29 September 2010

Dark Shadows: The Vampire Curse

Dark Shadows: The Vampire Curse A Fast and Easy Delight
By Kristin Battestella

My husband has given me a few Dark Shadows sets as gifts.  However, it was my mother, a Barnabas Collins fan herself, who gave me Dark Shadows: The Vampire Curse last Christmas.  This exclusively Barnabas DVD is the perfect length for vampy fans looking for that sixties kitschy fix this October.

After an ill-fated fling with Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid) in Martinique, jealous and vengeful maid Angelique Bouchard (Lara Parker) plots to ruin the wedding of Barnabas and Josette Du Pres (Kathryn Leigh Scott).  Angelique, a witch and voodoo practitioner, makes Josette and Barnabas’ uncle Jeremiah (Anthony George) fall in love with each other and the spellbound couple eventually elopes. Patriarch Joshua Collins (Louis Edmunds) is powerless to stop his brother and son as they duel for Josette’s affection as Angelique blackmails Barnabas into matrimony via his little sister Sarah’s (Sharon Smyth) welfare and sets up time traveling governess Victoria Winters (Alexandra Moltke) for a witch trial.  Scorned once more by Barnabas’ continued love for Josette, the undaunted Angelique finally curses him to an eternal vampire torment.

Rather than jumping around in time with séances and flashbacks from the soap opera’s original 1960s establishment, The Vampire Curse opens with Dark Shadows’ 1795 storyline- which originally aired as a flashback departure in 1967 and 68.  This three-hour compilation focuses on the events leading up to how Barnabas Collins became a vampire, and it’s a fine introduction for the newly crowned vampire fan.  Some die-hard fans may not like this linear style or quick catch up approach- it is after all unusual for this series, which famously uses time travel and lengthy, historical sequences to rotate the cast and change storylines. However, instead of wading through hours and episodes worrying about all the other storylines- witchcraft, Frankenstein motifs, and that dreaded dream curse for example- The Vampire Curse offers everything you need to get your Barnabas fix.

Perhaps there are modern actors who can pull of the complex vampire motif ala the tormented Barnabas Collins, but Jonathan Frid (also Barnabas in the feature House of Dark Shadows) will always be one of the essentials, right up there with Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee.  The Canadian actor-trained at both RADA and Yale- captures the upper class, Shakespearean, Old World vibes of a colonial aristocrat and blends the society charm wonderfully with reckless love and utter heartache.  Frid’s vamped out portrayal is over the top in the style of the time, yet his bloodlust restraint is subtle, latent, repressed.  The secrets, deception, and vampy hunger are kinky, twisted, and dynamite to watch. Goodness yes, Frid is one of the most notorious cast members when it comes to flubbing up his lines or needing a not so subtle glance at the cue cards.  However, his recovering stutters, cover up shifting, and sharp smile in a way help the Barnabas portrayal.  This vampire is always ready to burst for love or blood, isn’t he? Despite his slick frock, fancy cape, or smooth suit, Barnabas is always ready to pursue his love incarnate or grab a working girl on the Collingsport docks.

It’s called Dark Shadows: The Vampire Curse, but this story is just as much about the women in Barnabas’ life: the witchy, possessive Angelique and the innocent French lady Josette.  Jonathan Frid wouldn’t have had much to go on without the young and alluring Lara Parker (Save the Tiger, Race with the Devil).  Her meddling presence sets the entire twisted tale in motion.  The audience can’t deny she is damn sexy, but her affection comes at very deadly price.  Likewise, Katherine Leigh Scott’s (Dallas) Josette mirrors Angelique with innocent beauty.  Both are stunning and exotic; but Scott is the naïve, upscale antithesis to Parker’s jealous servant.  The love triangle is essential here and causes ripples for the entire series.  We want to see Barnabas with his beloved Josette-what’s not to love about her? However, we absolutely love and love to hate Angelique.  You don’t need glittery effects and outlandish tangents when you have meaty talent and emotional story like this. 

