Bell Book and Candle VHS
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Staid, secure publisher James Stewart leads a quiet life until he meets his bewitching downstairs neighbor, Kim Novak. John Van Druten's lighthearted Broadway comedy becomes a lush if lightweight romantic vehicle for Stewart and Novak, who would reunite for Hitchcock's Vertigo the next year. Novak is at her best as a Greenwich witch halfway between the worlds of magic and mortals, looking after her dotty aunt (Elsa Lanchester) and mischievous warlock brother (Jack Lemmon) as they keep their skills in practice. Novak's specialty is making men fall for her, but it's a one-way street: when a witch falls in love, she loses her powers. Director Richard Quine gives the witches an almost beatnik sensibility, a real Greenwich Village subculture hanging out in underground clubs and smart curio shops. Elegantly photographed in rich, glowing colors by James Wong Howe, Bell, Book and Candle is a fantasy world in New York set to a funky bongo-laced jazz score by George Duning. Quine's gliding camera is somewhat marred by abrupt editing, but his handling of actors is superb, in particular Novak, whose mysterious beauty masks inner turmoil and romantic yearnings. Ernie Kovacs appears as a wry author whose specialty is the supernatural, and Hermione Gingold is suitably florid as a witch elder with a penchant for theatricality. For once in his life Stewart is actually upstaged by the slyly comic performances around him. --Sean Axmaker
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The movie plot and backstory from The Motion Picture Guide is as follows: "Meet Gillan Holroyd (Kim Novak), Greenwich Village's most seductive sorceress. Powerful, glamorous,and a wee bit bored, Gillian knows that witches can't fall in love. But they can have fun... especially if their lover belongs to another woman! So when Gillian discovers handsome new neighbor Shep Henderson (James Stewart) is the fiance of an old college nemesis (Janice Rule), she promptly puts the befuddled publisher under her spell. But while her sex hex may have heated up Shep's heart, it has also unthawed her own, leading to a romantic complication that not even Pyewacket, Gillian's mind-reading cat, could have foreseen. Presented in eye popping Technicolor transfer that beautifully captures James Wong Howe's stunning cinematography, BELL, BOOK and CANDLE co-starring Jack Lemmon, ErnieKovacs, Hermione Gingold and Elsa Lanchester is "a delightful spoof on witchcraft with the cast members at their very best."
The movie has English and Spanish subtitles. It also has some special features such as the movie trailer and narrative backgrounds on the key actors. It is a great lighthearted movie from another time centered on the time-honored pursuit of love. Well done. Five stars.
Okay, Kim Novak is a witch living in 1958 New York, owns a magic shop. Her aunt, also a witch, lives upstairs. Her brother played by Jack Lemmon is a warlock. Kim's character falls in lust with Jimmy Stewart. She can't fall in love, because she will lose her powers if she does. Just a really fun movie.
Glad I finally found it on DVD.
Despite the fact that they can maniulate human emotions, Kim Novak and her fellow witches(Elsa Lanchester, Jack Lemmon and Hermione Gingold) really are witches in a good sense--not mean-sprited or evil, just free-spirited bohemians who just happen to be able to work magic spells. They don't do mortals any REAL harm, and in fact there's no active proscription agains fraternizing with us. Even a "love affair" is OK, as long as the witch-partner therein doesn't actually fall in love. Cuz, as everybody knows--except maybe for Samantha Stevens a few years later--that's one sure way to lose your powers.
BELL, BOOK AND CANDLE is very light fare indeed, but it's utterly charming. Its milieu, the world of benevolent urban witches in the mid-twentieth century would later take on darker hues in the '60s with ROSEMARY BABY, but that was a decade away at this point. There's not even a hint of Satan-worship in this whimsical flick. Kim Novak has a cat who doubles as her "familiar," but he really doesn't get too familiar (and never really what you'd call diabolical). Kim's not above settling old scores and using her witchy wiles to win Jimmy over, but that just seems a magical extension of what movie femmes fatales always do anyway.
This was Kim and Jim's second pairing in the space of one year (1958). They had previously teamed up for Hitchcock's VERTIGO, a more celebrated film certainly, but in some ways the chemistry the two stars exhibit here seems a little more natural. That may be because they'd gotten used to working together, or maybe it's just has to do with Jimmy Stewart getting to play an unequivocally nice guy again, after getting a little obsessive and creepy in the earlier film. But hey, if you're programming your own double feature some weekend soon, you could certainly do worse than BELL, BOOK AND CANDLE and VERTIGO. Pop some popcorn in the microwave, boil some eye of newt in the caudron, and curl up for a solid evening of entertainment.
I love the subtle charm, and the wardrobe is pure candy for the eyes. This is by far the best work of both Jimmy Stewart & Kim Novak. This is timely around both Halloween for its witchcraft theme, and also around Christmas as it takes place over the Christmas holiday.
It’s a real treat, and an unsung classic.
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