Posted 11 November 2013 - 09:12 PM
I Married a Witch is a strong contender for the best film Criterion has released this year - a swift, sweet, hilarious and dazzling comic confection with zero fat on it. The special effects are delightful and very well done (the smoke wisps riding a broomstick is both lovely and very, very funny), Clair's directing manages to be very precise while still having a light touch that let's the actors shine... And those actors. Everyone is great in this movie, but let's be real: this movie is all about Veronica Lake, and she hits it right out of the park. She's funny and sweet and utterly lovable. You can clearly see how she laid the foundation for characters like Jeannie and Samantha Stephens, but as is often the case the original is superior. There's really no way to describe how perfect this performance is in words. You just have to see her own the screen and be dazzled by her yourself. A pity Ms. Lake's career was cut short by her inner demons, but man did she leave one heck of a legacy, even just in 1942 alone!
Witch runs a lean 77minutes, but all 77 of them are packed with invention and joy, from the silly montage detailing the misery of the Woolley men to the (largely harmless) mayhem wreaked by the witches as they learn about the present day, to Jennifer's downfall at her own clumsy hands (totally not a spoiler, by the way) and beyond. This movie is like a sugar high - it hits your bloodstream, makes you giddy and then it's gone just as soon as it came. I hate to make the pun, but - oh screw it. This movie is pure magic. As perfect as screen comedies get.
The general lack of extras is a pity, but the booklet is excellent, especially Guy Maddin's adoring essay. I have yet to listen to the Rene Clair interview but will soon. For the low, low sale price of $14, this is a great steal on blu ray. The soundtrack is tinny and flat but the image is lovingly restored and, aside from some light scratches and one optical with unfixable printed-in grime, it's a silvery nitrate dream to watch. Not as nice as, say, Modern Times is on Criterion blu, but considering how Witch has been poorly preserved through the decades, this disc is a real achievement on CC's part.