I dare say this set is even kinkier on the romance and innuendo than I remembered last. It’s been several years since I’ve seen this segment of the show, and Barnabas just crosses into too many affairs with the wrong women!  This colonial vampire storyline is actually both my parents’ favorite part of Dark Shadows, and the origins of the tormented Barnabas Collins catapulted the soap and the vampire himself into cult fame.  All that old glory is captured here- from the wonderful score by Robert Cobert (War and Remembrance) and the moody direction from Lela Swift (Ryan’s Hope) under show runner Dan Curtis (War and Remembrance, The Winds of War) to the tragic storyline and fine performances.   Though Dark Shadows regulars Thayer David as Ben Stokes and Grayson Hall as the Countess Natalie Du Pres are in great form, in this streamlined set, we don’t see them or the lovely Joan Bennett (We’re No Angels, Little Women) as much as I might have liked.  Alexandra Moltke and Louis Edmunds also have reduced time here, and the disjointed appearance by some of the cast hints that something (like the rest of the show!) is missing.  Several staple cast members including David Henesy and Nancy Barrett are absent entirely.  Anthony George and Sharon Smyth are also fairly wooden and leave a little something to be desired.  Nevertheless, it’s nice to see a stage like acting company have the freedom to hone the story at hand with only basic, even rudimentary effects.  

Yes, a surviving soap opera from 1967 isn’t without its faults.  There are significant camera imperfections against our trained HD eyes, bemusing appearances by microphones and sound booms, set mistakes, visible crewmen, and fumbled dialogue all here to the Dark Shadows fans’ delight.  Of course, we’ve seen better-stylized and modern interpretations of 18th century America, but the colonial look here gets the mood across just fine.  There’s something so wonderfully simplistic about capes, ruffled gowns, and lots of smoke to set the atmosphere for the stage like gothic drama.  Some of the sound transfer is iffy but again understandable due to the technology of the time.  Again, the editing of The Vampire Curse also leaves something to be desired in a few spots. The DVD team is editing numerous episodes together and trying to pack what took months of television into a very short timeframe.  Some of the pace drags on, and occasionally it’s even tough to discern why the segment one is watching is significant until more puzzle pieces are presented.  We see Victoria Winters twice for goodness sake, and her time traveling to the past is how we got there in the first place! There are a few wonderful things missing when you have to cut out concurrent storylines, but the point of The Vampire Curse is to make folks check out the rest of the Dark Shadows DVDs, isn’t it? Thankfully, the crew got most of the presentation correct, and the juicy gist of Barnabas Collins is here quick and tasty.

 (A crewman in the mausoleum?^)

Dark Shadows: The Vampire CurseDark Shadows: The Vampire Curse packs a lot into its 3 hour long episode, and there’s no chapter break choices or scene selection options.  The first half sets up the background, and a middle point before the last vampy hour would have been a nice place to break for two super sized episodes.  I’ll take an hour and half mini movie compared to the 22-minute episodes (or the 18-minute chopped up edition that used to run on the Sci Fi Channel). Only the concluding moments return the audience to the contemporary 1967 resurrection.  It’s a little ironic that we spend most of The Vampire Curse with a color origin story and then end in black and white when the Barnabas character was actually introduced on the show.  The black and white Episode 221 is included as a special feature as well.  It’s a nice treat for those who haven’t seen what an actual episode looks like, but I’m not really sure why this particular episode was chosen before others that continue The Vampire Curse’s tale. The short interview with star Jonathan Frid is also fun.  The usual promos for other Dark Shadows books and DVDs are here as well, but alas, we have no subtitles.  Understandable, obviously, but it might have been fun to see those dialogue mistakes in print onscreen!

Dark Shadows: The Vampire Curse can be loved by fans of the original series and newcomers alike.  Traditional fans may simply prefer the DVD sets; but for those who don’t have the time or money to invest in a 1,200 plus episode show, The Vampire Curse fits the bill for an October itch or viewing anytime of year.  Younger audiences or those who might laugh at the stock production of the time should give this set a chance as well.  This is as quick and cleaned up as Dark Shadows gets, and those Twilight folks can get educated on what a real vampire is meant to be like.  If Johnny Depp and Tim Burton ever get their feature film adaptation going (and I hope they get it right, not weird!), modern audiences will probably eat up this classic material.  Get a head start on the original gothic soap with Dark Shadows: The Vampire Curse.

24 September 2010

Don't Bother to Knock

Don’t Bother to Knock One of Monroe’s Finest
By Kristin Battestella

We know all the big, colorful, sexy, sing along Marilyn Monroe films, but 1952’s Don’t Bother to Knock is a black and white suspense-fest filled with great performances and crazy melodrama.

