Molly (Millie Perkins) and her two nephews sit on the beach on the Californian coast, and as many times before she regales them with tales of their dead grandfather, who she avers was a captain lost at sea some years ago. As they sit in the sand, Molly notices a group of bodybuilders working out on the equipment installed there. Gradually, she lapses into a trancelike state as she admires them, but then the reverie turns nightmarish as she sees them dead in her mind's eye. She snaps out of it, but Molly has problems, all rooted in what her father did to her...
After making her movie debut as Anne Frank, and not exactly receiving plaudits for her interpretation, cult star Perkins drifted through a number of roles in the sixties, including two well-regarded Monte Hellman westerns, until she hit the seventies and the work seemed to dry up - either that or she couldn't find parts that suited her. Her most memorable role of this period, even if it wasn't widely seen, was one written for her by her then husband Robert Thom, and it was the strangest of her career.
The Witch Who Came from the Sea was that role, a psychotic woman approaching middle age who is given a spacey, off kilter interpetation by Perkins. Molly's sister Cathy (Vanessa Brown) provides the strongest hints that their father wasn't as laudable as Molly seems to think he was, and she's not wrong as she curses his name despite the protests. Molly works as a barmaid in a local tavern run by her older boyfriend Long John (Lonny Chapman), but she doesn't stay with him sexually, tracking down men she sees on the television.
Two of those men are professional football players, and we get a hazily filmed sequence where Molly ties them up - they think she's playing some sort of game - and murders them. When she wakes in Long John's bed the next day, she is horrified to see on the news that the two footballers are actually dead, and seeing as how she tied them up with the distinctive shirt that seamstress Cathy had made for her, there's incriminating evidence linking her to the crime. The weird thing is, in a film full of weird things, the police take a hell of a long time to track her down.
The cops go to see Cathy, and other characters Molly knows, but don't seem to be able to put two and two together. Meanwhile, Molly is befriending an ageing Hollywood actor, whose wrist she breaks in a bedroom tussle during a party, and an actor she frequently sees in a shaving commercial, who although being perfectly friendly sets Molly off on one of her episodes. This could have been a schlocky horror, but for the most part it's a deliberately paced drama, perfectly sincere about its protagonist's mental damage (there are disturbing flashbacks to illustrate where it all stems from) but filmed in a sludgy, enervated fashion accompanied by truly odd sound design (sea-based effects drown out the action at times). That there's very little like it is probably a good thing, as while Perkins gives a committed performance you can't honestly find much to enjoy. Music by Herschel Burke Gilbert.