The Witches (AKA The Devil’s Own) (1966)

As with The Plague of the Zombies, the black characters in this Hammer production are tangential at best, but pretty much any appearances in this era are noteworthy. The film begins in Africa (country name not needed, apparently; it’s like saying the setting is “Europe”), where British schoolteacher Gwen (Joan Fonaine) is stationed as a propagator of imperialist indoctrination…er, I mean she’s teaching English.

In the opening scene, her two African aides nervously express concern that the distant drumming means the local witch doctor is after their souls. Gwen dismisses their fears, but when she finds a dagger stuck in a table, the guys (Yemi Ajibade and Rudolph Walker) jump through a window and escape. Thanks, guys!

Gwen is left to defend herself against the witch doctor and his immense head. She screams and faints, as women were wont to do in the 1960s. Who knows what the doc and his posse did to her while she was unconscious (butt play perhaps?), because we cut to months later when Gwen lands a job at a quaint English school that turns out to be a haven for — uh-oh — witches! How clever of them to tie it back to the title. After the opening five minutes, no other black people appear in the film, but Gwen’s African adventures haunt her throughout the movie and give her character, like, depth or something.

“Gumby? Gumby?!?! …Oh…Yes, well, I see your point.”
“Ting tang walla walla bing bang.”
Carmen Miranda was a dead woman.

What do you think?