Release Date(s)1942 (October 8, 2013)
Studio(s)Westchester Films Inc. (Criterion - Spine #676)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: C-
I Married a Witch is a charming and simple comedy starring Veronica Lake and Fredric March. It’s about a beautiful witch who accidentally falls in love with a human in modern times after being banished for nearly 300 years. The problem is that he is running for governor and is about to be married to another. The witch’s father, who has been cursing her would-be lover’s bloodline for centuries, is against their union and means to stop it altogether.
If this sounds like the synopsis to Bewitched to you, you’re not far off. Apparently the producers of the hit TV show were partly inspired by I Married a Witch. The film was based off of the novel “The Passionate Witch” by Thorne Smith, and was directed by French director René Clair. Apparently the film was a bit of a gamble, as Clair was a foreign director brought to Hollywood with his previous film The Flame of New Orleans and the film’s stars, Veronica Lake and Fredric March, didn’t exactly getting along during the filming. The film was also sold from Paramount Pictures to United Artists and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music.
Today, I Married a Witch has been mostly forgotten but is now being revived thanks to Turner Classic Movies and, of course, The Criterion Collection. It’s a bit of a screwball comedy with a genuine love story going on in it. Veronica Lake is breathtaking, as always, and March plays springboard off of her character quite well. It’s a very lighthearted comedy that’s very sweet and has a happy ending, with the message that “love is stronger than witchcraft.” Enjoying it is likely to be essential for most people, especially around Halloween.
For Criterion’s Blu-ray transfer of the film, they have utilized both the original 35mm nitrate negative and a 35mm nitrate composite fine-grain master, with an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. Both were scanned at 2K resolution and mastered accordingly. Despite Criterion not having the best materials to work with, they’ve manage to pull off a very clean and pleasing presentation. There is a heavy amount of grain, uneven because of the different sources used, but image detail is quite good. There are plenty of film scratches in some of the scene to scene transitions and some of the areas of the frame appear weak. Blacks and whites are very solid for the most part and contrast and brightness are quite excellent. Again, not the best source materials were used for this release, so it’s not going to look like a brand new print of the film. It is, however, the best the film has ever looked on home video, which is very excellent. The film’s audio, which is an uncompressed English mono track, suits the video presentation. It’s definitely dated, but it’s very clean and clear. I thought that the volume was a bit too low and that a bit of push in the treble couldn’t have hurt, but overall, the dialogue, score and sound effects work quite well together. There are also subtitles in English for those who need them.
Unfortunately, there aren’t a whole lot of extras to cull through for this release. There is an audio-only interview with director René Clair, the film’s trailer and a 28-page booklet featuring an essay by filmmaker Guy Maddin and a 1970 interview with Clair. I would have liked to hear more about the making of the film and the problems going on behind the scenes, in particular, but having the director, at least in audio and text, answering a few questions is good enough.
I Married a Witch probably won’t be in the top tier of anyone’s film library, but if you haven’t seen it, do check it out. Seeing the beautiful Veronica Lake blossoming into a film actress should be reason enough to pick this charming little comedy up.
- Tim Salmons