Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bell, Book and Candle

An unlikely sequel, this repairs Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak straight off Vertigo. The comparison does Quine’s slightly hip romantic comedy few favours, but even without the spectre of Hitchcock’s film, it would struggle to impress. Gently supernatural and feather-light, its most obvious precursor is I Married A Witch, but Quine is no sparkling Clair and to compare the slightly lumpen Novak to Veronica Lake seems unfair; she is not so poor an actress as some would have her, however, and her awkwardness on screen has an indefinable quality that here, as for Maddie/Judy, does produce an appropriately otherworldly effect. She is now a modern-day New York witch, and her dilemma is between the world of witchcraft and that of mere mortals. Stewart is the love interest, but looks to have aged about ten years since Vertigo and meanders through the film um-ing and ah-ing, happy to let the young people go about their business: any sense of a spark in the central relationship is pure intertextual frisson. The real appeal of the film is in the endearingly kooky turns from Lanchester and Kovacs; and, if one cares for that sort of thing, Jack Lemmon has his full schtick down pat (his next film was Some Like It Hot). Unfussily good-natured and undemanding, but singularly lacking in magic.

d Richard Quine p Julian Blaustein sc Daniel Taradash ph James Wong Howe ed Charles Nelson ad Cary Odell m George Duning cast James Stewart, Kim Novak, Jack Lemmon, Ernie Kovacs, Hermione Gingold, Elsa Lanchester, Janice Rule, Philippe Clay
(1958, USA, 106m)
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