676 I Married a Witch

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Roger Ryan
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Re: 676 I Married a Witch

#26 Post by Roger Ryan » Sat Oct 12, 2013 10:45 am

Absolutely the condition of available materials can vary greatly for films originally produced within a few years or even months of each other. Using the Kino Keaton Blu-rays as examples, THE GOAT (1921) looks quite good while THE PLAYHOUSE (also 1921) looks terrible. THE GENERAL (1926) is impressive on Blu whereas Keaton's next film COLLEGE (1927) is definitely less so. I bet I MARRIED A WITCH looks better than MEET JOHN DOE (1941) ever will again.

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chatterjees
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Re: 676 I Married a Witch

#27 Post by chatterjees » Sat Oct 12, 2013 11:11 am

According to the booklet, "Digital Vision's Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, noise management, and flicker". Well, I didn't see much of a grain on my 55" screen, but there are plenty of dirt and noise. The feature looked much better than the trailer though :)
"This new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on a Lasergraphics Flim scanner from the original nitrate 35 mm negative and a nitrate 35 mm composite fine-grain master."
You are right about the Keaton examples. I didn't mean that all of them look bad. I just couldn't find the examples you used. So, thanks for that. I guess my problem was with the use of "2K" in the description. This transfer looked like a regular 1080, that's all. Again, age and condition could be the pivotal factors here. Recently, we have witnessed some mind blowing 2Ks, which definitely raised the bar.

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Moe Dickstein
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Re: 676 I Married a Witch

#28 Post by Moe Dickstein » Sat Oct 12, 2013 4:09 pm

From what I've read elsewhere this has always been a problematic film and that this is by FAR the best it has looked.

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domino harvey
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Re: 676 I Married a Witch

#29 Post by domino harvey » Sat Oct 12, 2013 5:56 pm

Yeah, this has never had a good home media release in any country. That Criterion was able to do anything with the print(s) they had access to is magic in itself

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chatterjees
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Re: 676 I Married a Witch

#30 Post by chatterjees » Sat Oct 12, 2013 10:17 pm

I hope my comments were not too misleading. The print is not that bad. My problem was with the 2K tag. It didn't look like a 2K restoration, in my opinion though. I do recommend it, just for the fun of watching :D

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CSM126
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Re: 676 I Married a Witch

#31 Post by CSM126 » Sun Oct 13, 2013 12:40 am

"It doesn't look like a 2k restoration" is completely meaningless. "2k restoration" means they restored it at that resolution. It doesn't guarantee a certain look or outcome, it literally just tells you what resolution they scanned the print at. I mean, And Everything is Going Fine was a "2k presentation" and it still looks like crap because it was a 2k presentation of VHS tape. The source material is what determines the quality, not the scanning resolution.

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zedz
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Re: 676 I Married a Witch

#32 Post by zedz » Sun Oct 13, 2013 3:15 pm

2K, 4K, 16K or 38K Restoration probably accounts for less than 5% of how good a BluRay presentation looks. It's all about the elements that are being used, and they could be an OCN, a fine grain master, a dupe negative, a tatty exhibition print, a 16mm reduction, or a dupe of a dupe of a dupe. Until you know what elements were used, you're not even comparing like with like.

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MichaelB
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Re: 676 I Married a Witch

#33 Post by MichaelB » Sun Oct 13, 2013 3:22 pm

Just look at the BFI's silent Hitchcock restorations - the same team, the same equipment, the same technical standards throughout, but wildly different outcomes. The Lodger looks superb, Easy Virtue looks just about adequate.

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Yaanu
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Re: 676 I Married a Witch

#34 Post by Yaanu » Sun Oct 13, 2013 8:07 pm

It doesn't matter in the slightest because BD video is formatted to 1080p/i; it's never true 2K or 4K.
Well, unless it's a 4K BD, but then you need the proper TV to get the full image. And even then, it's the 1998 attempt at Godzilla. Is it really worth it?

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movielocke
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Re: 676 I Married a Witch

#35 Post by movielocke » Tue Nov 26, 2013 4:24 am

Ah, this film was a terrific disappointment. Naturally it doesn't have the punch of a pre-code, but it doesn't have the zip you'd expect from a top flight script of the era or the genre. I mean, I can see the attraction that the film/characters are so damn mean--and that this is a virtue for some--but other than Lake's frothy performance, this felt pretty staid and by the numbers, March and Benchley both seemed to be rote and incredibly uninterested in their parts. There were some nice directorial flourishes with the camera, some cute effects work and such, but really the best part of the movie is the poor damn singer having to keep singing that stupid song over and over again. It very much feels like a B picture through and through and I don't think it ever rises above that label. Actually, it sort of feels like a lesser Dead End, like a concept that could launch an entire Bowery Boys esque series. which in a way, I can feel a kinship to Bewitched, on a conceptual level, so perhaps it did...

