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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents
Bewitched: The Complete First Season (Black & White) (1964)

"For a while there, it was hard to tell which witch was which."
- Samantha Stephens (Elizabeth Montgomery)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer  
Published: June 22, 2005

Stars: Elizabeth Montgomery, Dick York, Agnes Moorehead
Other Stars: David White, Irene Vernon, Alice Pearce, George Tobias, Marion Lorne, Hollis Irving, Alice Backes, Reta Shaw, Madge Blake, Mabel Albertson, Robert F. Simon, Jack Warden, Charlie Ruggles, Shelly Berman, Jimmy Mathers, June Lockhart, Cheryl Holdridge, MAurice Evans, Raquel Welch, Adam West, Maureen McCormick, Billy Mumy, Cecil Kellaway, Bill Daily, Walter Burke, Alan Hewitt, Vito Scotti, Vic Tayback, Paul Lynde, Arte Johnson, Martha Hyer, Peggy Lipton, Beverly Adams, Christopher George
Director: William Asher, Ida Lupino, various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 15h:17m24s
Release Date: June 21, 2005
UPC: 043396110304
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- B+A-B+ C+

DVD Review

Following on the heels of the previous year's My Favorite Martian, the 1964 fall schedule would launch a second standout fantasy sitcom, Bewitched. With the sex appeal of Elizabeth Montgomery (who signed on with producer/director husband, William Asher), Bewitched put a new spin on an old stereotype, taking the premise of a being with extraordinary powers living amongst normal society to new levels. The show would become one of the year's hottest, and would run eight seasons before its cancellation in 1972. This set contains all 36 first season episodes, and is available separately in original black and white or colorized versions.

Darrin Stephens (Dick York) is an ordinary, everyday guy, an ad executive at McMann and Tate, who one day bumps into Samantha, who appears to be an ordinary, everyday girl, and just the kind a man is looking for—beautiful, intelligent, available—one who would make the perfect wife. It doesn't take long before they're hitched, but there's one thing Samatha neglected to mention—she's a witch.

Now, while some guys might be thrilled to have a witch as a wife, Darrin would prefer a more traditional woman to keep house, cook his meals, and do his laundry, so when the secret is finally in the open, Samantha agrees to behave, to shelve her magical abilities. However, old habits die hard, and despite trying to please her husband, there are situations that simply demand a wave of the arms or the twitch of a nose to get things done. Adding fuel to the fire is Samantha's mother, the ever-present Endora (Agnes Moorehead), who doesn't believe her daughter should be slumming with a human, and believes that Derwood, or Donald, or what's-his-name, would be much better off out of the picture. Samantha's defense is that the two truly love each other, and that she is quite happy in her new role as a mortal housewife.

The first few episodes set things up, as Darrin and Samantha get married and buy their new home at 1164 Morning Glory Circle. We are also introduced to the Stephens' new neighbors, Gladys Kravitz, an incurable snoop who is always stumbling onto the effects of Samantha's magic, but whose claims are dismissed by her husband Abner, who always shows up after things have returned to normal. As the series continues we meet more of both Samantha and Darrin's respective families, including Samantha's bizarre Aunt Clara (brilliantly portrayed by Marion Lorne), a confused doorknob-collecting old gal who isn't quite what she used to be in the spell department, and Darrin's parents, Phyllis and Frank (Mabel Albertson and Robert F. Simon), who don't quite know what to make of their extended family.

With a witch in the house, hijinx abound, with even the most well-meaning spell wreaking havoc. Of course, not everything can be blamed on magic, as there are plenty of misunderstandings to go around as well, from Darrin's unwillingness to takes Sam's suggestions for a new ad campaign to Darrin's boss Larry Tate (David White) catching Darrin having an affair. Darrin's workplace plays a pivotal part of many episodes, with Larry and his wife Louise (Irene Vernon), getting involved in one way or another. A succession of demanding clients keeps Darrin trying to work his own magic with new ad sloganst, his job all the while at stake. Although Sam's magic offers an easy way out of most situations, part of the fun of this show is when magic isn't being used, but is suspected by one of the characters.