Lounge singer Lyn Lesley (Anne Bancroft) has broken up with wayward pilot Jed Towers (Richard Widmark).  While she sings downstairs in the McKinley Hotel, Jed observes the young but flirty and standoffish Nell (Marilyn Monroe) across the courtyard from his room.  Nell’s uncle, Eddie the elevator operator (Elisha Cook Jr.) got the shy girl a babysitting job for the night.  While Ruth and Peter Jones (Lurene Tuttle and Jim Backus) attend a dinner conference downstairs in the hotel, Nell is supposed to be watching their daughter Bunny (Donna Corcoran).  However, Nell tries on Ruth’s negligee, allows Jed over for a drink, and puts her charge in serious jeopardy. 

Director Roy Baker (A Night to Remember, The Asylum) and Oscar winning screenwriter Daniel Taradash’s (From Here to Eternity) tale from Charlotte Armstrong’s novel is a little too short at under 80 minutes, but the real time suspense is swift and unfolds smartly.  If told today, this would be overlong and nastier, without any room for the speculation and innuendo that does so well here. The concurrent storylines cross, intertwine, and build until the audience is hooked into seeing how everything comes together.  The black and white photography is moody, and the old school music ties the scenes together as the tension escalates. Don’t Bother to Knock is also full of subtext and latent kinky, especially compared to the wholesome two beds and talk of marriage being the only route for a woman who lost her beau in World War II.  Everybody has a past here; and the issues of death, suicide, abuse, and institutions are done nicely despite the Hollywood Code and the usual blinders of the time. The nefarious suggestions and violence build satisfactorily, cumulating in a great finale and a tale well told.

Don't Bother to KnockWell, when one thinks homely, one doesn’t often think of Marilyn Monroe!  Instead of the usual glasses and dumb blonde routine later perfected in films like How to Marry A Millionaire, Monroe dresses frumpy, looks super young, and yes, she can act.  Her marshmellowy voice is usually sultry, but in Don’t Bother to Knock, her tone sounds young, even immature but somehow mischievous and not all there.  We expect her in the singing gal role, so her off-kilter manner throws us for the loop even more. Nell is even a little creepy over her firm insistence that she doesn’t eat candy- and its made all the weirder when we see her sneak a piece of chocolate and snoop in the Mrs.’ jewelry.  Monroe looks beautiful in black and white, especially since the platinum locks and red lips can’t dominate and take over her performance.  She seems more towards her natural hair coloring here, and the muted silver palette adds to Nell’s melancholy atmosphere.  Never without her sex appeal of course, there’s also something somewhat kinky about the way Don’t Bother to Knock plays on the jailbait and voyeuristic tones.  She can say ‘hello’ in an oh so tempting come hither tone, yet Nell can’t pronounce ‘liaison’.  Goodness me, I dare say Marilyn Monroe- the tragic and much beloved screen goddess- is downright scary in the way she mishandles her charge.  I don’t understand why Monroe wasn’t given more meaty, purely dramatic roles after this fine turn in Don’t Bother to Knock.

As usual, Richard Widmark (Kiss of Death, The Alamo) is on form with a chip on his shoulder and a look in his eye.  Despite seeing a lot of his films, I’m still not used to seeing him as the young and handsome lead. Again, the sniff of predatory kink is tossed around with the way Jed moves on from one girl to the next.  He’s a swarthy pilot who knows how to get liquored up and lay on the cynicism. Initially, he has no problem in taking advantage of the unstable Monroe, knowing there’s a kid in the adjoining room adds to the unsavory vibes as well.  However, as Don’t Bother to Knock progresses, the black and white of our players is not so easily distinguished. The tables are turned and we can’t wait to see how Jed handles both his women.  Let us not forget, this is Anne Bancroft’s (The Miracle Worker, The Graduate) debut!  Her singing Lyn is lovely, broods wonderfully, and who knew she could carry a damn fine tune?   Her good girl with short dark hair and nightclub style throws us another curve against Monroe’s blonde and wholesome appearance.  For such a short film, there’s plenty of talent here onscreen and off. 

