Tuesday, July 16, 2013
#676: I Married a Witch
I Married a Witch is a light, entirely harmless movie that doesn't deserve a full Criterion release. As one of the few films Rene Clair made in Hollywood and one of the better Veronica Lake movies (not saying a lot), its presence on the Hulu Criterion page (where I watched it last night after its release was announced) is worthwhile. But the film simply can't compare to Clair's earlier work in France, and Lake's only other film in the Collection, Sullivan's Travels, is far superior.
In fact, there's not much to say about I Married a Witch. The film is vaguely a screwball comedy, though none of the characters are particularly clever or funny and the plot is extremely simple. The premise - a man who burns a witch at the stake condemns his male descendants to always marrying the wrong woman - is actually a pretty good idea for a film. But the execution never really exploits this concept, and the movie simply devolves into Veronica Lake trying to ruin a man's life but falling in love with him in the process.
There are certainly moments where Clair's touch shines through (mostly in the early scenes before the modern setting is revealed), and at 77 minutes the movie is never dull. But the movie suffers from two stars who are not especially funny, and I can probably think of 20 comedies from the same era off the top of my head that are more appealing and more deserving of Criterion's attention. I hesitate to say I Married a Witch is the worst film Criterion has released in recent memory (Life During Wartime comes to mind) but it's certainly the slightest release they've had in quite some time. Even when compared to a mixed comedy like Design for Living, I Married a Witch can't measure up.