Witch Flicks To Watch

Hollywood's portrayal of witchcraft and witches has ranged from Grand Guignol to sappy Bewitched-like comedies featuring good witches who use their supernatural powers to snag the perfect mortal. However, only a handful of films have considered the form of occult seriously, as an expression of feminism or a form of pagan religion. partner Information Please has compiled the following list of recommended witch films.

A Good Witch Gets Her Man
Bell, Book and Candle (1958)
Based on John Van Druten's Broadway play that paired Rex Harrison and Lilli Palmer, the film stars James Stewart and Kim Novak. Novak's witch, Gillian Holroyd, falls for Stewart's engaged publisher, Shepherd Henderson. She casts a spell on him that prompts him to abandon his fiancée for her, though her mentor, Mrs. De Pass (Hermione Gingold), tries to reverse the spell. Jack Lemmon plays Gillian's outrageous warlock brother. Briskly paced and well acted.

I Married a Witch (1942)
Widely considered the precursor to television's Bewitched,I Married a Witch makes a fun Halloween watch when you're in the mood for an offbeat comedy rather than a slasher movie. As 17th-century accused witch Jennifer (Veronica Lake) burns at the stake, she casts a spell on the male descendants of her accusers, the Wooley family, declaring that they will all endure miserable marriages. Jump forward a couple of hundred years and the spirits of Jennifer and her uncle (Cecil Kellaway) return. They find Wallace Wooley running for governor and engaged to a snobby socialite. Jennifer tries to woo Wallace to ensure his misery, but she ends up falling for him.

Mischievous Mystics
Conqueror Worm (1968)
This underrated film deserves a look on video. Vincent Price plays Matthew Hopkins, a real-life witch hunter who travels from town to town in Puritan England, seeking confessions from alleged witches. When one of his henchmen (Robert Russell) rapes the niece of a purported witch, her fiancé (Ian Ogilvy) deserts the army to hunt down her attackers. A masterful thriller.

The Crucible (1996)
Though set in 1692 Salem, Mass., Arthur Miller's drama remains timeless. This faithful film adaptation builds on the famous allegory of McCarthyism to reflect our current, and no less virulent, blend of media-fed group-think and religious fundamentalism. Abigail Williams (Winona Ryder) and her circle of friends create a terror of demons when they are caught conducting a haunting ritual to cast love spells, with Williams fixing her sights on former lover John Proctor (Daniel Day-Lewis). When put on trial, illiams sees it as a spiteful opportunity to accuse Proctor's wife, Elizabeth (Joan Allen), of witchcraft. The accusations send the community into a frenzy of betrayal and vengeance. Director Nicholas Hytner's spare setting allows Miller's plainspoken yet powerful language to work to chilling effect.

Maid of Salem (1937)
An authentic-looking, well-written drama that closely parallels Arthur Miller's The Crucible. Claudette Colbert plays Barbara Clarke, the rebellious daughter of a conservative family who falls for an outsider who's on the lam, Roger Coverman (Fred MacMurray). A young, spoiled girl (Bonita Granville) accuses her family's servant of being a witch and sets off a wave of hysteria in the town that results in falsely accused witches being burned at the stake. Because Barbara sympathizes with the accused, she's tried and convicted as a witch herself. It's up to Coverman, who has legal trouble of his own, to save her from a horrible death.

Rosemary's Baby (1968)
This landmark horror film remains one of the most chilling of the genre. Life for Manhattan newlyweds Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse (Farrow and Cassavetes) seems to be copacetic. But lurking beneath their facade is Guy's involvement with witchcraft and Satanism, which he is introduced to by the couple's oddball yet endearing neighbors, Minnie and Roman Castevet (Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer). Rosemary is delighted when she becomes pregnant, though the child she bears is not a bundle of joy. Best Supporting Actress Oscar went to Gordon.

A Little Hocus-Pocus
Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)
Unfairly compared to Mary Poppins, Disney's 1964 musical extravaganza, Bedknobs has never earned the praise it deserves. Set in World War II England, Angela Lansbury plays an amateur witch who uses her mischievous powers to thwart a Nazi invasion. Her fantastical magic bedstead rides help her win the hearts of three irascible children who are unwittingly put in her care. Sensational special effects combine animation and live action, at the time, Disney's most spectacular effects-driven movie.

The Craft (1996)
Four troubled teenage girls, outcasts in their Los Angeles high school, form a coven and use black magic to seek revenge on their tormentors. But revenge, however sweet, comes with a price, and the girls learn their lesson the hard way when their powers begin to spin out of control.

Witches of Eastwick (1987)
Jack Nicholson makes the perfect eyebrow-raising horny little Devil who just can't seem to get sex off his mind in this film based on John Updike's novel. Three miserably menless women (Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer and Susan Sarandon), who happen to be amateur witches, get together weekly to down martinis and lament their status as single women. Together they conjure up their idea of the perfect man, and low and behold, who buys the own's mansion the very next day? They each have a ball with the new arrival, Darryl Van Horne, but they get suspicious when misfortune strikes his biggest critics. An overwrought ending and poor use of special effects can't dampen Nicholson's zest.

Hazardous Hexes
Horror Hotel (1960)
This atmospheric, moody film still chills, even by today's heightened standards - and tolerance. Nan Barlow (Venetia Stevenson), a college student who's studying witchcraft, travels at the suggestion of her professor (Christopher Lee), to a small New England spook town where she finds the local inn is run by a 268-year-old witch who sold her soul to the Devil and sacrifices humans for him. When Nan goes missing, her brother and boyfriend search for her, not prepared for the evil that awaits them.

The Wicker Man (1973)
A devoutly Christian Scottish police sergeant, Neil Howie (Edward Woodward), discovers a coven of witches, headed by Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee), while investigating the disappearance of a child. He also learns that the coven sacrifices one human a year, and he may be the next victim. Though sometimes-sluggish pacing presents a problem, the film is widely considered the most respectful, realistic portrayal of witches.

The Witches (1990)
Based on Roald Dahl's novel Witches, the film features fabulous-looking witches and mice crafted by Jim Henson's Creature Shop. A boy's vacation with his grandmother takes an eerie turn when he learns that he's sharing a hotel with a coven of witches, led by the Grand High Witch (Anjelica Huston), who plans to turn all England's children into mice.

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Written By Beth Rowen