Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Witches of Eastwick, The

US movie (1987). Warner/Guber-Peters/Kennedy-Miller. Pr Neil Canton, Peter Guber, Jon Peters. Exec pr Rob Cohen, Don Devlin. Dir George Miller. Spfx Industrial Light & Magic. Mufx Rob Bottin. Screenplay Michael Cristofer. Based on The Witches of Eastwick (1984) by John Updike. Starring Veronica Cartwright (Felicia), Cher (Alex), Jack Nicholson (Daryl Van Horne), Michelle Pfeiffer (Sukie), Susan Sarandon (Jane). 118 mins. Colour.

A sex comedy that occasionally pretends to greater profundities, TWOE centres on widowed brunette Alex, divorced redhead Jane and abandoned blonde Sukie, three apparently upright members of Eastwick's small community. Wishing a "foreign prince" would come to town to captivate them, they are seemingly rewarded by the arrival of (apparently) the Prince of Darkness himself, in the guise of Van Horne ("just your average horny little Devil"). He seduces (and, we later find, impregnates) all three – or perhaps, instead, he helps them unbutton their own repressions – and performs Miracles for their delight. But when he causes starchy pillar of the community Felicia Alden to be murdered the three "Witches" shun Van Horne and finally concoct their own Magic, mutilating a Doll of him until, after a last transformation into the Great Beast, he is driven away. Yet, 18 months later, he returns as a tv image in an attempt to corrupt their baby sons.

There is much informed use of fantasy motifs in TWOE, and within the movie resonances are quietly sounded between images from Superstition and real-world events in the story. Alex's clay earth-mother sculptures find echoes in Van Horne's views of women as repositories of Fertility (the movie is extremely rich in fertility symbolism throughout) and of witches in particular as women of power who render men impotent with fear – although Van Horne treats them as Toys, an equation underscored when the "witches" thwart him and he behaves like a temperamental child. Asked at one point who he really is, he responds simply: "Anybody you want me to be" – a good enough definition of Satan. [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.