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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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Boy meets girl. Girl is actually a witch. Boy dumps fiancee. Boy and girl fall in love. Boy finds out that girl put a spell on him. Let the fireworks begin.

That's the basic plot of "Bell Book and Candle," which tackled the funny witchy-romance story long before Samantha or Sabrina existed, and with more humour and polish than either. It's just a cute romance with a unique twist, a cute cat, and meddling sorcery.

It's Christmastime, and Manhattan witch Gillian Holroyd (Kim Novak) is in a rut. Then she meets hunky publisher Shepherd (James Stewart), who is engaged to her old college nemesis. So with the assistance of her cat Pyewacket, she casts a spell to make Shep fall madly in love with her, and drop backstabbing Merle (Janice Rule). Itr works like a... well, like a charm.

But things start to go wrong when Gil's aunt Queenie (Elsa Lanchester) and her pal Nicky (Jack Lemmon) start talking to a bestselling author on witchcraft -- who decides to write a book on the Manhattan witches. What's worse, Gil is falling in love with Shep -- which means her powers will vanish -- and decides to tell him the truth about the love spell.

"Bell Book and Candle" is not really a romantic comedy, so much as a romance movie with some funny characters. And of course there's a low-key fantasy angle -- basically all the witches and warlocks do is cast a few spells, honk car horns, and occasionally boil something in a cauldron. (Hermione Gingold as a showy old witch)

James Stewart tried out whimsy in the delightful "Harvey," where he's a man who claims to have a companion pooka. He plays the opposite side in "Bell Book and Candle" -- he's the victim of magic weirdness rather than the source. Kim Novak gives a chilly, otherworldly performance as a sophisticated witch. Expect weird romantic sparks to fly.

The plot does come slightly unwound in the last act, after Shep takes his love spell cure (his face as he drinks the potion is the funniest scene of the movie) and leaves the building. But it winds itself back up for a satisfactory finale. It also benefits from snappy dialogue that lasts from the first to the last scene ("That girl you know, Gillian Holroyd -- she's one." "A witch? Shep, you just never learned to spell")

All this "Bell Book and Candle" business creates a charming romance, with solid acting, great script, a dash of humor and newt's liver. Enchanting.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 24 September 2005
This charming romantic comedy is set in the world of modern day (1958) witches in New York City. Gillian Holroyd (Kim Novak), art dealer, bohemian, and witch, is attracted to her upstairs (mortal) neighbor, Shep Henderson (James Stewart). With the help of her cat familiar, Gillian casts a love spell on the straitlaced Shep; he is immediately besotted and breaks his engagement to another woman. Gillian likes a lot him, but knows that if a witch falls in love for real, she loses her magic powers. Does she dare give up her witchy ways? Will he love her without magic?
Stewart is very sweet and likeable as the buttoned-down publisher, but this is Kim Novak's movie all the way. She's adorably and seductively mysterious, with her velvety voice, haunting gazes, and stunning wardrobe of red and black. There is no silly hocus-pocus or levitating of objects; they aren't necessary. We believe Gillian is a witch from the start, and her desire to be vulnerable is touching. Novak and Stewart teamed up romantically in another movie that year, "Vertigo," and they look just great together. This is a lightweight fantasy (shades of "Bewitched") with beautiful stars, a sweet romance, and a remarkably talented Siamese cat!
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on 16 August 2014
What a great movie! The story of a witch and her upstairs neighbour, it's not like you'd expect. It's certainly not as sweet and domestic as the TV show 'Bewitched'. There's a dark, slighty nasty edge to it that I found refreshing. When this witch casts a spell -- she doesn't wiggle her nose. She falls into a trance and hums a rather unearthly tuneless incantation while staring into the eyes of her cat. It's all very agreeably sinister for a romantic comedy made in the 50s. Definitely worth a watch.
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Bell Book and Candle (there's no comma in the on-screen title) doesn't conjure up a genuine big screen classic romantic comedy out of John Van Druten's hit Broadway play, but it does make for an enjoyably glossy confection set in a snowy New York where most witches are broke despite supposedly having the power to conjure up their heart's desire because they aren't very good at it. Kim Novak's tribal art shop owner is good at it, and despite her policy of never stealing another woman's man makes an exception when old school bully Janice Rule is going to marry the publisher in the apartment upstairs, James Stewart, who turns out to be her heart's desire because she thinks "It might be pleasant to be humdrum once in a while." Naturally he falls under her spell just as surely as he did in Vertigo, albeit with lighter comic results in a film that's almost the romantic comedy version of Rosemary's Daddy - no paternity issues here, but chanting through the walls from Elsa Lanchester's dotty neighbour and Stewart all but selling his soul not for a motorbike commercial like John Cassavettes but the publishing rights to ill-informed supernatural expert Ernie Kovacs' next book on witchcraft in Manhattan.

