THE WITCHES is a delightful fairy tale that will please adults at least as much as children. A little boy and his grandmother discover not merely a coven, but an entire convention of witches meeting in the same resort they’re staying at. Head-Witch Angelica Huston (camp it up!) has devised a way to get all the kids in England delivered into her clutches. Will she–indeed–can she–be foiled?
The director (Nicholas Roeg) and writer (Allan Scott, freely adapting a Roald Dahl story) fashioned a cleverly wicked tale, released in 1990. The makeup (those faces!) is fun-creepy and it’s nice to have a fantasy film where one can revel in the bizarre without being subjected to buckets of blood and viscera.
Mai Zetterling makes a perfect Grandma. The prologue–many years ago in Norway–is a little gem. The fun runs a brisk 91 minutes, and though high marks came from critics, box was just adequate ($15,300,000 worldwide, 67% of it coming in the States), and Dahl was quite teed off by tonal changes to his story (he was notoriously prickly to start with).
Shot in Cornwall, England and Bergen, Norway. Scored to suit by Stanley Myers. A joy to stumble on, featuring Jason Fisher, Rowan Atkinson, Bill Patterson, Jane Horrocks, Anne Lambton, Brenda Blethyn, and Jim Carter. Puppet magic and some wild mice courtesy of Jim Henson. Remade in 2020.