I Married a Witch

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Synopsis

Veronica Lake casts a seductive spell as a charmingly vengeful sorceress in this supernatural screwball classic. Many centuries after cursing the male descendants of the Salem puritan who sent her to the stake, this blonde bombshell with a broomstick finds herself drawn to one of them—a prospective governor (Fredric March) about to marry a spoiled socialite (Susan Hayward). The most delightful of the films the innovative French director René Clair made in Hollywood, I Married a Witch is a comic confection bursting with playful special effects and sparkling witticisms.

Picture 7/10

Rene Clair’s I Married a Witch makes a much needed Blu-ray debut from Criterion, presented in its original aspect of about 1.33:1 on a single-layer disc. The new high-definition transfer is presented in 1080p/24hz.

The source materials are a bit iffy, but in comparison to what has been previously available, DVDs from other countries with very subpar presentations (to my knowledge the film has never been released on DVD in North America for whatever reason) the image as a whole is certainly a revelation. Damage isn’t as heavy as I was expecting there are still instances such as a heavy number of fine scratches in the frame at times, on the side of the frame, or you get flickering and the occasional frame jump, but the source stays stable typically. The print delivers a bit of a soft image, and I’m not sure if it’s an artifact from how it was filmed or possibly the source materials (the master comes from a combination of the original negative and fine-grain master) but the clarity of the film’s grain structure seems to suggest it’s not an issue with the transfer itself.

Otherwise the transfer is stable and free of any notable issues. There are no artifacts of note, grain is rendered nicely, contrast looks particularly strong with some deep blacks and distinct gray levels leading to excellent shadow details.

Possibly not the strongest image that I’m sure many were hoping for but compared to previous editions it’s a gigantic step forward with a far cleaner print and natural looking digital presentation.

Audio 5/10

Age is the primary hindrance of the lossless PCM 1.0 mono track we get. It’s very flat and lifeless, with no range or fidelity at all but at least dialogue is still audible and I didn’t feel the need to turn the subtitles on. There’s some minor noise in the background but the track is actually surprisingly clean.

Extras 3/10

This is a pretty bare release, the only significant feature being an audio interview with Rene Clair from an episode of a late-fifties radio program hosted by Gideon Bachmann. Running 20-minutes the director talks about his early work and then gets into great detail about working in Hollywood. He then covers the idea of a “mainstream” film and an “avant-garde” film, which leads to an interesting conversation between the two. The disc then closes with a theatrical trailer.

So disc supplements are slim but the booklet does add a bit of value. There’s an incredibly energetic yet surprisingly informative essay on the film by filmmaker Guy Maddin, covering aspects of Clair’s career, the film’s production, and the problematic working relationship between Frederic March and Veronica Lake. There’s also a great reprinting of a 1970’s interview with the director where he excitedly talks about his Hollywood work (I Married a Witch in particular,) his love of visual effects and more.

A lower-price release so I’m not expecting much, but at least we get some material, including a rather strong booklet.

Closing

Not the lavish release I would have expected, it at least comes with a couple of noteworthy items and contains a rather wonderful looking transfer despite some short comings in the source. With its lower price it comes with a high recommendation.

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Directed by: René Clair
Year: 1942
Time: 77 min.
 
Series: The Criterion Collection
Edition #: 676
Licensor: Westchester Films
Release Date: October 08 2013
MSRP: $29.95
 
Blu-ray
1 Disc | BD-25
1.33:1 ratio
English 1.0 PCM Mono
Subtitles: English
Region A
 
 Audio interview with director René Clair   Trailer   An essay by filmmaker Guy Maddin; plus a 1970 interview with René Clair