Despite assembling a decent supporting cast, the focus is firmly on Stewart and, particularly, Novak at the height of her fame - the later perhaps not too surprising considering she and the film's director, Richard Quine, were an item at the time (Quine throws in a nice sight gag at his own expense in the title sequence). Neither Jack Lemmon's mischievous bongo-playing warlock nor Kovacs' shambling sham-expert really get enough to do or good enough lines when the film gets round to them and Hermione Gingold's big scene as a revered witch who tries to break the spell cast on Stewart comes across a bit like one of Margaret Rutherford's cast-offs from Blithe Spirit. Even Rule gets quickly sidelined, although she does have one of the film's best censor-baiting lines ("A witch? Shep, you just never learned to spell."). Yet if the supporting players could have benefited from some better material, it's still an entertaining enough brew, and cinematographer James Wong Howe and Life magazine photographer Eliot Elisofon summon up some wonderful shots of the lonely snowbound city, whether following Novak's cat across the room or a hat all the way down from the top of the Flatiron Building. It's very much of its time, whether it's Stewart asking "Have you been engaging in un-American activities or something?" only to get the reply "No, I'd say very early American," or the notion that the only way for a woman to be truly happy is to fall in love and give up her power and independence, but if you don't look too hard it's easy to go along with its smoke and mirrors for an hour or two.

While the only extras on Columbia's standalone DVD are some unrelated trailers, and the version included on the US Kim Novak Film Collection [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] also included a featurette with the star recalling the making of the film, Twilight Time's region-free limited edition Blu-ray release carries over the featurette (which plays like an abandoned audio commentary with stills), and also includes original trailer, isolated score and booklet as well as a featurette on Novak's all-but-forgotten film The Middle of the Night, earning it an extra star. The widescreen transfer is a definite step up on the DVD too.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 25 January 2015
Classic movie.

They certainly dont make them like this anymore.

Great cinematography, super colours and super writing. Acting is top notch.

Very nostalgic watching this.
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on 18 February 2015
This film has the charisma of both truly entertaining lead stars. Stewart and Novak are paired again after the success of the film called Vertigo. Although this film isn't as big a hit as Vertigo , it's still very entertaining , if it's cold and wet outside put this film on, it's a lovely film," ENJOY".
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on 10 September 2007
Kim Novak plays a beautiful Greenwich Village witch Gillian Holroyd, who casts a magic spell on her neighbor Shep Henderson (James Stewart) so that he breaks his engagement with his fiancée Merle Kittredge (Janice Rule), and begins to love Gillian. After a sometime, Gillian feels like a human unbecoming of a witch; she not only has fallen in love with a human, but she also has mixed feelings about breaking his engagement to Merle. She tries to fix things by reversing everything back so that it goes back to where it was, using her magical powers, but it turns out that she has lost her skills of a witch, and can not get Shep and Merle back together again. In a desperate attempt she confides to Shep that she is a witch, and she is behind the break in engagement with Merle. Later, in a desperate attempt, Shep turns to another witch, Mrs. Bianca de Passe (Hermione Gingold) to cure him of the spell. Months later, Shep returns to Gillian's witch (Voodoo) store and discovers that she has lost her magic powers because of her love for him.

Jack Lemmon plays meddling brother Nicky Holroyd, and Ernie Kovacs plays a researcher and an author of witchcraft. The two has supporting role, but Kim Novak looks adorable in this hopelessly romantic story. The viewers can't help but think that Jimmy Stewart is a little old for the young and beautiful Kim. In fact this was the last movie of Jimmy Stewart in the romantic lead role. This movie is second on-screen pairing after a very successful Hitchcock movie Vertigo.

There are similarities between this movie and the earlier "I Married a Witch" and the television series "Bewitched." It is unclear if this movie was an inspiration to the production of the TV series starring Elizabeth Montgomery, but fans would be very happy to see this pair in a romantic mode.
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on 9 October 2013
I don't know how many times I've watched this, but I still absolutely adore it. The clothes are just gorgeous. Jimmy Stewart is just adorable. Jack Lemmon is fab, fab, fab. And the story is sooooo romantic. What's not to love?
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on 28 September 2013
I'm not usually a great fan of James Stewart as I feel he always plus the same so of character. This is not his usual sort of film so I did really enjoy it.
Reminiscent of that great series Bewitched!
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on 11 May 2012
This film happens to be one of my all time favourites! Having seen it in the cinema many years ago, I was thrilled when I saw the dvd was available and all I needed to know was that the dvd was available for area 2 or universal. Happily it was and the dvd now rests on the shelf ready to play whenever I wish. Thank you Amazon!
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