I once had a boss who I referred to, not so fondly, as The Dragon Lady. Dripping with privilege and obsessed with status, she was quick to cut down anyone who didn’t fit within her narrow definitions of societal importance. She reminded me, then and now, of a real-life Merle Kittridge. Kittridge, of course, was the well-to-do cold fish featured in 1958’s Bell, Book and Candle, the charmingly glossy look at the touching heartaches of a modern witch, perfectly played by the ever-enchanting Kim Novak.
Thankfully, the fictional Kittridge was eventually given some comic pathos by the film’s denouement via her majestic portrayer, Janice Rule. This turnabout is further emphasized by the subtle restraint this consummate performer gives to even her most cutting observations of Novak’s Gillian, ever an outsider due to her peculiar talents. That being said, as rivals for the affections of Jimmy Stewart’s quiet Shepard, the two actresses convincingly play up the polar opposites of their characters. Thus, Merle emerges as a classic example of a woman that you love to hate.
Nicely, in real life, Rule, who died in 2003 at the age of 72, seemed to be the exact opposite of her very popular creation. Earning her degree as a psychoanalyst, she spent the majority of her life helping others between her frequent acting gigs.
Fun Fact: Both Rule and Novak played the heroine in Picnic, William Inge’s classic look at the subtle torments and soft joys of smalltown life. Rule appeared in the original Broadway production while Novak took over in the popular film adaptation.
Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!
High school awfulness is just something you seemingly have to live through. Any attempts to balance the scale just end up in Carrie-style mayhem. This definitely proves true for the participants in the upcoming Bad Witch, a fun film written by James Hennigan and co-directed by Victor Fink & Joshua Land.
At first, Roland Grimm (Jackson Trent) thinks Xander Perkins (Chris Koslowski) is a gift, a miracle seemingly delivered from the skies to help combat his teenage awkwardness. But as Perkins’ witchcraft laden solutions to Grimm’s problems begin to backfire, the young man soon regrets his involvement with this handsome, trouble making grifter. In fact, as death and betrayal overtake his world, Roland may soon pay the ultimate price for his association with the dark side.
Anchored around the casual, friendly energy of Koslowski and Trent, Bad Witchdabbles in gooey body horror, male sexuality and willingly explores a culture that is beginning to move away from labels as it restructures its sense of societal taboos. Here, Xander’s insistence that he is a “witch” not a “warlock” will truly make sense to a generation of film lovers who refuse to define themselves within the long accepted pronouns and gender rules. Nicely, the film also contains a very comical, truly gruesome death sequence involving one of Roland’s rivals – a moment that is almost worth the price of admission here alone.
Interestingly, while there is no homosexual tension between the film’s leads, Bad Witchdoes break boundaries by focusing on Koslowski’s taut masculinity. In a world where gorgeous, often traumatized women still serve as the focal point of horror projects, this celebration of male beauty is a novelty in itself. A natural progression from such witch based projects as I Married A Witch and Bell Book and Candle (from the ‘40s and ‘50s) and The Witches and The Craft (from the ‘90s), Bad Witch is sure to find many fans among those who like their terror delivered with a quick chant and an eager spell or two.
As cool as they may be – you can keep your Gremlins, Silent Night, Deadly Night, Die Hard, Christmas Evil and Santa’s Slay. 1958’s stylish, witchcraft laden Bell, Book and Candle is actually the perfect yuletide holiday film decorated around a genre bent.
With a nice portion of the proceedings occurring on Christmas Eve and Christmas, this tale of Gillian, a beguiling witch who falls in love with a mortal, is not only full of romance in the traditional sense, but director Richard Quine also establishes a love affair with the audience regarding the idea of winter in the big city. He and art director Cary Odell create New York City streets full of moody lighting, soft streaks of snow and glorious cavalcades of historic apartment buildings. It’s dreamy.
As Gillian, the divine Kim Novak is also in her arched eye brow prime here. She and James Stewart, her co-star in that same year’s classic Vertigo, establish a believable chemistry despite their age difference and Novak definitely compels in the mystical sense, as well. This is truly one of her finest performances and the layers she provides here ring with believability and otherworldliness.
With stalwart comic support from the always reliable Elsa Lanchester and the fluidly magnetic Jack Lemmon, as members of Gillian’s family, this tale has just enough references to the occult, along with plenty of spellbinding directorial mood-craft, to make it a seasonal must-love for all well rounded fans of horror.
Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!