It’s time for the sixth installment of Cinema Treasure/Guilty Pleasure! As a reminder, here’s what the series is all about: The first film I discuss is one of arguably obvious cinematic merit–the sort of thing taught in Introduction to Film courses, featured on “Top 100 Yadda Yadda” lists, or winning awards at fancy events that include speeches and extensive song-and-dance numbers. The second film I discuss is one that doesn’t have the cinematic gravitas of, say, Citizen Kane, but that remains a personal favorite for other reasons: cult films, films from my youth, or films simply so bad they’re good.
This week’s theme: Witches!
This might seem like an odd time to discuss movies about witches, but they’re on my mind this week since I’ll be screening my Guilty Pleasure pick at a Bad Movie Night this weekend. So what can I say about witches that isn’t said every Halloween? On screen they’re usually presented with warts, pointy black hats, and brooms. Back in October I wrote a Halloween post for Man, I Love Films that mentioned two of my favorite witch-centric Halloween movies: Hocus Pocus and the aptly named Witches (based on the book by Roald Dahl). For this post, however, I’m taking a look at two other top choices, and they’re very very different from each other.
Cinema Treasure: The Wizard of Oz (1939), directed by Victor Fleming (and others, including Victor Fleming). Starring: Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Margaret Hamilton.
I only know one full-fledged adult (you know who you are!) who has yet to see this movie the whole way through. When people talk about The Wizard of Oz, the first thing they mention is Judy Garland. Her turn as Dorothy Gale is nothing short of iconic, and her performance of “Over the Rainbow” made it arguably her signature song (though some might argue it’s followed at a close second by “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” from Meet Me in St. Louis.) But this is Cinema Treasure/Guilty Pleasure: Witches!, so let’s talk about those cauldron-loving hags!
The great thing about The Wizard of Oz is that you get three witches for the price of one! First off, you get the brief but memorable appearance of the Wicked Witch of the East, the original Ruby Slipper wearer whose death-by-house is the impetus for the plot. Then we’ve got Glinda, the Good Witch of the North (Billie Burke), a lovely bubblegum-pink-and-glitter confection who heralds in the death of the Wicked Witch of the East and aides Dorothy on her journey. And lastly, there’s the Wicked Witch of the West, played with cackling perfection by Margaret Hamilton. For me, the Wicked Witch takes the cake–her crouched body, green skin, pointy fingers, and evil laugh make her the perfect villain. Add in those flying monkeys and she’s one scary broom-wielding witch.
Things I love: The immortal threat: “I’ll get you, my pretty. And your little dog, too!”; the Wicked Witch of the West’s fantastic, water-induced exit; as minions go, flying monkeys are surprisingly effective.
Guilty Pleasure: Teen Witch (1989), directed by Dorian Walker. Starring: Robyn Lively, Dan Gauthier, Zelda Rubinstein.
Teen Witch stars Robyn Lively as Louise, an unpopular teenage girl who discovers she’s a witch when she meets Madame Serena (Zelda Rubenstein), a local psychic. As Louise learns to control her powers, she uses them to become more popular and get the guy of her dreams. Interestingly, Teen Witch was originally pitched as a female version of the popular Michael J. Fox vehicle Teen Wolf. This might explain why it–like Teen Wolf–is a movie that is thoroughly, 100% of the 1980s; it’s got everything from teased hair and jean jackets, to leotards and locker room dance numbers.
Louise isn’t your typical green-skinned witch; she’s a pretty regular girl who just wants to be liked. She’s got frustrating teachers, an insanely irritating and creepy younger brother, and a reliable best friend. It’s easy to root for her because we’ve all been lonely and awkward teenagers with crushes, and she pretty much does what we’d all do if we had magical powers: she makes herself a hot chick with cool clothes, cool friends, and a hot boyfriend. The film also features appearances by Dick Sargent (of “Bewitched” fame) and Marcia Wallace (who now provides the voice for Mrs. Krabappel on “The Simpsons.”
Things I love: the “Top That” rap battle between Louise’s best friend and 3 dudes in high-tops; the like, totally rad ’80s soundtrack; the poor man’s Tom Cruise, Dan Gauthier.