I Married a Witch (Directors Suite) (1942)

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Released 18-Nov-2009

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Gallery-Poster-Theatrical Posters (8)
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1942
Running Time 73:44 (Case: 77)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By René Clair
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Fredric March
Veronica Lake
Robert Benchley
Susan Hayward
Cecil Kellaway
Elizabeth Patterson
Robert Warwick
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music Roy Webb


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 1.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    I Married a Witch is an enjoyable piece of Hollywood fluff from 1942.

The film was directed by emigre Frenchman Rene Clair (his The Ghost Goes West was a huge success in 1935) who had developed a penchant for supernatural comedies. This film was recommended to him by Preston Sturges who agreed to produce. The pair fell out over artistic differences during the production and Sturges left. Perhaps the only trace of his involvement can be found in the bundle of Sturges stock characters in minor roles.

To a modern audience the film may seem impossibly inconsequential, particularly as its running time barely scrapes over 70 minutes. Still the nostalgist will find plenty to like in the film.

The plot of I Married a Witch is paper thin. Hundreds of years ago a Puritan do-gooder Judge Wooley (Fredric March) sets about burning some witches, a father and daughter. Wooley makes sure that the pair will not rise to wreak havoc again by planting an oak tree above the ashes of the witches. He reveals that the female witch placed a curse on him and his descendants that they would forever be unlucky in love. In an early montage we see the curse has been regularly fulfilled. Jump to the present, and the forecast for Wallace Wooley (also March)is cloudy. He is engaged to the difficult Estelle (Susan Hayward) whose father J.B. (Robert Warwick) just happens to be bankrolling his future son-in-laws gubernatorial campaign. To sweeten the election potential J.B. has arranged for the wedding to be the day before the election.

The day before the wedding a freak storm sees a lightning strike hit the tree and release the witches. Jennifer (Veronica Lake) and Daniel (Cecil Kellaway) are on an evil mission to cause as much havoc as possible. They light upon a scheme to destroy William Wooley by making him fall in love with Jennifer thereby disrupting the wedding plans and the election.

What follows is a romp which never slows down enough for the audience to note the plot holes and mixed acting. Fans of the pretty Lake will enjoy her cheeky performance as the witch. She had a reputation of being difficult on set and only consistently worked with similarly pint-sized actor Alan Ladd. Rumours abound that Lake and March didn't like each other one little bit. She was always criticized for her perceived lack of acting skills, and this role is no showcase for her talents, but her presence and magnetism is undeniable. It is almost impossible to work out her motivations in the film but since there are magic tricks and love potions as plot elements perhaps that doesn't matter too much. March is the grumpy straight-man and noted actor/humourist Robert Benchley chimes in nicely as Wooley's friend. Benchley was at the end of his career playing second banana in some pretty dire films. His alcoholism would kill him within a couple of years of this movie. Character actor Kellaway is given a break from his usual good natured roles to play the mean spirited and vengeful witch.

Rene Clair was a master at knocking out light, effective movies. It is easy to understand, however, why Sturges was frustrated and left the project (his Palm Beach Story came out that year). The film lacks the tight scripting and manic energy of Sturges films of the period. As it is the film is an enjoyable trifle when, in the right hands, it could have been a stronger romantic comedy.

The film is often spoken of as the inspiration for (or as the back of the DVD case says "a precursor to") Bewitched. Possibly although the tale is really about meeting witchcraft not the wacky experience of married life with a witch.

A piece of enjoyable whimsy.

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Transfer Quality

Video

I Married a Witch comes to DVD in its original 1.33:1 Cinematic Aspect Ratio.

Generally the image is watchable but not spectacular. It has not been the subject of a detailed digital restoration and as a consequence the quality pales in comparison with fully restored films from that era including Citizen Kane and Casablanca.

There is noticeable minor damage to the print. There are minor displays of artefacts, both positive and negative including the faint lines from top to bottom of the print. Compression issues are non-existent despite the film being released on a single layered DVD.

The film is not particularly sharp with a fair bit of intentional soft focus around Lake to give her that 40s Goddess look. The contrast is pretty good though. The grain level is generally acceptable.

For reasons that are not clear the final two minutes of the film appear murkier and grainier than the rest. Perhaps the ending was taken from a deteriorated print. The only other problem is the regular minor flickering.

An acceptable transfer.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

I Married a Witch receives a Dolby Digital 2.0 mono transfer running at 224Kb/s.

This is perfectly adequate to convey the dialogue of the film.

This is a 60 year old film. It is therefore no surprise that it is a little thin and brittle on the ears. What is a surprise is the amount of hiss on the track which makes the listening experience occasionally a chore. Of more concern is that at the 26.00 and 54.59 minute marks of the film the hiss drops right away and the soundtrack diminishes to almost nothing. The sound level increases but the effect is disturbing.

The audio sync appeared to be accurate.

The music for the film is by Roy Webb who picked up an Oscar nomination for this light but enjoyable score.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Gallery-Poster

The only extra is a gallery consisting of 8 theatrical posters. It is nice to see the range of images used to promote the film but a better set of extras would have been nice.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

   The film is not available in Region 1 making the Region 4 release something of a coup.

Summary

    I Married a Witch give Veronica Lake fans a chance to dream away with their idol with her peek-a-boo hairdo and diminutive stature.

The transfer of the film is pretty much a "slap it on DVD" affair but is acceptable although there are a couple of visual and sonic aberrations that deserved a fix up.

No real extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Friday, December 18, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

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