Elisha Cook Jr. (The Maltese Falcon, House on Haunted Hill) adds to Don’t Bother to Knock’s support with a great balance between the nice, caring elevator operator and the perhaps creepy uncle.  Donna Corcoran (Million Dollar Mermaid) is also sassy as Bunny.  She’s a little annoying, and with some of the whining, Bunny’s age is a tough to figure.  She’s a little too old and smart to be so babied-although she is supposed to be looked after, isn’t she? Lurene Tuttle (Psycho, Julia) and Jim Backus (Rebel without a Cause, Mr. Magoo, Gilligan’s Island) are also the perfectly nostalgic yuppie parents.  They are upscale but a lot of fun, as is ‘peeping pansy’ Verna Felton (The Flintstones, Sleeping Beauty) as nosey hotel neighbor Mrs. Ballew.  Don Beddoe (Best Years of Our Lives) is also charming as the straight fodder to his Mrs.

A fifties fashionista and music connoisseur will also love the style of Don’t Bother to Knock.  Though black and white, the cuts of our ladies’ frocks are tight and tempting.  The men also look dynamite in their suits and fedoras.  Fans of frequent Monroe dresser Travilla can study the depths of costume without color here.  Swinging music fans will also delight in the hip jazz tunes and brooding ballads of the pre- rock and roll days. Perhaps not all modern audiences will like the old school scoring; but the music adds layers of emotion to the piece and most of the tunes are diegetic.  Look closely and you will see no televisions at this hotel! Built in radios in every room broadcast the hotel’s live music, uniting the sounds and the action- when was the last time you saw that for real, much less onscreen? Of course, we have the usual drinking and smoking of the time, as well as some colloquial dialogue that even threw me the classic film buff and wordsmith for a loop.  What on earth is a “cooch dancer”?  I get teased for using the word “ought” but “oughn’t”? The old speak, great tunes, and upscale hotel stylings make the perfect backdrop for Don’t Bother to Knock’s heady period drama.

Don't Bother To KnockSurprisingly, there are subtitles here on my netflix rental.  As usual, however, the features are just ho-hum trailers and promos for the Marilyn Monroe Diamond Collection set.  These small stills galleries and unfulfilling restoration slides just don’t cut it in this instant day and media age, even for older films where materials may be understandably rare.  How wonderful it would have been to have classic film scholars and Monroe experts giving commentary or panel discussions!  Though available at Amazon On Demand, I sincerely hope blu-ray restoration and proper featuring for Don’t Bother to Knock and the rest of Monroe’s films are coming soon already. Get with the program Fox! 

Not only will fans of Marilyn Monroe revel with Don’t Bother to Knock, but classic lovers and students of old school film technique will enjoy as well.  Modern audiences looking for an intelligent thriller should also try this one.  Return to the fifties with nail biting suspense and Don’t Bother to Knock.

21 September 2010

Harvest Haunts to See and Skip

The Amityville HorrorHarvest Haunts and More
By Kristin Battestella

Since it’s never too early to start watching spooky movies in the Halloween spirit, here’s a list of what to snuggle up with this autumn and what to avoid like cemeteries at midnight-unless you’re into that sort of thing, of course.


House of Usher (2006) - For a classic horror fan, little can compare to the 1960 Corman staple House of Usher.  New interest in all things Poe has however brought new remakes and takes on his macabre tales, and believe it or not, this 2006 The House of Usher wasn’t that bad. There are some good plot differences from director Hayley Cloake (Tease, Thump).   It’s creepy, yet sexy thanks to stars Izabella Miko (Coyote Ugly, Clash of the Titans) and Austin Nichols (One Tree Hill, Friday Night Lights). Beth Grant (Delta, Speed, Rock Star, Donnie Darko) as the scene stealing Nurse Thatcher also adds to the suggestion, eerie styles, and gothic feel. It’s modern and updated, yet old school and in the spirit of Poe.  Now it’s on to the fancy 3D adaptation!

