Bell, Book, and Candle

Witchcraft comedy, fittingly bewitching, from the John Van Druten stage play, exploring extensively the metaphor of love as a magical power, a spell, an enchantment, a transfigurement. Meaningful use of the Bohemian ambience of Greenwich Village (regardless how artificially reproduced on the backlot); smartly cast, from the top-billed James Stewart and Kim Novak (re-teamed, at a different studio, in the same year as Vertigo, no less combustibly and, strange to say, much more believably) down through a bongo-drumming Jack Lemmon, a whisky-inhaling Ernie Kovacs, a mundanely sexy Janice Rule, the sisterly weirdies Hermione Gingold and Elsa Lanchester, not to forget the seal-point Siamese who plays Pyewacket, the witch’s familiar; deftly directed by Richard Quine, who, in love with Novak in real life, got the absolute best of her on screen: Pushover, Strangers When We Meet, and this one, masterpieces in diverse genres, film noir, soap opera, romantic fantasy. 1958.

5.0 stars

— Duncan Shepherd

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