“Variety described it as “wonderful” before declaring it “absolutely unfit for public exhibition”, so for those that didn’t know, since its premiere in 1922, Benjamin Christensen's Haxan – an exploration of the role of superstition in medieval minds - has caused outrage and protest from both the general public and religious groups. Haxan takes no prisoners, dramatizing satanic activities and rituals including the ways in which suspected witches were tortured and killed, but for that alone it shouldn’t be regarded as a masterpiece.
Apparently, not until its re-release in 1941 did the Danish director earn belated fame and respect - proof that this genre-defying "documentary" was way ahead of its time. In 1968, the film won further praise and a whole new audience when it was re-released with a William Burroughs narration, under the title "Witchcraft Through The Ages". If you can ignore the plodding opening ‘slide-show’ chapter that will result in some viewers being turned off before turning off, and relish instead the rest of this superbly sinister silent movie, you’ll be rewarded with outstanding creepy visuals that are an artistic triumph and some satisfying shocks - a fascinating watch.” DW