Normally, I would say a film like “Bell, Book and Candle” has not aged well. It is the modern-day story of a New York witch (Kim Novak) falling for her neighbor (James Stewart), who is engaged to another woman, and puts a spell on him so that he falls madly in love with her despite every logical bone in his body telling him that this doesn’t make sense. As it was pointed out to me, this is the same kind of love as “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” – forceful one-sided love, until the other side is left with no other option but to be in love. This witch is practically changing who this man is, just so that she isn’t lonely.
Yet at the same time, I find this far more excusable than “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” because it drowns itself in its fictional world, loving every detail about how witches and warlocks operate in modern day society. We see their night clubs and the experimental music they create, as well as old style witches with potions and incantations versus new age witches who work more subtlety and with a bit more ego. Kim Novak’s reasoning for making Jimmy Stewart her love slave might be despicable, but given how she’s lived her whole life using magic and the bewilderment Jimmy Stewart goes through while under the spell, it is a hilarious result. As far as a entertaining attempt at imagining how witches would take advantage of our unsuspecting humdrum world, this one is boasted by some of Jimmy Stewart’s most over-the-top performance, a sultry Kim Novak and some wonderfully slimy performances from Jack Lemmon and Elsa Lanchester.
If the romance between Stewart and Novak feels creepy, it’s only because it reminds me of “Vertigo.”
Final Grade: B-