Best Blu-ray Deals
Best Blu-ray Deals, See All the Deals »
Top deals |
Bell, Book, and Candle(1958)
After teaming memorably in Alfred Hitchcock's haunting Vertigo, James Stewart and Kim Novak are together again in the whimsical Bell Book and Candle (1958), a spellbinding romantic comedy directed by Richard Quine and based on John Van Druten’s Broadway hit. Stewart plays a New York publisher entranced by a mysteriously bewitching young woman (Novak); mesmerizing supporting performances by the likes of Jack Lemmon, Ernie Kovacs, Hermione Gingold, Elsa Lanchester, and Janice Rule lend quirky comic charm to the proceedings. Cinematographer James Wong Howe gives us a glamorous vision of Manhattan, enhanced by George Duning’s sophisticated score (available here as an isolated track).
For more about Bell, Book, and Candle and the Bell, Book, and Candle Blu-ray release, see Bell, Book, and Candle Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on April 11, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Jack Lemmon, Elsa Lanchester, Ernie Kovacs, Hermione Gingold
Director: Richard Quine
» See full cast & crew
Bell, Book, and Candle Blu-ray Review
Bothered and bewildered after becoming bewitched.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, April 11, 2012
One has to assume Sol Saks must have been deeply affected by Bell, Book and Candle when he must have seen it in 1958, though it took the longtime television and occasional film writer a half decade or so to gestate the experience into what would become his lasting trademark, the long running Elizabeth Montgomery sitcom Bewitched. Like Bewitched, Bell, Book and Candle posits a modern day witch working her wiles on a befuddled mortal male, ultimately deciding to give up her crafty ways to settle down to a seemingly normal existence. Of course the major difference is that Bewitched depicted what happened after that momentous decision (and, truth be told, Samantha Stephens continued to twitch her nose with abandon despite her promises to husband Darrin not to), while Bell, Book and Candle spends its time leading up to that decision. The film was based on a moderately successful Broadway play by John Van Druten, and when Columbia optioned it for film adaptation, there was little question who would play the female lead: Columbia's somewhat brainier answer to Fox's Marilyn Monroe, one Kim Novak, who by the vagaries of the film industry would end up co-starring with James Stewart in two 1958 films released within months of each other, this one and Alfred Hitchcock's legendary Vertigo. In fact the two films ended up with Novak and Stewart as co-stars due to a prearranged trade whereby Columbia would loan Novak to Hitchcock while Stewart agreed to come on board Bell, Book and Candle. The film, like the play, was moderately successful in its day, but it seemed to disappear under the somewhat formidable reputation cast by the Hitchcock opus, which still remains the film most people think of when confronted by the combined names of Kim Novak and James Stewart. While there was never much public uproar about the film's plot utilizing modern day witchcraft (unlike brouhahas caused later by everything from Rosemary's Baby to the Harry Potter franchise), there may have been some slight general unease at the occult subtext of the film, something distinctly at odds with the uptight and circumscribed Eisenhower Era.
Novak portrays free spirited Greenwich Village shop owner Gillian Holroyd, whose ground floor store also serves as her apartment. Living overhead on the building's second floor is the Stewart character, successful publisher Shep Henderson. Living over him on the building's third floor is Gillian's dotty Aunt (sort of an analog to Bewitched's Aunt Clara), Queenie, played by the inestimable Elsa Lanchester. It's obvious that Gillian is dissatisfied with her lot in life, despite her ability to conjure spells with the aid of her Persian cat Pyewacket. She shares with Queenie her passing desire to be a little "humdrum" once in a while, something she feels might be perfectly acceptable if it included someone like Shep. Queenie of course casts a spell on Shep's phone putting it out of order, requiring him to come downstairs and ask to use Gillian's.
While it might not exactly be love at first sight, there's a hint of magic in the air, but that is soon dispelled (no pun intended) when Shep shows up with his fiancée Merle (Janice Rule) at The Zodiac, a nightclub populated by New York's witches and warlocks. It turns out that Merle and Gillian were nemeses at Wellesley (Wellesley allows witches?), and that realization pushes Gillian ever closer to using her crafty ways to secure Shep for herself.
The bulk of Bell, Book and Candle then plays out in a sort of odd concatenation of somewhat otherworldly romantic drama with just a touch of whimsy and occasional comedy bits. In fact one of the reasons the film may have never really become a blockbuster is that it doesn't seem to be easily pigeonholed into any given genre. It's part fantasy, part romance, and never really laugh out loud hilarious, which some may be expecting it to be, especially considering the long running sitcom it probably at least helped to inspire and which younger audiences are going to use as their measuring stick (wand?) against this property.
