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Haxan – Witchcraft Through the Ages in September

Tartan Video have announced the UK DVD release of Haxan – Witchcraft Through the Ages on 24th September 2007 priced at £19.99. I’ll just quote the press release verbatim for this one…

Benjamin Christensen was a pioneering director of international repute and innovation. His earlier films The Mysterious X and Blind Justice had seen the Danish filmmaker courted by Hollywood. However, with the outbreak of the First World War, he turned his attention to capturing the story of witchcraft and superstition on screen. Based on the infamous medieval book, Malleus Maleficarum, regarded as the 'bible' of the Inquisition's witch hunts, he created his deliriously imaginative film.

Haxan explores the role of superstition in the lives of medieval minds, and dramatises satanic activities and rituals, including the ways in which suspects were tortured and killed. Shot completely at night for added atmosphere, it's divided into a number of parts. The first looks at traditional depictions in sculpture, wood carvings. The next section shows the different ways that Satan (played by Christiansen himself) tempted his victims, a third part looks at how witches were made to confess , whilst the final section offers more psychological explanations for some of the phenomena.

From its premiere in France in 1922, it caused outrage and protests from both general public and religious groups. It didn't fare much better in his native Denmark. Unfortunately, it virtually ruined his career and much like Todd Browning after Freaks, he became a reclusive character.

Seemingly ahead of its time, it was re-released in Denmark in1941and earned him belated fame and respect. However, it was revived in 1968 in a shortened version under the title ‘Witchcraft Through The Ages’. It was given a commentary by author William Burroughs and a jazz score by Jean-Luc Ponty. Its legendary status even gave the name to the production company behind The Blair Witch Project.

Tartan's release includes both this Burroughs-narrated shorter version and the original film for which two new score has been created - one by composer Geoff Smith performed on hammered dulcimer and the second offering a dynamic electro-acoustic score by UK group, Bronnt Industries Kapital.

DVD extras include: original soundtrack; two new soundtracks; two versions of the film. Presented in original Academy ratio.

Please note:
Haxam is also screening in selected cinemas nationwide with a live dulcimer accompaniment by Geoff Smith, who has composed the new score.

Coming soon: Victor Stöström’s silent classic The Phantom Carriage, with new score by KTL

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