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Nicholas Roeg
Anjelica Huston, Mai Zetterling, Jasen Fisher
Writing Credits:
Allan Scott

A young boy stumbles onto a witch convention and must stop them, even after he has been turned into a mouse.

Rated PG

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA Stereo
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 92 min.
Price: $21.99
Release Date: 8/20/2019

• Trailer


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The Witches [Blu-Ray] (1990)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 15, 2019)

Adapted from Roald Dahl’s 1983 novel, 1990’s The Witches introduces us to young Luke Eveshim (Jasen Fisher). While his family visits Norway, his parents die in a car crash and his grandmother Helga (Mai Zetterling) immediately becomes his guardian.

The pair move to England and take up residence at a hotel. There Luke befriends Bruno Jenkins (Charlie Potter) and the pair decide to “stalk” a convention of women in the area.

However, Luke and Bruno don’t encounter ordinary ladies. Instead, the find a convention of witches, ones who seek to eradicate all children.

When Grand High Witch Eva Ernst (Anjelica Huston) discovers the boys, she turns Luke into a mouse. In this altered form, he needs to find a way to halt the witches’ evil plans and also get back to his normal species.

Best-known for artsy adult-oriented fare like Don’t Look Now and The Man Who Fell to Earth, Nicholas Roeg feels like an odd choice to direct children’s fare like Witches. There’s a good reason for this belief: Roeg is a bad choice, one who brings little to this film.

Like other Dahl works, Witches offers an acerbic morality tale, and it needs a wicked wit to succeed. Roeg shows no flair for the comedic side of the production and makes the film plodding where it should sizzle.

Pacing becomes an issue, as the movie tends to move at a slow rate. Perhaps I shouldn’t blame Roeg, as his Witches seems to stick pretty closely to the source.

Page and screen are different, of course, and this material fails to translate especially well – at least in Roeg’s hands. Moments that should crackle tend to fall flat and seem dull here.

Like some other Dahl works, Witches doesn’t boast much of a plot, but the other films come with enough adventure to sustain the audience. That doesn’t occur here, as the limited seaside setting and the small roster of roles restricts matters.

It doesn’t help that Witches comes with fairly lackluster characters. Beyond Eva, none of them seem memorable or fun.

Witches does offer a good cast, as we find reasonably well-known performers like Brenda Blethyn and Rowan Atkinson in addition to those already named. Outside of Huston, we don’t get particularly vivid work from them, though, so they become part of the movie’s general blandness.

Fisher seems like the weakest link. While a likable kid, he shows no skills beyond a broad sense of cuteness, and that’s not enough to carry the film.

Maybe The Witches simply isn’t as good a story as other Dahl works, and the filmmakers did the best they could. Whatever the case, this turns into a surprisingly lifeless fantasy tale.

The Disc Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B-/ Bonus D-

The Witches appears in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a watchable but dated presentation.

Sharpness was generally good but inconsistent. Most shots offered fairly positive delineation, but bouts of mild softness occurred as well.

I saw no jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge haloes remained absent. Print flaws failed to become a concern.

The palette of Witches leaned a bit rusty and bland. The colors occasionally showed reasonably good vivacity, but they often came across as a little thin.

Blacks were mostly dark and firm, and low-light shots offered reasonable clarity. This felt like a pretty average image.

Similar feelings greeted the decent DTS-HD MA stereo soundtrack of Witches, as its audio quality seemed unexceptional but fine for its era. Music showed positive stereo presence, while effects offered decent breadth and movement to the sides.

Speech appeared reasonably natural and concise, with minimal edginess. Some iffy looping appeared but that wasn’t a substantial issue.

Music presented more than adequate range and depth, and effects showed good clarity and accuracy. Nothing here excelled, but the soundtrack held up well enough.

The disc includes the film’s trailer but lacks any other extras.

Taken from Roald Dahl’s text, The Witches becomes a disappointment. The movie lacks the needed sense of spark and cleverness to carry the story. The Blu-ray comes with generally positive picture and audio but it lacks supplements. Witches ends up as a fairly forgettable fantasy.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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