Thursday, October 6, 2016

Thursday Movie Picks - Witches/Warlocks

Written as part of the weekly blogathon hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves. Join in the fun by picking three movies that fit the week's theme and writing a bit about them!

It's October, which means it's Halloween Month at Thursday Movie Picks! Time for the creepy, the spooky, and the scary. I have a strange relationship with horror movies - I generally don't like them, but I'm kind of fascinated by them. This week's horror is witches (and the male version, warlocks), and they can certainly be scary. But they can also be sexy and funny. Personally, my favorite witches are the Charmed Ones, but this isn't Thursday TV Picks, so let's go with these instead...

Suspiria (Dario Argento, 1977) It's a tale as old as time: Young beautiful American ballerina gets accepted to prestigious ballet school, discovers the school is actually a front for a coven of witches. Suspiria is legendary for its opening scene, a notoriously bloody chase through the ballet school that ends with a brutal hanging. Giallo master Argento saturates the colors throughout the film so that it's undeniably beautiful even when it gets gory, and ratchets the tension up so well that the terrible acting almost doesn't matter. But for my money, the best part of Suspiria is the score by Goblin, which will creep up and down your spine and give you shivers for days after the movie is over.

The Witches of Eastwick (George Miller, 1987) Jack Nicholson is the Devil, tempting the all-time great trio of Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Susan Sarandon into ever more sinful acts. And poor, poor Veronica Cartwright gets caught in the crossfire. As funny as it is macabre, this prime slice of '80s popular cinema is still super enjoyable thanks to its supremely watchable leads.

The Crucible (Nicholas Hytner, 1996) The belly of the beast of the Salem witch trials, exposed for all its hypocrisy in Arthur Miller's classic play. The film isn't perfect, but the script still is, and Daniel Day-Lewis and especially Joan Allen are All-Time Great as the central couple torn asunder by the machinations of a scorned teenage girl (Winona Ryder, giving a good performance hampered by Hytner's worst directorial impulses). This isn't as good a film as Miller's Great American Drama deserves, but it's still pretty good, with Allen deserving of an Oscar for her tremendous performance.

18 comments:

  1. Love your choices!!

    I have to confess that I watched Suspiria initially strictly because Joan Bennett was in the cast. But once I started watching I was struck by the film's unique mood and atmosphere, which in a way reminded me of the old Kate Jackson/Shelley Winters TV movie Satan's School for Girls! I was much aggrieved to read that it's being remade, it's a singular view.

    Haven't seen Witches of Eastwick in years but the cast all had fun with their roles. Older Nicholson is not my favorite Nicholson but this role fits his persona like a glove and I adored Veronica Cartwright in the film.

    I think The Crucible is something of a miss. For various reasons it's inert at times but it's not the fault of the performers. Both Day-Lewis and Joan Allen are brilliant as is Paul Scofield. I also thought Elizabeth Lawrence was a standout in the small role of Goody Nurse. Winona is okay but outacted by her costars.

    I'm not much for horror even witchy scares so I ended up with older and by and large lighter choices this week.

    I Married a Witch (1942)-Condemned to being burned at the stake along with her father 17th century witch Jennifer (Veronica Lake) puts a curse on her accuser Jonathan Wooley (Fredric March) that he and all his descendants will marry the wrong women. Their spirits captured in a tree they’re unexpectedly freed 250 years later to discover the curse is still working with the latest Wooley (also March) engaged to marry a shrew (Susan Hayward). Full of mischief and revenge the troublemaking duo decide to raise even more of a ruckus by way of a love potion but complications ensue. Supported by an excellent cast the two leads make the picture, their extraordinary chemistry remarkable since behind the scenes each bitterly hated the other. You’d never guess from what’s on screen, they seem completely swept away. The best showcase Veronica ever had, she’s seductive, alluring, humorous, seeming to carry a gossamer glow with her wherever she goes.

    Bell, Book and Candle (1958)-Modern day witch Gillian (Kim Novak) and her cat Pyewacket, live in 50’s Greenwich Village along with her Aunt Queenie (Elsa Lanchester) and impish cousin Nicky (Jack Lemmon). She meets publisher Shep (James Stewart) and on a lark, partly because he seems immune to her and partly because Shep is engaged to her old college rival Merle (Janice Rule), she decides to make him hers by casting a love spell. Trouble starts brewing though when Gillian finds herself actually falling for Shep. That’s more than a little problem since Gill will lose her powers if she falls in love with a human. The film suits Kim’s languid style.

    Black Sunday (1960)-Cult star Barbara Steel is Asa, a 16th century high priestess of Satan executed, along with several of her followers, by having a spiked mask hammered into her face. As punishment is meted out she vows vengeance of her accusers returning 200 years hence to inhabit the body of her doppelganger and reap bloody retribution. Loaded with atmosphere and style though short on actual frights, excepting those opening scenes, it's permeated with creepy dread.

