Witches’ Brew (1980)

witches brew 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Witch has ulterior motives.

Margaret (Teri Garr) will do anything to help her husband Joshua (Richard Benjamin) get a promotion at a local college, so she decides to resort to witchcraft with the help of Vivian (Lana Turner) who is an expert on the matter. The problem is that two of Margaret’s closets friends Susan (Kathryn Leigh Scott) and Linda (Kelly Jean Peters) also have husbands that are vying for the same position, so they begin to practice witchcraft of their own, which conflicts with Margaret’s and causes Joshua to have a streak of terrible luck and even near tragedy. Vivian comes to their aid, but only because she harbors a dark secret that could cause Margaret her life.

This is a remake of 1944’s Weird Woman that starred Lon Chaney Jr. and Evelyn Ankers, which also got remade before in 1962 with Burn, Witch, Burn! Out of the three versions this one is considered the weakest. The set-up is alright, but the second half in which the cynical Joshua slowly comes to terms with the reality of witchcraft goes on way too long. The comedy and effects are much too restrained and do not take enough advantage of its wild concept. The final third does manage to have some interesting twists, but the climatic sequence is full of loopholes and unfinished story threads that left this viewer feeling unsatisfied and confused when it was over.

I’ve enjoyed Richard Benjamin and his sarcastic wit in other films, but here he comes off as a borderline jerk and has such a radically different temperament from his wife you wonder how they ever got married in the first place. Garr is far more appealing and should’ve been given the most screen time. Turner whose last film this was, doesn’t have all that much to do and locked into a role that is limited and rather thankless.

Director Richard Shorr was fired midway through the production and replaced by Herbert L. Strock, which may explain the film’s disjointed feel that never really comes off as the intended spoof that it wants to be and in some ways far edgier than you’d expect including one scene that has a disgruntled former student climbing to the top deck of a parking ramp and shooting at Joshua below in a Charles Whitman-like attack. There is also another segment that has a giant devil-like bat hatch from an oversized egg that might’ve worked had the special effects been better. In either case this film, which starts out with good potential never comes together and becomes rather flat and forgettable.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: March 10, 1980

Runtime: 1Hour 38Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Richard Shorr, Herbert L. Strock

Studio: United Artists

Available: VHS

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