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Matt
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Re: 676 I Married a Witch

#36 Post by Matt » Tue Nov 26, 2013 11:44 am

It's a shame they didn't make this a two-fer with The Ghost Goes West, which I think is a better film (though still not a great one), but it would have made a very nice package, especially with the addition of a little more supplementary material.

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Lemmy Caution
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Re: 676 I Married a Witch

#37 Post by Lemmy Caution » Tue Nov 26, 2013 12:37 pm

I'd be interested in hearing from dom or knives or any other supporters of this film, to hear what they liked about it.

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Mr Sausage
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I Married a Witch (René Clair, 1942)

#38 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Jul 07, 2014 6:52 am

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warren oates
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Re: I Married a Witch (René Clair, 1942)

#39 Post by warren oates » Mon Jul 21, 2014 3:57 pm

So I wrote the following in the voting thread and Sausage rightly said I should have saved it for this discussion:
warren oates wrote:I'll certainly be interested to hear in-depth and impassioned defenses of I Married a Witch, which impressed me in enough ways to make me wish it were as great as I had imagined it would be. I loved Veronica Lake, the high-concept premise and imaginative set-up, the well-crafted and funny VFX, but I suppose I was underwhelmed by the effect of the whole, which, though short, felt long to me. More like a procession of one thing after another than a surprising and inevitable story that really paid off the wealth of potentially great elements. Given all of the creative talent involved, including uncredited writers like Dalton Trumbo and a producer such as Sturges, who was really at the height of his powers at the time, the film -- once it settled into its narrative -- lacked the madcap energy, invention, surprise and strict but subtle adherence to character and theme that you see in the best of Sturges' own work. The political aspects in particular felt like pale retreads of storylines that worked much better in films like The Great McGinty and Hail the Conquering Hero. I certainly don't regret seeing it once. I just don't know if I'd want to see it again.
But I think I'll go even a little bit further today and say that by the final moments of the film I felt like the premise's relation to the narrative was just beginning to get going. You see their daughter come into the room and get that she's a witch too, just beginning to experiment with her powers and I at least wanted to see what managing that kind of domestic situation would be like. Say what you will about the obvious way in which the TV show Bewitched is indebted to (or shamelessly ripping off) this film, but I'd argue that it has a much better handle on where the comic and narrative potential in this material really lives. The conflict on that show is always about Darrin wanting his family to live just as other families do, with the meddling mother in law feeling like the "no magic" rule of the household smothers her daughter and granddaughter, and the farcical complications of each episode's plot revolving around how magic nevertheless manages to get Darrin both into and out of trouble.

In I Married a Witch, given the extremes of what warlock dad seems to want -- to torment Wallace Wooley -- it's much harder to believe in all of the many obstacles that prevent him from achieving his goal. The weakest one of all seems to be Jennifer's accidental imbibing of the love potion. I get that this is a sort of classic comedy device. I'm just not sure how well it works here. If we're supposed to believe her in the end when she says "Love is stronger than witchcraft," then shouldn't Wooley himself be a more interesting or admirable character? And shouldn't there be more reason for her to have fallen for him, for them to seem right for each other, than because it's ironic?

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Re: I Married a Witch (René Clair, 1942)

#40 Post by swo17 » Mon Jul 21, 2014 4:14 pm

warren oates wrote:Say what you will about the obvious way in which the TV show Bewitched is indebted to (or shamelessly ripping off) this film, but I'd argue that it has a much better handle on where the comic and narrative potential in this material really lives.
The key difference of course being that Bewitched doesn't star Veronica Lake. Take her out and there's not much of a film left here. But fortunately we don't have to do that.

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movielocke
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Re: I Married a Witch (René Clair, 1942)

#41 Post by movielocke » Mon Jul 21, 2014 4:20 pm

I think it's the cruel aspects of the film that causes it to fail so spectacularly, at least as a comedy. It's a vicious piece of work overall, everyone but the supernatural torturers is treated with contempt, it seems. On the other hand, it is nice to see such a radically different take on witches. Today--or even in the era of Bewitched--we expect witches to be misunderstood good folk who were mistreated by the prejudices of their time. This particular pair, however, is not misunderstood, and they are definitely evil. If the cruelty of their witchcraft on display in the film is any indication, it's no wonder they were burned. and I think that's what I found most surprising, that the 'bigoted/prejudiced' folk of yesteryear had a legitimate grievance. Not that that justifies murder, but I can't think of another film where witches burned at the stake were actually bad and were not agency-less victims we usually expect in these stories. Maybe Hocus Pocus. hah.

