Plot: The documentary covers the history of witchcraft and proffers an explanation that hysteria was the cause of strange symptoms that were seen as signs that a person was a witch in the Middle Ages and beyond. Yeah, it seems like odd subject matter for a 1922 silent documentary.
This had to have been the feel-good hit of the summer of '22! The movie had a little bit of everything! An Al Gory slide-show presentation with shots of diseased people, bewitched shoes, witches milking broomsticks, orgies. A pointer was even used to specify! There were monks poisoned by cat feces and dead bird juice, monks later transformed into vile grabass monks!There were numerous scenes of demon fellatio! Witches dancing with reindeer! A woman with gigantic hands shoveling what appeared to be syrup into her mouth! Yep! She was a witch! Filthy elderly person torture! Insect demon birth! Horse skeletons! Disembodied souls and ghostly-white witches superimposed over cloudy skies! Soup made from babies and toads! Two scenes (I do not shit you) in which demons ferociously churned butter. Old women throwing buckets of piss at cursed doors. Homoerotic S&M scenes! Preconception abortions. Urinating kitty vandals! More torture! Satan bludgeoning nuns! As usual, the pictures speak more loudly than the words. Satanic blow jobs:
There was some interesting information in this odd little movie, and lots of the camera trickery/special effects were probably pretty innovative for 1922--see the aforementioned witches, the scenes of hell, and especially the nifty stop animation used to animate coins. A lot of the imagery reminded me of F.W. Murnau's Faust which came out four years later. There could have been less narration (I'm not Danish, after all, and therefore do not like to read), and I never was clear whether there was a tongue firmly planted in cheek with this or not. Honestly, it doesn't matter. It's worth seeing just for those two butter-churning scenes.
Note: This was rereleased in '68 with a Jon Luc Ponty jazzy score and William S. Burroughs narration. I've got that on now, and despite the fact that I love Burroughs' voice and like Ponty just fine, this shorter version really doesn't work at all. Those silly avant-gardists!
Trivia: The director, Benjamin Christensen, actually plays both the devil and Jesus.
Here I am learning all about the history of witchcraft: