The 1969 never-quite-a-cult classic, and made for television movie, Winter for the Witch starring Hermione Gingold is being remade by Indie great John Sayles. Johnny Depp is in the title role, the Witch Sam, and unknown child actor Boomer Zenor is the pre-adolescent Aristotle Jones. Lisa Kudrow plays Aristotle's Mother, Bridget; Steve Martin is the real estate salesman, Joe; and Ernest Borgnine appears in an inexplicable cameo cut from McHale's Navy. Whoopi Goldberg spices up the original narration done by Burgess Meredith.
The movie begins as Aristotle, or Ed, and Bridget leave San Francisco for a more serene place for growing up. They happen upon a village the looks like Bodega Bay where the Birds was filmed. Martin's Joe keeps you laughing out loud as he sells Bridget a haunted house. The story takes off when Bridget and Ed arrive at their new/old house and are confronted by the jovial ghost Sammy. Kudrow and Depp grab you with their Its Mine, No Its Mine dialog. Things get a lot worse and a little scary from here.
Sayles appears to have read the original screenplay backwards as the rewrite moves the good witch Sammy to the bad witch Sam. Depp artfully eases into Sam, his evil side, and the movie becomes dark but not black. The antics, funny and evil, that follow are a combination of A Brother from Another Planet and Mouse Hunt. The surprise ending makes this movie worth seeing.
Release Date 12/10/10. Four thumbs up.