Montgomery is as bewitching now as she was when I was young, pulling off her role with a natural and palpable presence, and is especially enjoyable when feeling jealous or being devious. A highlight of the season is a dual role in Which Witch is Which?, in which Montgomery plays her Endora-possessed doppelgänger and seduces Darrin's best friend—you just have to love the garish eyeliner. York fills the bill as Darrin with great comedic timing and a real chemistry with his on-screen wife. His is a highly reactionary role, and he is always the butt of the joke. Ever fearful that Darrin will behave like a human and break her daughter's heart, Endora makes several attempts to get him to stray, but somehow or another he manages to will himself away from temptation, magically induced or otherwise. Their love for each other is a key element in the series, and while their relationship isn't all smooth sailing, at the end of the day, you know where things stand. Agnes Moorehead steals the show as the flamboyant, ever conniving Endora, popping in and out of the Stephens' household from every conceivable corner. Her costumes alone are worth the price of admission. I'm sure many a grievance was filed by the mother-in-laws union over this character.

Reflective of its day, Bewitched shows its age in a few respects, from the sexist gender roles—he, the hard-working breadwinner and she, the subserviant wife—or the prolific presence of alcohol consumption and occasional smoking. In other ways the show was extremely progressive for its time—the Stephens were one of, if not the first, TV couple to share a bed, and Samantha's parents are quite clearly separated or divorced, another boundary-pushing premise for a sit-com. Elements of social commentary are also pervasive, from an underlying theme of tolerance and the value of devotion to one's loved ones. The "mixed marriage" theme runs through many episodes, from Endora's objection to the union to Darrin wondering what to expect when he believes Sam is pregnant, which includes an appearance by a young Maureen McCormick (The Brady Bunch).

Other guest stars include Lost in Space's June Lockhart (Little Pitchers Have Big Fears) and Billy Mumy (A Vision of Sugar Plums); Adam West (Batman) as a smitten artist, Arte Johnson as Samantha's scheming Cousin Edgar and Paul Lynde (who would become a regular starting in Season Two as Uncle Arthur), making his first appearance as a flunky driving instructor in Driving Is the Only Way to Fly.

The writing here is very even, leaving few substandard installments, and the performances are great throughout. All subtext aside, it is just very enjoyable watching these people get in and out of trouble each episode. Silly and fun, but also sincere, Bewitched continues to spellbind, and even in its formulas, manages to be fresh.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The first few seasons of Bewitched were originally broadcast in black and white, but were later colorized for syndication, and Sony is the first to offer fans a choice of either version on separate releases.

On the whole, the black-and-white image quality is very impressive. For the most part, tonal balance and contrast is excellent, detail is excellent, and free of cross-coloration or artificial sharpening. There are some persistent, but minor, source defects, such as streaking or fine scratches. Grain level is variable, but generally looks natural. A few areas are a little worse for wear, but these are limited, with A Vision of Sugar Plums faring the worst in terms of quality, being a bit overly contrasted and soft.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: The two-channel mono soundtrack is clean and free of any major defects. Not surprising for its time, it is relatively thin sounding, and dialogue has a somewhat excessive sibilance to it. Given its age, this sounds quite good otherwise.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 216 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Bewitched (2005), The Partridge Family: The Complete First Season, The Brooke Ellison Story, D.E.B.S..
3 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Thinpak
Picture Disc
4 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The set is packaged in a pair of dual thinpak cases inside a sturdy carboard box. The cases have a complete listing of the episodes with a brief synopsis for each. Each disc has a Play All feature, or individual episode selections, and each episode has six internal chapters, including one immediately following the opening credits. On the disappointing side is Sony's decision to substitute the Season Three opening credits for the original sponsored versions.

A recent two-part featurette, The Magic Uneiled, is distributed on discs 1 and 2 featuring Herbie Pilato, author of Bewitched Forever), producer/director William Asher, series expert Mark Wood, and actresses Kasey Rogers (Louise Tate #2) and Erin Murphy (Tabitha). Pilot screenwriter Sol Saks appears in the first part. The two installments run 15m:48s in total. These cover aspects of how the show was developed and cast, plus some of the changes over the show's eight seasons.

A bloopers featurette, Magic and Mishaps (7m:55s) can be found on the third disc, pointing out some of the mistakes from the first season that made it to broadcast. Promos for the movie Bewitched (2005), The Partridge Family: The Complete First Season, The Brooke Ellison Story, and D.E.B.S. are included.

Extras Grade: C+

 

Final Comments

Elizabeth Montgomery is as beguiling as ever as Sony delivers the debut season of Bewitched in both black and white and colorized versions. Still funny and engaging after all these years, fans of the show should be quite happy with the presentation. Recommended.

 


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