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warren oates
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Re: I Married a Witch (René Clair, 1942)

#42 Post by warren oates » Mon Jul 21, 2014 4:39 pm

Another way to go with all of that authentic darkness and cruelty would have been to contrast the godless pagan (but more honest) witches with the empty hypocrisy of the beliefs and practices of their mortal Protestant foes, the most hypocritical of which should have been the politician. But this was a Hollywood film from 1942 so I get why that wasn't about to happen.

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Gregory
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Re: I Married a Witch (René Clair, 1942)

#43 Post by Gregory » Mon Jul 21, 2014 4:47 pm

Wow. I've never been the person in the discussion who says "It's a comedy. You're taking it too seriously" (and usually I don't like the way that preempts thoughtful criticisms of comedies, so I hope I can make some kind of case below for why it's valid here). I don't know whether to loathe being that guy, or just enjoy the role-reversal. The "cruel aspects" cause it to fail as a comedy? I guess I didn't take this film seriously enough for one second to worry about any cruelty, any more than I'd worry about potential injuries in a massive traffic accident staged for a screwball comedy.
warren oates wrote:If we're supposed to believe her in the end when she says "Love is stronger than witchcraft," then shouldn't Wooley himself be a more interesting or admirable character? And shouldn't there be more reason for her to have fallen for him, for them to seem right for each other, than because it's ironic?
If this were a different type of film, those questions would be completely appropriate fodder for criticism, but I don't think it matters that we're convinced that they're right for each other or that love is stronger than witchcraft. I believe the film was meant to be a whimsical trifle even more than the average Hollywood romantic comedy, because (for me, at least) it doesn't even really matter whether I wanted Lake to end up sincerely in love with her target or not. We're just there to enjoy it as a farce, because the film has nothing to do with the ways people actually fall in love with each other in the real world.

By the way, I don't think Dalton Trumbo was really an uncredited writer on this, except insofar as he may have tossed around a few early ideas about how to adapt the book. According to Peter Hanson's book on Trumbo, he attended a couple of meetings with Clair and Sturges and then dropped out of the project.

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warren oates
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Re: I Married a Witch (René Clair, 1942)

#44 Post by warren oates » Mon Jul 21, 2014 5:03 pm

Gregory wrote:Wow. I've never been the person in the discussion who says "It's a comedy. You're taking it too seriously" (and usually I don't like the way that preempts thoughtful criticisms of comedies, so I hope I can make some kind of case below for why it's valid here). I don't know whether to loathe being that guy, or just enjoy the role-reversal. The "cruel aspects" cause it to fail as a comedy? I guess I didn't take this film seriously enough for one second to worry about any cruelty, any more than I'd worry about potential injuries in a massive traffic accident staged for a screwball comedy.
Well, it's a comedy that doesn't make me laugh much, care about its characters, want to know what happens next, seem to have much that's interesting to say about its own premise or about the real world, or make me eager to rewatch it. Unlike, say, most of the comedies of the film's producer Preston Sturges. If you want an example of how the sort of cruelty movielocke mentions can work in a film that's better written precisely because it takes its comic characters seriously (at least in its construction/conception if not its tone), look no further than Sturges' own Unfaithfully Yours.

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zedz
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Re: I Married a Witch (René Clair, 1942)

#45 Post by zedz » Mon Jul 21, 2014 5:06 pm

I watched this again (after years) just recently and found it pretty ordinary. Lake is fun, but she's not especially well supported (March is stiff; Kellaway broad). Susan Hayward is delightful - I never expected her to have such a great comic touch - but gets far too little to do. The action is cluttered with quaint special effects and rarely gets to build itself into a comic froth. Compare this with what Sturges was doing at the time: he never lets things go off the boil and is much more flexible and resourceful at orchestrating plot complications and compounding running gags. The wedding scene is the only one that really works in this fashion, mainly due to the relentless repetition of the singer gag, which is reiterated so many times that it completes its cycle right back to hilarious. And it's also the only set piece in the film that has the energy of complication (everybody on board, all working at cross purposes) that drives the best screwball comedy. Otherwise, it does indeed play like an extended episode of Bewitched: inoffensive, cruising on the charisma of the performers and following the recognisible contours of a comedy without actually being funny.

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domino harvey
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Re: I Married a Witch (René Clair, 1942)

#46 Post by domino harvey » Mon Jul 21, 2014 5:07 pm

It is truly bizarro world over here when I Married a Witch is accused of failing spectacularly as a comedy. And my first inclination, that someone who'd say that is perhaps not well versed in the varieties of entertainments being offered by the studio system in this era, is invalid, as I know movielocke has a wide exposure to classical Hollywood cinema from his participation in the early years Oscars thread. I know, I know, comedy's not debatable &c

warren oates: I think we also have different ideas of comedy, as Unfaithfully Yours is quite easily my least favorite Sturges comedy (which still makes it pretty good!)

