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"Hocus Pocus" 25th Anniversary stands the test of time


Bette Midler as Winifred Sanderson, a witch resurrected with her two sisters after a 300-year curse. (Frame shots courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment)


Blu-ray and Digital copy; 1993; PG for some scary sequences, and for language; Streaming via Amazon Video, FandangoNOW, Google Play, iTunes, Movies Anywhere, Vudu, YouTube

Best extra: “We <3 Hocus Pocus: Trivia and Treats Edition” – pop-up tidbits of information, storyboards and video during the entire length of the film

IF DISNEY loves “Hocus Pocus” so much, why did the powers that be release a less-than-lustrous 25th anniversary edition? To see Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy again talking about their experiences on the “Hocus Pocus” set with Director Kenny Ortega would have been a hoot, Halloween scary owl pun intended.

Still, the “Trivia and Treats Edition” that runs the duration of the movie provides dozens of factoids, from deleted scenes, (old) cast and crew commentary, behind-the-scenes secrets, storyboards and concept art, trivia and more. It makes watching the movie again fun.

And this movie’s plot, and its special effects, have stood up to the test of Hollywood time. Three sister witches return after a 300-year slumber when a virgin lights a creepy candle in the witches’ home in Salem, Mass. The witches appear to be winning in their effort to suck the life out of a child for youth-restoration purposes, but they are finally foiled by two teenager, a little girl and a zombie played under heavy makeup by actor Doug Jones (“Hell Boy,” “The Shape of Water”). During the pop-up trivia, you learn that it was the first time a computer-generated character was used by creating a cat (Thackery Binx) that talked. The crew used eight different cats as Binx, each performing parts of the character’s personality, from feisty to friendly.

Winifred opens the window to the witches’ cottage and says the line featured in the pop-up bonus feature – this one is called “Lines We Love.”

Max (Omri Katz) is the new high schooler in Salem. He doesn’t want to believe in the tales of the Sanderson sisters.

A gem from the pop-up bonus feature that runs the entire length of the movie – who do you think auditioned? You need to watch to find out.

Max’s younger sister, Dani (Thora Birch) rolls her eyes at bullies who took her brother’s shoes. She dresses appropriately as a mini-witch for Halloween.

The cat character is how the whole story got started. Producer and co-writer David Kirschner came up with the idea when a black cat rubbed against his leg one Halloween. He explained to his young daughter that the cat was actually a human boy who had been turned into a feline 300 years prior by witches.

Unfortunately, the video master (1.85:1 aspect ratio) is the same one used by Disney when the movie was released on Blu-ray for the first time in 2012. Disney had an opportunity to remaster this film from a new 4K master to improve its sharpness and color fidelity, but it didn’t. While the 2012 version is fine, why not breathe new life into this Halloween classic (the antithesis of how the Sanderson sisters sucked the last breath out of Emily Binx in the 1600’s.)

As for the audio quality, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 track seems to be the same from the 2012 release – nothing new and workable enough to fit the video quality. It’s fine.

Winifred with her sidekick sister Mary Sanderson (Kathy Nijimy) reappear in Salem, Mass., after a virgin lights a magic candle.

Winifred and sister Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) Sanderson take in their new, modern surroundings at their old witch cottage.

The same is to be said for a drop-in bonus, the “Original 1993 Production Featurette.” It’s a five-minute, standard-definition, heavily marketed look at the movie with crew and cast interviews, a look at the special effects of the day and behind-the-Salem scenes.

“Hocus Pocus” is a fun Halloween piece of candy to be noshed on once a year, or more if you’re in the mood. Luckily, this spooky season, Disney at least adds a fun featurette in its pop-up, feature-length bonus – making viewing the flick again worth your time.

— Toni Guagenti




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