by The Tramp
When I was little the witches of fairy tales were frightening creatures with warty hooked noses, long straggly grey hair, impractically long, shapeless black dresses who were fond of turning the broomstick into flying vehicles (obviously they had bums of steel – no comfy sofa flights for them). But not so the witches of movies and television. With the exception of the green faced wicked witch of the west (the original www) and the odd Disney moment, witches are alluring, sexy women with men issues. Because even witches, with their magical powers and their broomstick toughened posteriors are really driven by the male sex. Boys, it’s always all about you.
Dark Shadows understands this tradition. An ensemble piece based on a cult US TV show of yore, that I confess I have never seen but it sounds even better than Sunset Beach – and I wasn’t sure that was possible – in the batty storyline stakes (excuse the pun); Dark Shadows stars Johnny Depp as a rich young man (Barnabas Collins) who enjoyed rumpy pumpy with Eva Green’s socially inferior and very beautiful Angelique. Unfortunately for poor old Angelique, Barnabas didn’t love her, preferring the unsullied, socially acceptable, beautiful young blonde (you hate her already don’t you?) Josette DuPres, and so she was left scrubbing floors whilst he and his beloved planned their perfect lives together. A tad miffed, Angelique sends Josette to a rocky death off the side of a cliff, curses the Collins’ family with ill luck and Barnabas with being a vampire. Oh, and for good measure locks him in a coffin, secures the coffin with several chains and then buries him.
Now if ever there was a moral to a story then surely that moral is: “chaps – do not mess with the hearts of women who may have magical powers and the propensity to hold a grudge”. You’d think wouldn’t you, but remember we are in a man’s world, so really this is a morality tale about women having to learn not to be daft enough to have pre-marital sex with men, even good looking rich ones who have known you since childhood and seemed to reciprocate your feelings. So Barnabas gets out of his coffin, almost 200 years later, and wreaks his revenge on the still alive, still sexy and still passionately in love with him Angelique (all of this is in the trailer, so no spoilers I promise).
Of course it’s not really a morality tale it’s a comedy about a fish out of water – namely an almost 200 year old vampire finding himself in 1974 – with a barely strung together plot that promotes family values and true love being a selfless non-possessive act. Depp manages another excellent comedy creation, Eva Green is wonderfully sexy and clearly having a whale of a time and the rest of the cast are completely wasted but look fabulous. And there is a great gag that features MacDonald’s, but I won’t ruin it for you. Personally I enjoyed it a lot, even if it is nothing more than an entertaining, bubbly but small pot of dark chocolate mousse of a movie.
But back to those sexy witches. The 80s gave us the Witches of Eastwick; three very beautiful women with perfectly lovely lives who feel that what they really need is a man to spice things up a bit. And so a short, slightly dumpy, very oddly dressed Jack Nicholson turns up to insult them into his bed and help them to realise their witchy potential. OK so they banish him at the end (spoiler apologies to anyone who hasn’t seen this film yet), but they live in his house, raise his kids and seem quite affectionately fond of his appearances on their TV, so have they really managed a fulfilling life without him?
Then in the 90s there was the Craft; four hot teenage school girl witches. OK so their magical powers weren’t fuelled by romantic yearnings, but they do get a little heady with their power and over-step their place in the scheme of things. And of course as everyone knows a group of powerful women, particularly sexy teenage women, can’t possibly be expected to get along or to survive without some form of romantic jealousy, and so the two that don’t find fulfilment through a male character suffer a poetic comeuppance.
Also in the 90s there is Practical Magic, a film so blatantly about how a woman needs a man to be happy and fulfilled that I won’t even bother to explain the plot. Of course there are no bad witches in Practical Magic, but there are two very sexy women (Sandra Bullock and Nichole Kidman) and if there was no Angelov – a tall dark psychotic boyfriend type – to accidentally kill and then use magic to try to cover up the fact, why there would be no lesson for them to learn. Women, know your place – kill a man and you will get your come-uppance in some form or another, even if it’s not going to jail for murder.
Other sexy witches you should check out, and see how they come undone by a hero or heroine with a good man by her side, or see the error in their male issued ways thanks to one good man include the stunning Veronica Lake in I Married a Witch and the very beautiful indeed Renee Soutendijk in The Fourth Man.
Why, even the WWW (that’s the wicked witch of the west, in case you have forgotten) is really driven by thwarted love; or at least that is what the plot of Wicked tells us. Seriously green face, I’m disappointed in you. After learning this shocking news I could only be more upset if I heard that Grotbags was really madly in love with Rod Hull and driven by her envy of Emu turned to stripy socks over her previous stockings and a desire to cause passionate panic only to be thwarted at every turn by the naughty Emu puppet alter ego of her amour.
Now you may be reading this, stroking your chin and thinking “Well yes, but of course when women discover they have magical powers in films or television and this is expressed visually by a change from frump to va-va-voom what is being expressed is a woman finding the power of her sexuality. In turn, when these sexy witches use their power for ill, or even just domestic cheating (looking at you Bewitched), they must be punished for society cannot allow a woman that uses her sexuality to hold power over men, or anyone else, and stands outside of the socially secure convention of marriage and the traditional male dominated power structure has to be seen to either conform in some way to that structure or be punished.”
You may have a point there chin stroker, but I don’t remember the witch mobile in my childhood bedroom featuring a lady wearing a plunging neckline, with long silky hair, a stunning face and legs to die for. In the movies, it seems impossible to find any witch at all who doesn’t, even if that beauty is only skin-deep.
Dark Shadows is currently on general release.