The film never really truly catches fire, and yet there's charm aplenty in the performances. Novak has probably never been more alluring, even if at times she's slightly sinister, especially after she decides to get her way by casting a spell or two. Stewart felt he was too old for a romantic part such as this, and that may be true, but he brings a certain fumbling sensibility to Shep that is well modulated and certainly never as buffoonish as, for example, Darrin usually was on Bewitched. There are a couple of great supporting turns in addition to Lanchester's loquacious Queenie, including a young Jack Lemmon as Gillian's brother Nicky and the always enjoyable Hermione Gingold as the head witch of the region, Mrs. De Passe. Oddly what might have been a showcase role for Ernie Kovacs, as a hard drinking author out to write an exposé on Manhattan's witches, is undercut by Kovacs' oddly understated performance.
Director Richard Quine (who was evidently Novak's lover at the time) offers a nicely sleek production here, one which casts Manhattan, and Greenwich Village, as a sort of fantasyland of mid-century chic. The film received Oscar nominations for its Art Direction – Set Decoration and Costume Design. There have been critical analyses offered that playwright John Van Druten was really couching a subtle reference to the Village's incipient gay culture with his portrayal of an "exiled" class of people, but that might be stretching things just a little. Bell, Book and Candle may be better remembered not for its supposed subtext but for two extra-curricular references, one filmic and one television. It will forever be that "other" 1958 Stewart – Novak pairing, and similarly it will certainly be seen as a progenitor (for better or worse, and correctly or not) for Bewitched. Seeing the film now it's a quaint time capsule that captures Novak at the height of her almost alien beauty, and which provides a field day for a number of enjoyable character bits by a host of superb supporting players.
Bell, Book, and Candle Blu-ray, Video Quality
Bell, Book and Candle is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Twilight Time with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.85:1. This is yet another solid looking high definition presentation culled from an HD master provided by Columbia – Sony. The elements here are largely immaculate, and color is beautifully saturated and very generally accurate looking, though skewed to the yellow side of things.. Fine detail pops magnificently in close-ups, with textures from Novak's gorgeous costumes to Pyewacket's glistening fur clearly visible. Some of the location shots, which were presumably second unit, are just a tad softer than the bulk of the film. The film does have an overly grainy look a lot of the time, and a couple of opticals have even more added grain, as should be expected, but overall this is a very nice looking transfer that should easily please the film's fans.
Bell, Book, and Candle Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Bell, Book and Candle features a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio Mono mix that ably supports the film's dialogue, as well as the very enjoyable score, which includes some spritely underscore by George Duning and some fun jazz elements by The Candoli Brothers (along with some bongo playing by Jack Lemmon). Fidelity is excellent throughout the track, though occasionally looped effects (like Pyewacket's cries and meows) have noticeably different ambient characteristics than the bulk of the dialogue. Dynamic range is not especially robust here, but this is largely a dialogue driven film. The noisy party scenes at The Zodiac maintain excellent clarity despite their "busy" sonic atmosphere, and all frequency ranges are reproduced with very good clarity.
Bell, Book, and Candle Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Bell, Book, and Candle Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Bell, Book and Candle gets by on a surplus of charm and star power, even if at its core it's curiously lacking in the one thing it should have in abundance: magic. Novak is hypnotically beautiful in this film, and Stewart is appealing, if admittedly a bit too old to be courting someone as relatively nubile as Novak. The film is aided immeasurably by some great supporting turns by Jack Lemmon, Elsa Lanchester, Janice Rule and Hermione Gingold, but sadly Ernie Kovacs (who left us too few film appearances) just seems too reined in for a role that should have been goofily over the top. While the film is sort of a middling affair, this is yet another strong looking and sounding release from Twilight Time, and for those who are Novak or Stewart fans, or indeed fans of this film itself, this release comes Recommended.
Use the thumbs up and thumbs down icons to agree or disagree that the title is similar to Bell, Book and Candle. You can also suggest completely new similar titles to Bell, Book and Candle in the search box below.
Similar titles suggested by members
Bell, Book, and Candle Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Désirée and Bell, Book, and Candle Blu-rays - March 19, 2012
Next month, Twilight Time will bring both Désirée and Bell, Book, and Candle to Blu-ray. Désirée is director Henry Koster's 1954 screen adaptation of the Annemarie Selinko novel, while Bell, Book, and Candle finds director Richard Quine (Paris When It Sizzles) ...
Bell, Book, and Candle Blu-ray, Forum Discussions
» Show more forum discussions for Bell, Book, and Candle Blu-ray
Bell, Book, and Candle Blu-ray Screenshots
Back to Bell, Book, and Candle Blu-ray »
Trending Blu-ray Movies
Trending in Theaters
This web site is not affiliated with the Blu-ray Disc Association.
All trademarks are the property of the respective trademark owners.
© 2002-2014 Blu-ray.com. All rights reserved.