I will say that one shouldn't undersell the value of good fluff, which is I think the best level I Married a Witch operates on, and I don't mean that as a slight. I was thinking about this earlier in relation to Dan Bejar's work with Destroyer versus his work with the New Pornographers. I recall an interview he gave many years ago where he more or less said "It's easy to write a catchy pop song, so there's no challenge there" and he seemed to treat his time in the NPs as a begrudging requirement (though I know he must love it on some level to keep doing it)-- and yet, outside of Rubies, Bejar's work for the New Pornographers is so much better than his work as Destroyer that it's a bit like Joel McCrea in Sullivan's Travels, wanting to be a serious film artist instead of the gifted comic director. Or how on the kids' show Arthur, where Arthur's best friend Buster tried to act like Arthur and was told in perfectly succinct fashion: "We already have an Arthur. We need a Buster." We have great works of insight and psychological depth and so on to draw from for this era in Hollywood, but light and airy fun such as this whispy piece of perfection is not as easily found at the level operated on here. So, embrace a small thing done well is my best defense.

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warren oates
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Re: I Married a Witch (René Clair, 1942)

#47 Post by warren oates » Mon Jul 21, 2014 5:22 pm

domino harvey wrote:warren oates: I think we also have different ideas of comedy, as Unfaithfully Yours is quite easily my least favorite Sturges comedy (which still makes it pretty good!)
Oh, it's far from my favorite Sturges film, just the work of his that best exemplifies the "taking darkness seriously/cruelty to the extreme" idea movielocke was positing. And I'll accept your good fluff defense, though I don't feel like it's on me for expecting that a Sturges produced star vehicle for Veronica Lake would result in something closer to Sullivan's Travels than Hey, Hey in the Hayloft.

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domino harvey
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Re: I Married a Witch (René Clair, 1942)

#48 Post by domino harvey » Mon Jul 21, 2014 5:34 pm

Ha! Fair enough!

I am trying to think of other superior examples of young female-driven fluff from this era that are on or around the same level (for those who like this sort of thing-- those who don't may do best to avoid these) and the only one that comes to mind is the Crystal Ball, wherein Paulette Goddard pretends to be a psychic in order to woo Ray Milland-- and William Bendix is Milland's lovable chauffeur, how can you possibly pass up seeing that? As for more flighty examples, of which there are far far more (it's one of the early pages in the programmer handbook, isn't it?), something like Blond Cheat is a good example of a film that has all the elements-- charming central perf (Joan Fontaine before she was a star) and a goofy high concept premise-- yet fails to quite take it to the level of I Married a Witch or the Crystal Ball, despite being cute as hell and a pretty good entertainment regardless. It's like gourmet icing and canned frosting-- both are sweet, but one's more satisfying so long as you aren't expecting a more elaborate dessert option!

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Re: I Married a Witch (René Clair, 1942)

#49 Post by Drucker » Wed Jul 23, 2014 11:59 am

I agree with a few points warren makes, that this film is less than the sum of its parts and a bit underwhelming. In addition, I also see at least one plot device that seems to be a bit of a contradiction: how on earth does the father witch know that the death penalty is done via electric chair? When the two witches leave their tree, they seem taken aback by the change/advances in society. They specifically mention being surprised by how close people are dancing. Yet a mere days later, he's well-versed in the means with which people are legally executed. That seemed bizarre to me.

The film really is made or breaks with little touches. The singer in the wedding scene is excellent. Some of the special effects (Veronica Lake sliding UP the staircase) are adorable. But then there are some lame ones. When Wallace asks "how did you get up here" and the broom is already in the frame, it's a bit of an annoying wink to also then pan down to show us the broom. Even worse is when shortly after escaping the tree, the two witch spirit/smoke balls are evesdropping on Wallace at the bar. I think, personally, it's pretty clear that they've stumbled upon the lineage of the man that once accursed them (there's certainly a detail here I'm missing which made it that much more obvious), and yet the two ghosts feel they need to reiterate the point that this is the man in a loveless marriage because of the spell we cast upon him. We're only like...15 minutes tops into the movie at this point, and reiterating it was just unnecessary. So while there are many delightful, whimsical moments, there are some that fell flat for me. In the sequence when Wallace is saving Veronica Lake from the fire, he jumps from hysterical fear to cooly accepting his doomed fate a bit too easy for me (when he opens the door to see the roof has collapsed).

I will say the film wasn't a slog at all. Again, some of the moments were delightful and certainly seemed like they fit right in with Clair's other work that I've read about. The mad dashes, the chase, the large groups of people doing slightly zany things. The movie went by quickly enough, but certainly didn't blow me away. I wish it were zanier, quite frankly.

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Drucker
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Re: I Married a Witch (René Clair, 1942)

#50 Post by Drucker » Mon Jul 28, 2014 9:16 am

So not to call people out, but I remember when this film was announced it had some ardent backers, right? Anyone have anything to add illustrating their love of the film?

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