The Halloween stuff is going up in all the stores, the air is cooling off just a bit, the first of the leaves are beginning to turn shades of red and gold, and I saw the first wooly worms crossing the pavement, fall is here! Seeing the Halloween goods reminded me of a fun movie I found on DVD around this time last year, Bell, Book and Candle.
They often stock magical movies in the Halloween aisle, keep an eye out for this 1958 classic has been digitally remastered. I loved this movie since I first saw it as a teenager. It's directed by Richard Quine and based on a Broadway play by John Van Druten, which I would love to see performed someday. This movie was nominated for two academy awards. You may notice similarities between this film and the 1964 TV show Bewitched, especially the characters, and also the assumption that the witches in both presentations are not considered human, but seemingly some other race. The other inspiration for Bewitched was a 1942 Veronica Lake film called I Married a Witch.
In Bell, Book and Candle, Kim Novak plays Gillian who is one of my favorite movie witches of all time. She's very spooky in this role, and man, does this witch know how to dress, if you watch this film for the wardrobe alone, it's totally worth it! Gillian, who was an anthropology major in college runs a really cool primitive art gallery in New York, and is going through an existential crisis about her life as a witch. She asks her siamese cat and familiar, Pyewacket for the gift of someone new in her life for Christmas. Gillians original thought that she wouldn't want to win the heart of a suitor by enchantment is tested by her love interests announcement of impending marriage to her old college rival Merle, and she of course falls back on her magical powers with the help of Pyewacket. As you can guess thing don't go quite as she planned, as in most movie and real life love spells! Although it seems odd that 25 year old Kim Novak would look at book publisher Shep Henderson played by 50 year old Jimmy Stewart who pulls odd faces throughout the movie, and think, "hubba, hubba," it didn't detract from the film for me too much. I must say, I do love Jimmy Stewart as an actor. For some reason I can't explain why the chemistry between these two actors worked better in Hitchcocks Vertigo than in this film.
The New York witches frequent an underground beatnick club called The Zodiac, brick walls, smoke filled and dimly lit with colored lights, it completes the idea of a sub culture in which the magical community lives. Gillians witchy family and cohorts are the quirky "Aunt Queenie" played by Hermione Gingold and the enterprising bongo drum player Nicky played by a very young Jack Lemmon. I would love to hang out in The Zodiac on a winters evening, never have I seen New York look more witchy than it does in this film.
Modern Witches and Pagans should first remember when this was written, not much was known publicly about real witches, and to many, they did seem like they were not only totally fictional, but un-human. In this film, you'll have to allow for suspension of disbelief as you remember that this is a fictional portrayal of a magical world, male witches are warlocks, witches can't cry, blush or fall in love, of course none of these things apply to real life witches. They also note that old chestnut from the witch trials, that somehow mysteriously witches float, a strange phenomenon that I notice everyone doing at the neighborhood pool all summer long...so many witches in this neighborhood, but I digress...
This movie is totally fun and will have you humming the haunting theme all day long. Incidentally Pyewacket became a very popular name for cats around 1959, there really must be a little witch in all women!
***Spoiler Alert*** I always end up making a sandwich or something around the end of this film, I think it just it kills me to see the fabulous Gillian in pastels having converted her funky art gallery to flowery yech, having lost her powers. Sad. Again, we must remember the time when this movie was made, times have changed and women no longer have to give up their power to find love, either figuratively or otherwise. Would someone please remake this film and change the ending just a bit?! ***End of Spoiler Alert***
Oh well, I still love it, the DVD offers you you choice of full screen and widescreen versions, (of which I recommend widescreen, but that's a subject for a future blog.) The special features aren't so special, but that's not a deal breaker as many older movies have that issue, there just isn't much to add to most of them since they weren't really planning for that at the time. They do have the addition of the original film trailer, which I could have skipped, it's decidedly lackluster and frankly would not have gotten me to the theater. Do keep an eye out for this one amongst the Halloween offerings this year, it really is a classic magical movie with a great vintage flair, enchanting cinematography, and some laughs too.