Surprisingly, Rene Clair's horror comedy 'I Married A Witch' still holds up after more than seventy years. Sure, this is more of a romantic comedy than a horror film, but it sure paved the way for many directors after Clair. This film was based on Thorne Smith's novel called 'The Passionate Witch', and follows a father/daughter witch team as they seek revenge on the family who killed them long ago. Sure, it's a little cheesy here and there, but it mostly works, and even the special effects still look decent, considering how many years ago this was made.
Before the actual story starts, we see a sort of prologue that involves a young woman named Jennifer and her father Daniel, who are being burned at the stake for being witches by Puritan leader Jonathan Wooley. After the deed is done, a tree is planted over their ashes, as a sort of shield that would keep the two witches at bay forever and ever. Not exactly a good start to a romantic comedy, huh?
Well, a bunch of years pass and generation after generation of the Wooley family come into existence, until present day, well the 1940s at least, and lightning strikes the very tree keeping Jennifer and Daniel at bay. The lightning strike frees the spirits of the two witches and they immediately set out to find Wooley. The stumble upon Wallace Wooley as he is giving a speech to a bunch of people in order to secure votes for his candidacy in a local election. Meanwhile, a newspaper executive named J.B. Masterson, who is also his biggest financier want him to marry his spoiled daughter Estelle (Susan Hayward).
Back when Jennifer and Daniel were being burned, Jennifer cursed Wooley and all of his descendants, saying that each male member of the Wooley family would marry a horrible female, and rest assured all have. Even the current Wallace is about to marry a greedy and unsatisfactory woman. Thus Jennifer and Daniel's scheme to exact revenge on Wooley begins. The spirits move around and hide inside bottles and around others where they are neither seen nor heard, however Daniel can transform his daughter and even himself into a live human body, which he does with Jennifer. Daniel sets fire to a big building and has Jennifer cry for help, causing Wooley to speed in and rescues her. All things seem to be going well as Daniel breaks off his marriage with Estelle and becomes infatuated with Jennifer. But little does he know that she is a dead witch who wants to torture him.
Unfortunately for Jennifer, the magic love potion she concocts in order to sabotage Wallace backfires, when he gives her the dose accidentally, and she falls madly in love with him. From here, her father Daniel is trying every way he can to change the tide of the story as his daughter and Wooley fall deeper and deeper in love until we see a magic cab ride in the sky, which is an iconic scene in cinema history.
The film itself is mostly predictable, with the usual romantic comedy plot lines running its course, with maybe the exception of the end. But what sells this classic film so well is its stars. The actors and actresses all do a great job in their roles and all seem to have amazing chemistry with one another. The characters all seem to have layers too.
The special effects even do the job today, whether it be the magic the witches use or the cab ride high in the sky, they were well done and practical. The score adds some great depth to each scene as well, making 'I Married A Witch' still a good movie today as it was over seventy years ago. This is definitely worth seeing, as many filmmakers today have used techniques and similar stories from this.
'I Married A Witch' comes with a great 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.33:1 aspect ratio. This is a new digital transfer made in 2K resolution from the original 35mm negative. Most all of the dirt, debris, and hairs were manually removed, giving this the best image it has ever seen. That being said, there are still very minor instances of dirt along with some light banding, but nothing too distracting, given the age of this movie.
The detail is fairly sharp, which gives the image some good depth. The colors are well balanced with the blacks running mostly deep and inky and the whites not burning to bright. They grays always look good here too. The picture still has a great filmic look and is free of basically all compression issues. Criterion did a great job in cleaning this up, while still making it nostalgic and filmic.
This release comes with an English LPCM 1.0 mono audio mix and it does its job. The dialogue is for the most part clear and easy to understand. There is some minor hissing, but no pops or cracks that I noticed. There is no directionality or a wide dynamic range here, but that's the 1.0 mono track for you. The sound effects all sound good, as well as the score. This is faithful to the original source.
'I Married A Witch' is still a lot of fun. The acting is superb, with some great characters. Sure, it's a little on the nose and predictable, but that shouldn't spoil your good time. The video and audio presentations are all quite good. However the lack of extras on this release was disappointing. That being said, Criterion knocked it out of the park with this release. Highly Recommended.