The Witch's Mirror (1962) - SPOILER ALERT!!! This movie is completely ruined with spoiler information from this review. Since it is RECOIMMENDED with a rating of 7.7 go and see the movie first before reading the review. If you are not bothered by knowing the plot and thoughts about the movie then by all means read on.
"El Espejo de la Bruja" This classic horror tale from director Chano Urueta starts with a voice over explaining that witchcraft is real and witches perform rituals of magic. "They blaspheme, they sacrifice unchristened children..." and other horrible things, a strong witch can create a magic object and in the case of this film it is a Witch's Mirror. This intro starts us on a sad journey of revenge which can not end well for any involved.
The witch in the story is Sara (Isebela Corona) the grandmother of Elena (Dina de Marco) and we start the story with the two women looking into the magical mirror. The women are trying to get answers about Elena's future, but unfortunately danger hovers over the younger woman. They press on calling the evil gods to show the danger, who is the cause. It is a doctor, who we later learn in Eduardo Ramos (Armando Calvo) Elena's husband, then another woman is seen in the mirror who is she. Sara tells Elena that that is her rival but neither knows the woman. "Death is stalking you Elena." is the message loud and clear.
Eduardo sits as his wife Elena plays the piano, her favorite piece. He asks here why she always plays the same music and she reminds him he always used to ask her to play it. He says things change, and she seems sad. The scene is great at showing a relationship that has seen better days. Elena still loves her husband but he has lost interest. He is looking at his watch like he has somewhere else to be. When she goes to bed it is without him. Simple and not wordy it is an excellent example for how to put meaning into a scene.
Sara prays to her satanic gods for them to intervene on her granddaughter's behalf but they tell her that it is fate and Elena must die. Sara even though she is a powerful witch can not change her fate.
So the next night when Eduardo brings his wife poisoned warm milk she is destined to drink it and die. Her funeral and burial is efficient and Sara can only watch through her magic mirror and promise that her death will be avenged.
This is not a simple form of revenge, no it is much more complicated than that, with a mix of cruel punishment and mad scientist the story twists and turns before finally smashing a hammer into the antagonists leaving them broken. Eduardo does not take long to remarry and his lovely bride Deborah (Rosa Arenas), although she knows he is a widow does not know the details of her death. She arrives with him at the house and we see that Sara is still working for and plotting against Eduardo. She calls forth the ghost of Elena and the haunting starts.
As a storm starts outside to give us a foreshadowing of trouble to come strange things start to happen in the house. Deborah is scared and Eduardo is in denial right up until he sees his former wife in the magic mirror. Throwing his lantern at her image breaks the mirror but unfortunately the fainted Deborah is caught up in the fire. She wakes aflame and in a great practical effect runs from the room fully engulfed. It is good to stop here and reflect on the cruelty of this films plot. Poor Deborah did not know that Eduardo killed his wife, she did not know she was a rival to Elena, in fact she is completely innocent in this matter. Eduardo is an asshole murderer but it is Deborah who is burn until totally disfigured, it is so horrible for her a woman who happened to fall for a bad man.
If you think revenge was served and that the film was over but you are wrong. Sara is not done with them yet and Eduardo has hardly been beaten down enough. This is where we have the twist into the mad scientist realm. Eduardo works day and night on a formula to make new skin grafts for Deborah, he wants to restore her beauty. In doing so though he has had to perform low acts. Stealing bodies from the morgue with the help of Gustavo (Carlos Nieto) he finally almost has what he needs. One more body and the operation to restore Deborah can begin.
Stealing a woman who died of a heart attack from her grave in the cemetery Gustavo and Eduardo learn she was not really dead but just thought to be. So their crime actually saves the young girl from dying buried alive. She was a pianist with beautiful hand that could be transplanted in full onto Deborah, but now that she is alive this can't be. Eduardo says with excitement how he can now have a living specimen to use to replace his wife's burnt parts and no one will miss her thinking her already dead and buried. This is too much for Gustavo, the killing of an innocent girl is completely different than using the skin of cadavers. He says he will have no part of it and leaves. Eduardo can be pretty sure that he will not go to the police. He would be in trouble himself for stealing bodies. Still the fact he left the girl in Eduardo's hands weighs heavy on Gustavo.
To spur Gustavo to turn himself into la policia, Sara materializes in from of him and warns him and then turns into a black cat to make sure he understands she is a dangerous witch. He heads off immediately having seen this. She raises Elena again from the grave, she knows that Eduardo is going to do the hand transplant so she has Elena leave her ghost hands in place of the young girls. Where both women played the piano Eduardo does not notice and attaches the hands to Deborah. Then he replaces the scarred tissue on her face with beautiful new skin. Deborah is so grateful and caresses her love with the new hands, but they are Elena's and try to strangle him. Still her face is unrevealed covered in bandages. She never questions Eduardo about how he got the body parts and apparently never reads the paper either so does not know about the missing bodies.
Things pick up to the climax as Gustavo tells the police everything and they head to the house. At the same time Sara calls forth her final revenge. She reveals to Deborah the dead bodies hidden in the lab and it appalls Deborah. She confronts Eduardo calling him a criminal. He tries to explain he did it all for her and gets her to remove her face bandages. She is again beautiful with no signs of her terrible burns. Sara not that easily deterred though knows the hands are Elena's and as Deborah and Eduardo hold each other the otherworldly power makes the hand stab him in the back with scissors. Down he goes dead, and she loses the hands as they fall from her body and the burnt hands appear.
Found by the police with now face and hand reverted to the charred horrors they were her sad fate as a murderess is sealed? The ghost appendages with one more task at hand :) crawl up Gustavo and finish his life with the scissors. Sara using the magic she used to get her revenge allows Elena to rest in peace and then vanishes before the police can find her.
There is a lot I loved about this film, the pacing was wonderful and even though the plot meandered a bit it was always entertaining and there were no real lulls. The acting was wonderful with Calvo's Eduardo showing his villainous menace and driven intent. Deborah wonderfully played by Arenas was innocent and vulnerable and then tormented in her disfigurement. Corona's Sara was dignified in her need for revenge, you felt her love for her granddaughter in her actions.
The special effects for this 1962 film were good, from the simple angle shots to reveal things in the mirror. To the scarred skin of Deborah, they were low budget but effective. The appearance and transformations of Sara through cut shot were simple but effective. The corniest piece was the ghost hand that were clearly still attached to arms and the best was the burning Deborah running from the room. There is also something like corn syrup over the lense at one point, a cool camera effect as well as a dreamy lighting scene showing Deborah as she hears the voice of Sara call Elena in the climax.
The direction should get some credit to as the film was so well done. There was this one moment where I notice a small thing that was so great. Early in the film when Elena and Sara are looking at who will kill her. They see Eduardo in his doctor coat and he looks to be cutting something. there is nothing in his hands but they are making the motions. Later when he is taking the hands off the girl he murders for them he does it with a matching shot as he uses the same motion to make the incisions. It is a small thing but just excellent. I really enjoyed this film and whole heartedly recommend it to all.
Rating (7.7) 5.0 and up are recommended, but some more recommended than others.