A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 244 – The Worst Witch (1986)

The Worst Witch (1986) – October 30th, 2010

What a fucking amazing movie this is. Really, it’s a thing of beauty, assuming your standards of beauty are star wipes and Charlotte Rae in a pink wig. I know mine are, so this movie here is a total gem. It’s based off of a series of British children’s books, but I’ve never read them. Oh, I’ve had the opportunity. We’ve got them at work. But having seen this first, I feel like if I read the books something will be ruined somehow. I’m not sure what, since I freely admit that this movie ruins itself every two minutes, but something would get ruined. I’m certain. So I’ve never read the books and I’ve only seen snippets of the older of the two series that have been made. Nope, I’m a purist.

I should admit here that I had seen a good portion of this movie well before I started dating Andy. My parents, in a bizarre attempt to keep my brother and me from watching things they didn’t want us watching on cable (once we got it a million years after everyone else), subscribed to the Disney channel. This is bizarre for two reasons: My parents never really liked Disney, and they never password protected the channel lock on the cable box, so MTV was mine for the viewing. But at some point, somewhere near Halloween I’m sure, this movie was played. And I saw the only two things that mattered to me at the time when deciding if this was worth watching: Tim Curry and Diana Rigg. Who the fuck cares about the rest of this trip through a fever dream? It’s got Tim Curry! And Diana Rigg! Diana Rigg, people. Emma Peel herself, playing a sort of proto-Snape-ette. Given how incredibly awesome she usually is, it’s a little tough to imagine Rigg chewing scenery, but by god, she’s good at it. Tim Curry I expect that from. He revels in it. So yeah. I saw the two of them and somehow they cast a happy wash over what I saw of it.

Of course, I’m pretty sure I missed the musical numbers. Like, all of them. I did not remember them when I saw this later on. And when this sort of thing goes on in a movie, you’d think you’d remember that, right? Or maybe I blocked it out. That’s a possibility too. Anyhow, some years later I happened upon a review of this movie, written by a guy who watched it while very sick and somewhat delirious, and it had me laughing so hard I hurt myself. And I remembered having seen the movie. And so we looked for a copy and we bought it. Probably so I could share the pain with Andy. We do love really bad movies, and well. It’s hard to top this.

To be honest, there’s no way I can review this half as well as the review I linked to. But in the spirit of completeness, here’s a quick summary of the plot and highlights. The story is about poor Mildred Hubble, a student witch at Miss Cackle’s Academy. It was filmed in the UK, but given the wide variety of accents it’s never terribly clear precisely where said academy is. I suspect they get the girls who wash out of Hogwarts. Mildred is clumsy, forgetful, nervous and also she fucks shit up on a regular basis just by being present. Her utter unsuitability for the field of witchcraft is demonstrated by things like her inability to not scream when other girls make faces, her uneven braids, and her tabby cat (which is totally not her fault – the school ran out of black cats on First Year Kitten Day). Miss Hardbroom (yes, really), played by Rigg, totally has it in for her because she sucks and can’t make potions or fly on a broomstick or do much of anything. Miss Cackle, played by the one and only Charlotte Rae, has a soft spot for her, however, and keeps her at the school for kicks.

One of the other students tries to get Mildred in trouble, so we’ve got a minor villain there, but it’s all very weak villainy. A bunch of evil witches headed by Miss Cackle’s evil twin sister (also played by the one and only Charlotte Rae, but in a pink wig and southern accent) are going to try and take over the school, that’s the major villain. They’re pretty weak too, since most of what they do is cavort in the forest and do a musical number. The song is probably the most evil they actually manage to do. Tim Curry shows up for a big Halloween bash but Mildred fucks that up right quick, which ends up leading to her turning the evil witches into snails and saving the day. No, I’m not going to bother explaining how it’s all connected. It’s not like the movie cares.

The whole thing is utterly ridiculous. Putting aside the musical numbers and the “special” effects involved in Tim Curry’s three minutes of shame, there’s also the flying, which is some of the worst blue/green screen work I’ve ever seen. There’s “terror tag” and an egg in a glass of water and a dubbed-over pig and oh god, I almost forgot Miss Cackle’s niece, with her bizarre accent and broom phone. Watching this movie is an utterly unique experience. I cannot put it any other way. It defies words at times and all I can say about it is “Oh my god, this movie!”

October 30, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Worst Witch

October 29, 2010

The Worst Witch

I honestly can’t remember why we bought this movie. I blame the internet. When Amanda was in college she read a hilarious summary of this movie (I believe she will have linked to it in her review.) We had trouble believing that something starring Diana Rigg and Tim Curry could really be as bad as we had heard that it was. Then we tracked it down on video and laughed uproariously. This movie has all the class and great special effects that you would expect from a 1980s made for TV movie.

This is the story of the hapless young Mildred Hubble who is attending a very Hogwartsian boarding school for young witches. She is terrorised by a strict and unforgiving potions master. She has trouble flying her broom. She is the only young witch with a cat that is not all black. In short she is an outcast and an oddball amongst witches.

Ye gods! I cannot express how ludicrous this movie is. It has random musical numbers. It has a ton of very cheap bluescreen work. It has a lengthy and pointless segment where the girls form teams to scare each other by making silly faces. (Not quite as riveting as Quidditch I know.) It has a pink-haired villain who speaks with a ridiculous southern accent in spite of the fact that the character’s sister is clearly Brittish.

I’m fully aware that I am about as far from the target audience for this movie as you can possibly get. It’s intended (I believe) for teenaged girls. I am a middle aged man. So perhaps this would be easier for young girls in the eighties to watch… or perhaps not. I can’t imagine anybody doing anything but staring in slack-jawed disbelief at the lengthy musical number about Halloween sung by Tim Curry as the Grand Wizard.

I will say that it is fabulous casting to have Tim Curry in the movie. There’s a special kind of weirdness to all these girls swooning over his photograph (since the Grand Wizard is apparently the most desirable man in all the witching world. Sort of the Edward Cullen of his day.) And his musical number must be seen to be believed. What I don’t understand, however, is how on earth the film makers got Diana Rigg for the part of Miss Hardbroom. I’m just not used to seeing an accomplished and sell trained actress like her hamming it up to this degree. She plays the part with what I would call a madcap intensity. Particularly noteworthy are her over-the-top exits – her character being the type to always get in the last word.

You know what? I give up. If you want to understand this movie you just have to give in and experience it for yourself. I think THAT must be why we own it. Because we can try all we might to describe it to our friends but the only real way to communicate its particular cheesy charm is to just put it in the DVD player and watch it. At least it has the benefit of being pretty short.

October 30, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment