Bell, Book and Candle

Director: Richard Quine

Cast: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Jack Lemmon, Ernie Kovacs, Hermione Gingold, Elsa Lanchester, Janice Rule, Philippe Clay, Bek Nelson, Howard McNear, Conte Candoli, Pete Candoli

Shepherd Henderson (Stewart) is a successful publisher in New York City in the late 1950’s. His telephone begins to act up – whenever he picks it up he hears a gibberish conversation. Shepherd walks into the antiquities store below his Greenwich Village apartment to use the shop’s telephone. He meets Gillian Holroyd (Novak), the proprietor, and glances at a collection of exotic wares: tribal masks, sculptures and other bizarre objects. Shepherd’s upstairs neighbor is an eccentric older woman, Queenie Holroyd (Lanchester), Gillian’s aunt. Unbeknownst to Shepherd, Gillian and Queenie are witches, members of a coven that exists secretly in Manhattan. Gillian’s capricious brother, Nicky Holroyd (Lemmon), is a warlock that amuses himself by making traffic signals change color at his command. Shepherd leads an ordered life. His publishing business is doing well, and he is soon to be married to his attractive girlfriend Merle Kittridge (Rule). Despite her exotic lifestyle, Gillian is bored. To amuse herself and to display her sorcery skills, she casts a spell on Shepherd with the help of her familiar, the mysterious cat Pyewacket. Shepherd soon begins to feel irresistibly attracted to Gillian, and as he gets to know her his interest in Merle dwindles. Sidney Redlitch (Kovacs) is a researcher of the occult that is drawn into Shepherd and Gillian’s lives. Redlitch enlists Nicky’s help for his book on witchcraft, and their sojourn into the underground society of witches and warlocks brings them to a nightclub where Nicky performs and where sorcerers meet. Shepherd’s life is turned upside down and he seeks a way out of his predicament. There is jealousy and competition among witches, every spell has a counter spell, and Gillian finds her hex on Shepherd rebounding when she crosses paths with the powerful witch Bianca de Passe (Gingold). As love grows in her heart, Gillian finds herself in peril and at odds with other witches. Kim Novak is at her prime in this film, and the scene where she lies on a couch holding Pyewacket and her face is framed above the cat’s is a mesmerizing example of cinematographer James Wong Howe’s art. Based on John van Druten’s play of the same name.

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