Sometimes it’s nice to pull out a lighthearted film to add into your Halloween viewing list.
One guilty pleasure that I saw in my youth and that I will still watch when I catch it on cable is The Worst Witch.
Before Harry Potter made his way onto bookshelves and big screens, the awkward witch Mildred Hubble made her way into many hearts in a book series by Jill Murphy and its 1986 made-for-TV movie adaptation.
The film’s tagline says it all, things never go right for Mildred Hubble (Return to Oz and The Craft’s Fairuz Balk). She’s a student at the all-girl Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches, a renowned school whose headmistress is played by “The Facts of Life” actress Charlotte Rae. Mildred makes mistakes with potions, goes array on a broomstick, and to make matters worse is being bullied by fellow student Ethel Hallow. Despite her low self-esteem she tries her best at everything and musters on.
When it’s announced that the Grand Wizard (Tim Curry), the suave man who makes all the witches swoon, is to be the special guest at the academy’s Halloween celebration the staff and students are abuzz and dive into preparations for the festivities.
But when Mildred discovers that Miss Cackle’s twin sister and her coven are plotting to take over the school, can she muster the confidence to save the school and salvage the holiday celebration?
As I think back to the film it amazes me how many similarities the movie has to the later Harry Potter story. The Worst Witch is very light-hearted and family oriented in nature, whereas Harry Potter was still young adult but deeper and darker. But you have the kind school head, the stern teacher, the faithful animals (Mildred’s cat Tabby and Harry’s owl Hedwig), the need to overcome their challenges, and the evil witches threatening what they hold dear.
I’ll admit that The Worst Witch is cheesy at times, but it’s just an endearing film that still brings a smile to my face.