Tales from the Crypt (1972) – This precursor to the anthology series has five star-studded vignettes, including a disturbing Christmas scene with Joan Collins (Dynasty) and Ian Hendry (The Avengers) in a dangerous adulterous getaway.  Peter Cushing (Star Wars, The Horror of Dracula), creepy crypt keeper Ralph Richardson (Time Bandits), Robin Hood Richard Greene, and Patrick Macgee (A Clockwork Orange) delight as well. Unlike today’s effects over-fest, director and Oscar winner Freddie Francis (Glory, The Elephant Man) keeps things largely silent, letting the creepy catacombs and twisted tales build up and progress on their mystery, suggestion, and scares. Yes there are a few jump worthy moments, and the dated seventies style only adds to the spooky atmosphere.  Perhaps there’s not a lot of rewatch value, but stick this one in amid your favorite Halloween anthology series for some old school scares. 

The Uninvited (1944) – Future Oscar winner Ray Milland (The Lost Weekend) and Nominee Ruth Hussey (The Philadelphia Story) delight in this quintessential black and white spookfest from director Lewis Allen (Bonanza, The Unseen).  Somehow, I feel this one is now unloved by the modern audience-especially in light of the also named but unrelated 2009 The Uninvited, itself a remake of a 2003 Asian horror flick.  No confusion here, however, thanks to the Oscar nominated cinematography.  The positive and negative use of candles, scary moaning, groaning sounds-the simple smoke and mirrors of early film production does wonders.  In addition to all the mood, atmosphere, and suspense, the young and tragic Gail Russell (Angel and the Badman) is as charming as Cornelia Otis Skinner (The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing) is creepy and subliminally kinky. Without thinking, I erased this one from my DVR; and since it’s not available on DVD, I’ve been kicking myself since. 

WolfWolf – Though this 1994 lycan tale from Oscar winning director Mike Nichols (The Graduate, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Silkwood) is imperfect with its fair share of plot holes and unanswered questions, I like it.  Face it; this is the best, if not the only, mature wolf movie around.  Thanks to the sarcastic and witty performances by Jack Nicholson (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Chinatown, The Shining) and the rest of the all-star cast, Wolf smartly doesn’t take itself too seriously.  The beguiling Michelle Pfeiffer (Scarface, The Fabulous Baker Boys), a wonderfully disturbing James Spader (sex, lives, and videotape, Boston Legal), the charming Christopher Plummer (The Sound of Music, The Moneychangers), and plenty more on form supporting players are allowed to have their fun.  These are all great, big names one wouldn’t usually see in any old horror movie, either.  There’s even a good bit of scares and kinky violence here-especially on an initial viewing.  Some of the effects are hokey now, but others are very well done with fine spooky build-ups.  Despite plotting faults and a little confusion, there’s more good than bad in Wolf.  Multiple viewings are even in order to catch all of the subliminal suggestions.


The Amityville Horror (1979) – The horror, scares, and fright fest from director Stuart Rosenberg (Cool Hand Luke) are all still there, and I love it.  Even the old looks and seventies styles aren’t so dated, just more nostalgic and period now.  However, it seems like out of all the other numerous sequels and direct to video drivel that follows, this original starring the fine Margot Kidder (Superman) and eerily on form James Brolin (Westworld) is too close to the real life circumstances that started the franchise.  Was this independent blockbuster made purely to capitalize on the scandalous book that was in turn highlighting the sketchy true story that started it all? Separate the supposed paranormal facts or hoax talk from the behind the scenes, and then you can enjoy this fine demonic haunted house in all its glory.  Likewise, we favorably reviewed the 2005 remake.  Again, take away the talk of Indian burial grounds and just scare us silly and we’re a okay. 

Haunted – Aidan Quinn (Legends of the Fall) and Kate Beckinsale (Underworld) shine in director Lewis Gilbert’s (The Spy Who Loved Me) great English locales and post World War I period piece decoration and styles.  There are plenty of fine but disturbing performances from Anthony Andrews (The Scarlet Pimpernel) and Sir John Gieland (Becket), too. Haunted has its share of creepy and kinky- both good and bad by design, nasty stuff.  Beckinsale fans will love to hate spotting her nude body double, too.  There are even a few genuine spooks and scares and though obvious throughout, the film is entertaining for the most part.  However, there simply aren’t enough scares for what’s supposed to be a good old haunted house ghost story.  There’s no mood and things are not as atmospheric as they should be.  Despite the lovely cast and wonderful locations, it’s as though we’ve seen this all before- namely in The Others.

