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Bell, Book, and Candle

For fans of Alfred Hitchcock's moody, surreal 1958 Vertigo, which stars Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak, Richard Quine's Bell, Book, and Candle makes an unusual, entertaining bookend. Hitchcock's duo teamed for this supernatural comedy, shot the same year, with pleasant results that also show how much range Stewart and Novak had as actors, and how much chemistry they could create with each other on screen, no matter what the genre. Stewart stars as New York publisher Shepherd Henderson, who is a no-nonsense businessman willing to print just about anything as long as it turns a profit, but when his downstairs neighbor Gillian Holroyd, who is a witch, decides her life needs more spice, she casts her spell on Shep to lure him away from an old schoolmate of hers. However, despite Gillian's predilection for ensnaring men with her charms, she always must be careful not to get too emotional, for once a witch falls in love she loses all of her powers. Based on John Van Druten's amusing Broadway play, Bell, Book, and Candle is as lightweight and breezy as any romantic comedy out there, and the colorful Greenwich Village beatnik scene serves as an ironic, super-hip backdrop for the proceedings. Jack Lemmon, as Gillian's bongo-playing warlock brother Nicky, scores some of the best laughs (and his skill at non-verbal comedy is spot-on here), while Elsa Lanchester (The Bride of Frankenstein) and Hermione Gilgold turn in supernatural supporting performances. In the midst of it all, Stewart adopts the role of the befuddled, earnest Everyman, and if he just walks through the part, few actors could do it better. Also starring the brilliant TV pioneer Ernie Kovacs. Columbia TriStar's DVD, part of the excellent "Columbia Classics" series, offers a very nice anamorphic widescreen print (1.85:1) with very little in the way of damage. The transfer is solid, and audio is in DD 2.0 (mono). Trailers, textual supplements. Keep case.
—JJB



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