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.



The Notorious Landlady (1962)
May 23, 2014, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Richard Quine
3 Stars
The Notorious LandladyFour years after starring in Vertigo, Kim Novak would play yet another mysterious blonde who becomes the object of a man’s obsession in The Notorious Landlady. This time the romantic is Jack Lemmon, who becomes so deeply entranced by his detached lover that he has time to question whether or not he can cope with the idea that she is a potential murderer. Although it begins to drag somewhere around the midpoint, the film is not without its charms in the early-goings. Arthur E. Arling’s ever-moving camera keeps the visuals lively, and Lemmon can play an over-eager sap as well as anyone else. Director Richard Quine seems very amused by the screenplay’s potential to transition from one genre to the next, with the story first unfolding as a romantic comedy before developing into a psychological thriller and even a courtroom drama. Finally, with the daring climax, Quine lampoons everything that has come before–he pays homage to the silent comedy greats by allowing an increasingly slapstick chase sequence unfold to music from The Pirates of Penzance. As the silliness escalates and Lemmon’s character struggles to summarize everything that happened in the last twenty minutes, the picture becomes fairly radical in the way that it both skewers and meets the audience’s expectations of a final act. The whole sequence seems tonally irreconcilable with everything that preceded it, and yet the theatrical melodramatics are somehow fitting.