The American Society of Cinematographers

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Bell, Book and Candle (1958)

Blu-ray Edition

1.85:1 (High Definition 1080p)

DTS-HD Master Audio Monaural

Twilight Time, $36.25




On Christmas Eve 1958, in Greenwich Village, nestled within the snowy bohemia amid adventurous shoppers collecting last-minute gifts, the mysterious Gillian “Gil” Holroyd (Kim Novak) closes her primitive-art boutique for the night. Wistfully dimming the lights and drawing the curtains, the beautiful art dealer cradles her precocious feline, Pyewacket, and complains to him about her loneliness. Gazing out the window, she spies handsome neighbor Shep Henderson (James Stewart). “Why don't you give me him for Christmas, Pye? Why don't you give me him?” she asks.

Later that evening, Shep and his icy fiancée, Merle Kittridge (Janice Rule), visit The Zodiac Club, an unusual after-hours spot, and find Gil and her eccentric aunt, Queenie (Elsa Lanchester), having drinks. Uptown Merle is quickly put off by the gaunt performance artist and jazz combo (The Brothers Candoli) who are headlining the club's holiday entertainment. Merle demands Shep take her home when the combo, which features Gil’s brother (Jack Lemmon) on bongos, seems to focus on frightening her as it plays. 

Upon returning from Merle’s, Shep spies a strange fire burning in Gil's front window and rushes into her apartment. Amused, Gil explains it’s a Christmas game and invites Shep to have a nightcap with her. Gil cradles Pyewacket, humming a lulling tune as Shep starts to feel dizzy. When he awakens atop the Flatiron Building, it is dawn on a clear Christmas morning, and he is happily lost in an embrace with Gil. After declaring his love for her, Shep goes off to Merle's to break their engagement.

Shep’s happiness is short lived when he realizes he has literally been bewitched by Gil. With help from her warlock brother, "witchcraft expert" Sidney Redlitch (Ernie Kovacs) and magician Bianca de Passe (Hermione Gingold), Shep tries everything to break the love spell. A cloud forms over the city as Shep slowly realizes that reversing the curse might not cure him of his love for Gil.

Director Richard Quine's film version of the Broadway hit Bell, Book and Candle marked the second pairing of Novak and Stewart in 1958, following their legendary union in Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo. Quine enlisted cinematographer James Wong Howe, ASC, who worked closely with Technicolor consultant Henri Jaffa and special color consultant Eliot Elisofon to forge a credible urban look that featured lush primary colors. Indeed, the film's simmering cauldron of incandescent light and color remains one of its most enduring qualities.     

Online retailer Twilight Time recently released Bell, Book and Candle on Blu-ray, and the image transfer is extremely pleasing, with excellent sharpness and film-like grain. Colors appear vibrantly saturated with an appropriate, otherworldly zeal. The images pop with exceptional detail and crisp black levels. Compared to the standard-definition DVD released in 2000, this image has a bolder, more vivid impact. The DTS-HD Master Audio monaural track is solid, with good attention to George Duning's infectious musical score, the freewheeling jazz of the Zodiac, and the creative sound effects that often highlight the magical visuals.

Twilight Time has conjured some fun supplements for this package, including the original theatrical trailer, a 9-minute audio interview with Novak that plays over images and clips from the film, and a 15-minute audio interview with Novak about her 1959 movie, Middle of the Night. Duning's score on an isolated track and an excellent printed essay by Julie Kirgo are the standout supplements.

This memorable romantic comedy of supernatural mischief in a snowy Greenwich Village features some of Howe's most memorable color cinematography. It’s also a treasure chest of remarkable performers from the Golden Age of Hollywood, each casting his or her own unique spell. This sparkling Blu-ray presentation of this cult favorite should be under every movie buff’s tree this year, but don’t wait for Christmas to purchase it — it’s a limited run of just 3,000 units. Head to www.screenarchives.com to order your copy before it vanishes.

 
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