The Witches still entertains me nearly 30 years later.
It’s weird to call something a product of its time when it borrows from so many ages. Look at the film and realize that nothing really belongs to a particular decade. After pouring through the film again, I took notice of Luke’s childhood setup, the seaside resort and the general fashion of those around our central cast. Director Nicolas Roeg (yep) shot the film like it could’ve been 1970, 1980, 1990 or even 2000.
Anjelica Huston chews the scenery as the Grand High Witch. While she won several festival circuit awards for her performance, I feel that a decade later…she could’ve been a Best Actress contender. Somewhere between the European sensibilities, the scaled back effects and the massive work of the Henson Creature Shop, we have something quite unique. Honestly, it’s the closest to a modern Grimm Fairy Tale.
What really perks me up is the fact that kids look like real kids. Jasen Fisher played Luke and I always loved the kid’s look in the movie. If you’re a little kid seeing this for the first time, Luke could be any dork in your class. That ubiquity and familiarity helps setup the threat of the Witches and the reliance on adults for guidance. Terror lurks around any door and everyone wants to control you. It’s pretty frightening. Hell, watch the transformation scene again when they turned Luke into a mouse. Roald Dahl, man. Roald F’n Dahl.
Warner Archive brings The Witches to Blu-ray. While it has had an iTunes HD release for a minute, this transfer looks less hazy. Roeg has a fascinating way of shooting things, but Harrison’s DP work never quite matches the Roeg of Old. The DTS-HD 2.0 mono track is supportive of the action. Ultimately, I’d recommend a purchase.