Friday, 14 August 2015

I MARRIED A WITCH












d. Rene Clair (1942)


There's something slightly demented about 1940s comedies. Perhaps its the mix of elegance and slapstick, like panto performed in evening dress, or that the tempo and volume are just on the edge of too fast, too shrill. Either way, they certainly seem strange to me, which is not to say that I don't enjoy them very much.

I Married A Witch is a lovely film, full of good humour and bags of energy, slightly frantic, often chaotic. But there's some darkness in there, too: it starts with the execution of a witch and her warlock father, after all, and is quickly followed by a montage of the misery inflicted on a single family by the dying witch's curse. When the oak tree planted over their graves is hit by lightning their imprisoned spirits are free to wander the earth in the form of smoke - and, even then, they still have revenge on their minds.

The witch is given a body, the beautiful, elfin form of Veronica Lake, with her little girl voice and phenomenal bone structure and, of course, her famous lopsided hair. Her witch is wicked, mischievous, relentless and absolutely adorable. When she drinks a potion intended for her victim (stiff old Frederic March), however, she falls desperately in love with him, a state of events that impairs her powers and incurs the wrath of her much less forgiving father (a surprisingly malevolent presence).

Some things I learned about witches from this film: they live incredibly long lives (the father is half a million years old, his daughter a mere 200 odd thousand); they are responsible for most of the great disasters of history (Pompeii is mentioned); they can reanimate corpses and live inside them (the father does this with the victim of a fire. The body is still hot so, when he sits down, the chair catches alight) and, finally, 'love is stronger than witchcraft' (even if it's love created by witchcraft, apparently). It's all very informative, and beautifully frothy and funny - and marvellously macabre.

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