Witchcraft IV: Virgin Heart (1992)

Rating: C-

Dir: James Merendino
Star: Charles Solomon Jr., Julie Strain, Clive Pearson, Lisa Jay Harrington

Will Spanner (Solomon) is now less a lawyer, it seems, than a PI, working insurance claims. However, he is convinced by Lily Wild (Harrington) to take the case of her brother, accused of involvement in the disappearance of his girlfriend. The case leads him to the Coven club, where Belladonna (Strain) works as a stripper, while simultaneously moonlighting as a blues singer. Her agent, Santara (Pearson) is a real sleazy-tpye, and Spanner eventually realizes, after seeing the agent, apparently unchanged, in a book of old photographs, that there is a pact with the devil going on here. Santara’s clients’ souls are being sold in exchange for “stardom” – quotes used advisedly, since what they seem to get appears to be a particularly low-rent version of fame and fortune, in line with the particularly low-rent nature of this in general.

The main difference is that this does have someone you’ve actually heard of, in Strain – albeit extremely early in her career, and thus still, presumably, very cheap. She plays slightly less of a maneater than you’d come to expect, though still towers over the leading man, and does get undressed as often as you’d hope expect. Contrast, say, Pearson, who according to the IMDB, would not appear in anything else for seven years: hard to tell whether his British accent is badly-affected or just badly-acted The director – the fourth in four movies, so don’t look for any consistency of tone – seems to be going for a pseudo-noir feel, with lots of voiceover for Spanner, without much else to back it up. I braced myself when I saw the two-hour running time, but this is a Troma release, so it starts with Lloyd Kaufman plugging his book, Julie Strain putting on her make-up (nekkid, naturally) and ends with a lot of trailers for other films – the actual movie is the usual 90-odd minutes.

The technical aspects here, particularly on audio, are extremely bad, with the levels all over the place. However, we’re not exactly talking Noel Coward, or even Quentin Tarantino, so “not hearing the dialogue” hardly can be considered the straw that broke the camel’s back. It gets credit, as well as for Strain, for a concept that is kinda interesting, updating the old blues legend a bit, though how the original case ties in to the Faustian deals being cut is…dubious, shall we say. Probably still makes more sense than why Santara moonlights as a college radio DJ, or the explanation offered at the climax, which suddenly lobs the Spanish Inquisiton into the mix. [Safe to say, nobody expected that…] Given a more interesting villain, this could have had potential, but I think all hope was lost when he started quoting Hamlet. Why bother writing lines, when you can just recycle Shakespeare?