For Reel


Bell Book and Candle (1958)
December 10, 2014, 4:56 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Richard Quine
3 Stars
Bell Book and CandleJohn Van Druten’s successful Broadway play Bell Book and Candle was wrought as a sort of allegory about beatniks and gay culture in Greenwich Village during the early 1950s. Witches in this vision are not as we’ve known them from previous interpretations, but rather as a counter-culture, characterized by their own night clubs and clearly distinguishable from the “ordinary” folk. The biggest success in Richard Quine’s adaptation is his interest in presenting such a culture–his unified vision regarding fashion, music, and even language is very distinct for the genre. Kim Novak’s icy persona is played upon effectively within this aesthetic. Witches, in this interpretation, are unable to cry, and Novak dependably acts with her steely, seductive glares. Perhaps that’s why the picture never soars as a romantic comedy in that Jimmy Stewart plays the romantic notes in a way that is much more conventional in the traditional since. Without the edge that he’s given in Vertigo, his obsession can only be blamed on the spell that she casts–which, of course, makes things dramatically inert once it is insisted by the script that true love persists beyond the magic. The supporting cast outshines the big players, particularly the perfectly cast Elsa Lanchester and Hermione Gingold as a couple of particularly eccentric witches.

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