Sunday, October 31, 2010

Bette Midler - "I Put a Spell On You" (Song for the Day)

Ah, Halloween. To some, the final day of October is a day of costumes and confections, while for others it means a lot of small callers at the front door that won't leave unless bribed with sweets; for still others, it's but a low key night for horror films or other such appropriate entertainment.

For me, All Hallow's Eve is when I invariably look out the window and declare, "Look! Another glorious morning. Makes me SICK!" and proceed to emulate Bette Midler at numerous points throughout the day (in other words, a normal day). The Divine Miss M has bestowed a number of fantastic gems upon the world of fabulosity over the years - "I'm Beautiful," the Rose, Beaches - but none of them brings me (and, I suspect, a good number of my contemporaries in age) nearly the amount of sheer cult classic glee as Hocus Pocus. Yes, in 1993 (!), the fire-haired diva teamed up with Disney, comedian Kathy Najimy, hot off Sister Act, and Sarah Jessica Parker, who in those pre-Sex and the City times was mainly known for turns in L.A. Story, the short-lived sitcom Square Pegs, and a handful of stints on the Great White Way to make a Halloween comedy for kids.

The fabulously silly tale of three youth-obsessed 17th century witches brought back to life by a misfit teenager was directed by Kenny Ortega, now known for directing the High School Musical series and Michael Jackson - This Is It, the film Ortega scrapped together when the singer died of an overdose weeks before his Ortega-directed farewell concert series. But back then, Kenny Ortega had but one credit under his belt, and while Newsies is probably nearly as beloved among many of my fellow Hocus Pocus devotees, it was definitely not so at the time (the Alan Menken movie musical about a newsboy strike that starred a young Christian Bale, featured Razzie-nominated turns from Robert Duvall and Ann-Margret, and was one of the greatest box office debacles of the early 1990s).

Sadly, Ortega, who is adept at least at staging musical numbers for film if nothing else, gets only one brief chance in Hocus Pocus, and it's less a production number than an obvious concession made on Midler's contract (Miss Midler must have a song, and it shall be fabulous or no deal). But Midler's diva-tastic cover of "I Put a Spell On You" is the rare shining beacon of win in an otherwise uneven film: it's a terrific comedic sequence, but it also completely fits into the plot, certainly far more than one might expect from a one-off song-and-dance number in a kid's movie. It's so utterly Bette Midler, right down to the "Hello, Salem! My name's Winifred! What's yours?" and seeing Najimy and Parker effortlessly slide into their impromptu backup singer roles always got a nice guffaw from us clueless children who were entirely unaware of anything about Bette Midler's public image or career.

And on this Halloween, the first since I began this lovely blog, I'm passing on the joy to you all! Pick up a copy of Hocus Pocus tonight, or just take a listen to a couple minutes of nostalgic camp madness. Either way, Happy Halloween!


  1. I loved that movie! i watched on TV after work yesterday. That happens to be one of my favorites songs ever!!

  2. Yeah, I watched it laaaaate last night/early this morning...I felt I might become dust when dawn broke myself.

  3. I loved that movie! i watched on TV after work yesterday. That happens to be one of my favorites songs ever!!


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