    Unmissable Bonus-Bewitched (1964-1972)-Beautiful blonde Samantha Stevens lives on Morning Glory Circle in quaint Westport with her often exasperated adman husband Darrin and their adorable kids Tabatha and Adam, plus nosy neighbor Gladys Kravitz, while her zany, often difficult family drop in frequently unannounced causing no end of troubles. Big troubles too since Samantha and all her relatives are witches who strongly disapprove of her marriage to a mere mortal. A monster TV hit in its day with a cast full of expert comic actors chief among them Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha/and her swingin’ cousin Serena, Agnes Moorehead as her firebrand of a mother Endora, Paul Lynde as jokester Uncle Arthur and Marion Lorne as the befuddled Aunt Clara this is often considered a subtle metaphor for interracial marriage at a time when that was causing much upheaval. Inspired in part by my first two picks.

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    1. I honestly believe Veronica Cartwright should have WON an Oscar for her performance in Eastwick. Brilliant, brilliant stuff.

      Yeah, I really don't know how to feel about the Suspiria remake, either. I mean, the premise is durable, but why can't you just take the "coven of witches at a ballet school" idea and do something different with it? You're NEVER going to come even close to the original.

      The Crucible is full of a lot of good ideas that unfortunately don't always work. I really like how it tries to match the hysteria of the girls, but it comes off as TOO ostentatious. I often wonder what a film of this made around the time it was a Broadway hit would have been like. With Natalie Wood as Abigail, maybe?

      Of your picks, I enjoy Bell Book & Candle, can't wait to see I Married A Witch (LOVE Veronica Lake!), and am intrigued by Black Sunday.

      And of course, I love Bewitched the TV show. Not so much that ill-advised movie.

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    2. The idea of Natalie Wood as Abigail is indeed intriguing with perhaps Vivien Leigh as Elizabeth Proctor and Robert Ryan as John Proctor. Though the idea of Carolyn Jones as Abigail with those huge expressive eyes did float through my mind but she might have been too knowing a presence to work as well as Natalie.

      There is a 1957 French version with Simone Signoret! as Elizabeth which I've unfortunately not seen. The only negative with this that is immediately apparent is that Yves Montand plays John Proctor. Glug. Outside of The Wages of Fear I think he's an atrocious actor.

      And yes, yes, yes to the love of both Veronica Lake and the Bewitched TV show!

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    3. Yes, I've heard of the French version with Signoret and Montand - leave it to the French to film a Great American Drama before the Americans did - but haven't seen it. I don't feel quite the same way about Montand that you do, but I haven't seen a whole lot of his films. I'm not sure I buy him as Proctor, though, and I'm not sure how I feel about seeing The Crucible in French, either.

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  2. OK Susperia is so 70's and I would watch it because it looks downright campy. I saw Witches of Eastwick when it first came out and didn't care for it because of jack-he just seemed so creepy I could not see how 3 women would ever find him attractive. I should see it again to see if age has done better by me. I have not seen the Crucible although i have read the book. I wouldn't mind giving this a shot. Welcome back:)

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    1. Yeah, Jack doesn't really have the looks of a great seducer, but he does have a charisma that made me buy it.

      Suspiria has moments that are kinda campy, but overall is just really, really florid horror.

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  3. I enjoyed Witches of Eastwick mostly because of its leads, they are so great in there!

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    1. AGREED. They all just look like they're having so much fun!

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  4. I've only seen Witches of Eastwick. Very fun movie. Time for me to rewatch it, actually, since it's been years since my last viewing.

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    1. Yeah, I need to see it again too. I mostly only remember Veronica Cartwright lol.

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  5. Suspiria is amazing, and yes that score is very creepy.

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  6. Yay Suspiria! The Crucible is amazing, I can't believe I didn't think of that. I should've went with it.

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    1. Wow. VERY cool to see another fan of The Crucible!

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  7. Great picks! I remember watching the Crucible and really hating Ryder but she is pretty damn good in this, in fact its a great cast all round. I;ve never seen it in stage but one day maybe.

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    1. Yeah, I think she's pretty good in The Crucible, too. A bit out of her depth with the other cast members, perhaps, so you can really see her ACTING, but so much of Abigail is about performance, so I think it works. If you get the chance to see it on stage, TAKE IT. It's an incredible play.

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  8. I saw The Crucible recently. The whole thing was just so frustrating. Learning a little of the context of the story was also interesting. While it began in the drama with a scorned teen girl, it ended with neighbours getting rid of their rivals.

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    1. Yeah, The Crucible is MEGA-depressing.

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