehren as Flagellating Nun
- Alice O’Fredericks as Nun
- Gerda Madsen as Nun
- Karina Bell as Nun
- Tora Teje as the Hysterical Woman
- Poul Reumert as the Jeweller
- H.C. Nilsen as the Jeweller’s Assistant
- Albrecht Schmidt as the Psychiatrist
- Knud Rassow as the Anatomist
Your Decades of Horror: The Classic Era Grue-Crew takes a deeper dive than usual into Häxan. As an innovative, seminal film, it demands the added attention. Crewmate Joseph Perry is unable to join the Grue-Crew for this episode but special effects artist Ralph Miller is an eager and more than able guest host.
Ralph considers Häxan to be quite an ambitious film, especially for the time, with its imagery of witches and the devil. Whitney is stunned by the beautiful yet very strange artistry of Häxan, which is unlike anything she’s ever seen. The images that played out in the film were startling to Chad, but what really grabbed him is how superstition and mental illness led to women experiencing accusations of witchcraft, persecution, suffering, and death.
If you haven’t seen Häxan, you need to remedy that condition immediately. If you haven’t seen it for a while, it’s time to watch it again. The film is readily available to stream from various sources and on a stunning Criterion Blu-ray.
Gruesome Magazine’s Decades of Horror: The Classic Era puts out a new episode every two weeks. The next episode in their very flexible schedule will be War of the Colossal Beast (1958), chosen by Chad.
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