St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Who knows which witch to watch? With today’s release of “Bewitched,” the story of the nose-wiggling Samantha with Nicole Kidman in the starring role, the witch gets top billing in a high- profile summer flick.
But if “Bewitched” works its spell and you want to sample more witch movies, there’s actually not much competition in the genre. Although they have played minor roles in numerous films, witches as major characters remain somewhat of a rarity.
For the highbrow film aficionado, we must mention “Macbeth” and the “toil and trouble” girls we meet on several occasions. Calling “Macbeth” a witch movie, however, would be like calling “Titanic” a movie about icebergs.
Among the other possibilities is “The Witches,” Nicolas Roeg’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s kid book; it features a wonderfully cast Anjelica Huston. But forget about “Practical Magic,” a poor movie with Kidman — witches must be a specialty — and Sandra Bullock.
For the best of the movies featuring the frightening (or, in some cases, fetching) females, here are the five to watch:
1. The Wizard of Oz (1939): The classic tale of Dorothy, her dog and her three new friends. Margaret Hamilton created an icon (and killed her career) with her performance as the Wicked Witch of the West. Making her particularly scary was the squadron of terrifying flying monkeys that she commanded.
2. Bell, Book and Candle (1958): Kim Novak (fetching witch No. 1) plays a conjurer who seeks revenge against an old college rival by enchanting her fiancee (James Stewart) to fall in love with her. Little did she know the feelings could become mutual. Also starring Jack Lemmon, Ernie Kovacs and Janice Rule.
3. The Crucible (1996): Arthur Miller’s parable about McCarthyism is set during the Salem witch trials of the 1600s. Joan Allen is excellent as Elizabeth Proctor, the woman accused by a young girl (Winona Ryder) of being a witch, mainly because the girl is infatuated with Mr. Proctor, played by Daniel Day-Lewis.
4. The Witches of Eastwick (1987): Michelle Pfeiffer, Cher and Susan Sarandon (fetching witches Nos. 2-4) play three witches who conjure up a spell to find a man. And what a man they find: Daryl Van Horne, a devilish rogue played with over-the-top brilliance by, who else, Jack Nicholson.
5. Hocus Pocus (1993): A better-than-average family tale with Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker (fetching witch No. 5) as a trio of witches who are resurrected when a kid (Omri Katz) tries to scare his little sister (Thora Birch) by lighting an old candle on Halloween. Najimy, as she did in “Sister Act,” steals the show.