Bell, Book and Candle

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(1958) ★★★

Film4: Monday 11 May, 12.45pm

The same year James Stewart and Kim Novak starred in Vertigo, they made this attractive theatrical trifle. He’s a New York publisher spellbound by his sultry neighbour. Miss Novak is the winsome witch with an eye-catching collection of ethnic primitive art and a Siamese cat called Pyewacket. Stewart turned 50 during filming and this was the last time he played a romantic lead. It would be cops and cowboys and father figures from now on. George Duning’s smooth score comes into its own in the Zodiac nightclub cellar scenes. And, yes, that’s Jack Lemmon on the bongos. He peps up the comedy, along with dishevelled author Ernie Kovacs: “Ring the bell, close the book, quench the candle… that’s how you exorcise ’em.” Bourbon or Scotch, it makes no odds to him. Stewart’s funny, too, in one of his most endearing performances. Not for the first time, Novak’s manner is distant, as if she’s drugged. It makes her seem a bit thick. Janice Rule is much sexier in this picture, but she’s playing a bitch. So’s the blonde playing Stewart’s secretary, but she’s just a bit player.

Certificate: U
Duration: 98min