Rogue - UnratedRogue -   This 2007 crocodile thriller has a great premise and fine acting from Radha Mitchell (Pitch Black) and Michael Vartan (Alias). Sam Worthington (Avatar) fans (of which I am not) will enjoy seeing his jerky performance, too. Writer and director Greg McLean (Wolf Creek) adds a tight, contained, ticking clock to the lush, exotic, and foreign cinematography.  The audience is hooked as things turn dark and dangerous- the issues among the stranded and perilous ship‘s crew build as our crocodile gets his chance in the spotlight. Its man against himself, man against nature, and man against man all in one- the tide is rising and time is running out!  And then….well, the silly and stupefied ending here kind of undoes all the goodness.  The viewer is asked to suspend belief one too many times for too preposterous an outcome.  Is the overall goodness worth the ill-conceived conclusion or does the finale undo all?


The Descent – Okay, so I don’t really know who the girls in this 2005 spelunking adventure are- but they are not the problem.  A stereotypical yet somehow refreshing group, yes, but the individualism and back-stories are acceptable enough. I suspect there’s plenty of ogle and subtext value for interested audiences, too.  The caves are also creepy and this is a dangerous sport after all- so why did director Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers) have to resort to glowing cave mutants?  There’s enough internal strife and issues to mix in with the peril of falling rocks, being trapped or injured, and all that unknown caving.  Let our gals go bad and have their own hysteria do them in; we could still have a serious horror movie without rock people. Most of this film gets it right, but the deus ex machina of the creepy crawlies and open ending for the sequel tire the positive strides.   

Hide and Seek - Even Robert DeNiro (Casino) and Dakota Fanning’s (Man on Fire) battle of wits can’t save this familial thriller. Toss in Famke Janssen (X-Men) and Elisabeth Shue (Leaving Las Vegas) and we’ve still got the same old, same old suggestive psychological thriller. It’s tragic wasting such a fine cast on this supposedly scary evil imaginary friend but there’s a twist yadda yadda story. They couldn’t even decide on an ending here- there are count ‘em five on the DVD!

11 September 2010

Teen Witch

I Just Love Teen Witch!
By Kristin Battestella

I can’t help myself- I think I have the 1989 family friendly spookfest Teen Witch memorized.  Though seriously dated and trapped in the eighties time warp, there’s still plenty of enchanting fun here for young and old.

Soon to be sixteen, frumpy teen Louise Miller (Robyn Lively) doesn’t fit in with the popular crowd at school.  Her parents (Caren Kaye and Dick Sargent) are clueless, little brother Richie (Joshua Miller) is an annoying slob, and her big crush Brad (Dan Gauthier) doesn’t know she exists.  After a bicycle accident, however, Louise encounters Madame Serena (Zelda Rubenstein) and learns her true calling as a reincarnated witch.  With Serena’s help, Louise realizes her newfound powers and casts spells to be the most beautiful and popular girl in school-but will there be consequences to these magical ways?

Teen WitchAs if we haven’t seen the fantastical teen powers metaphor before, Teen Witch is for girls what Teen Wolf is for boys.  We begin with a bad music video dream sequence and it only gets more eighties bad greatness from there!  Director Dorian Walker (Making the Grade) keeps the comedy relatively innocent by today’s standards and Robin Menken (Young Lust) and Vernon Zimmerman’s (The Unholy Rollers) story is a fun, if typical plot.  The relatable scenarios and likeable cast create multiple layers of charm and wit with the sassy script.  Innocence and eighties stylings may hamper our fast paced, technological and violent or profane sensibilities, but this simplicity and youth also make Teen Witch’s memorable scenes all the more fun. 

Despite recognizing her in plenty of other shows, Robyn Lively (Savannah, Chicago Hope, Twin Peaks) will always be known as the girl from Teen Witch, I don’t care what you say.  Her fun charm and comedic delivery establishes the heart of the film perfectly. Dan Gauthier also always recalls ‘Hey, the guy from Teen Witch!’ every time I see his guest appearance on Star Trek: The Next Generation.  It’s not easy to be the popular guy without being a jerk. These characters are fun and likeable, and the romance is reasonable despite the supporting eighties saxophone.   Lively is naturally lovely, and Gauthier has just enough of that eighties handsome to keep everyone looking pretty; but Amanda Ingber (Cheers) as Louise’s unhip best friend Polly is also a lot of fun.  She keeps it real when all Louise’s spells get out of hand.  I could however, do without her ‘Top That’ rap.  Oiy!

Maybe we are just really silly, but my sister and I can quote Joshua Miller’s (The Mao Game, Near Dark) Richie in casual conversation.  His pudgy and youthful appearance mixed with a sardonic, acerbic delivery and love of messy foods creates the perfect evil little brother on whom to cast spells. Of course, we can’t help but love the late Zelda Rubinstein (Poltergeist, Sixteen Candles) and her adorable Madame Serena.  She uses the young witch for her own gains, but she’s just too dang cute for it to be an issue.  Casting spells to make twenties and turn frogs into handsome men, we can forgive her those!  The rest of the teens, however, all look 30 and have some strange names- Randa and Kikki, anyone?  Lisa Fuller (Freshman Dorm) is the usual buxom blonde, and Megan Gallivan (Married People) and Tina Caspary (Can’t Buy Me Love) round out the bitchy eighties trio in proper fashion.   

Sadly, Caren Kaye (It’s Your Move, The Betty White Show) and Dick Sargent as Louise’s parents Margaret and Frank don’t have a whole lot to do-or rather as much as I might have liked.  Nevertheless, they are a cute, yuppie, and oblivious couple who make the most of their scenes.  I mean, it’s the second Darrin from Bewitched!  Shelley Berman (Curb Your Enthusiasm, Boston Legal) is juicy and love to hate worthy as Mr. Weaver, and his nasty style and ruthlessness towards Louise is made all the more fun when he gets his hysterical comeuppance thanks to a voodoo doll.  Marcia Wallace (The Simpsons, The Bob Newhart Show) is also a delight as the flighty theatre teacher Ms. Malloy

Unfortunately, the music wasn’t super then; and to some, perhaps it’s worse now-although that makes the guilty pleasure of Teen Witch all the better, too.  ‘Never Gonna Be’ and ‘Finest Hour’ are still eighties catchy, yeah, but the hit here is ‘Popular Girl’. Maybe I’ve just heard these songs so many times that I’m used to the sound by now. I know some of the dance routines, too-that’s all I’m saying.  The early rap and beat box songs are, however, so sad. Maybe the super dated and niche styles of Teen Witch are an acquired taste to those who didn’t see it back in the day, but the nostalgia and time capsule here is still a lot of fun.  Do you need a big dance-off finale or musical montage or two? Teen Witch has ‘em!

Oh me oh my, even what’s supposed to be the hip look in Teen Witch is woefully eighties: the fluorescent colors, ruffles, layers of skirts with leggings, hideous patterns everywhere, too much denim with lots of glitter and rhinestones, and double slouchy socks with high heels!  Goodness me, the styles look way too old for high schoolers, and the frumpy look for Louise looks like the grandma section of the old Sears catalog. What was deemed sleazy onscreen is beyond tame to us now- a full coverage sweater and a skirt to the knees! What ever happened to that kind of modesty? And why do they all wear purple bodysuits for gym? The hair is just as bad, too.  Again, the feathered, over-sprayed high bangs of the popular girls no longer looks pretty.  Louise’s seemingly plain, wavy, and pulled back hair is actually more becoming than the styled tresses that come with her magical transformation.  This is why I don’t like to see too much popular fashion in recent films.  You know modern styles are going to seem just as hokey in a few years’ time. Even the sets, couches, and sports cars suffer here in Teen Witch. Just check out that wallpaper!

For being so dated, Teen Witch still has plenty of rewatchablity.  Unfortunately, the bare bones DVD is dang tough to find.  It took forever to come from Netflix, but cable airings are often found around Halloween.  There is one funny sex education scene dealing with condoms and a make out scene that looks like an old Obsession commercial that might make parents feel iffy, but otherwise Teen Witch sticks to its PG rating.  Magical girls will especially enjoy, but any family audience can spend the night with Teen Witch. I can’t believe there’s remake talk of this one when a proper video edition isn’t even readily available.  Yes, it’s horribly of its time, but Teen Witch still has a lot of charm to give the witchy folks of today’s generation.  Take in a virgin viewing or revisit the eighties with Teen Witch ASAP.