Lucinda’s Spell

Lucinda’s Spell (1998)
ADV Films
Extras: Featurette, Two E! Segments, Trailer, Audio Commentary

Recently, we’ve reached a point where there don’t seem to be many true independent films anymore. Independent films are so vogue that they play at the local multiplex and scarf up awards right and left. And I know that there is an over-generalization it seems, that all of these independent films deal with the same kinds of characters and relationship issues. While these movies are different from the standard Hollywood fare, they begin to look quite similar after awhile. But, do not give up hope. There are still mavericks out there, making movies that are in fact, different. Writer/director Jon Jacobs is one such maverick. His latest offering, "Lucinda’s Spell" is a film that is so different at times that it can’t decide what it wants to be. But, the film is still refreshing and original.

On the "Eve of Beltane", Jason (Jon Jacobs), a direct descendant of the wizard Merlin, must choose a witch to father his child. The witch who performs the most powerful spell will win this coveted position. Lucinda (Chrisina Fulton), a witch who makes a living as a prostitute, learns that Jason has come to New Orleans for the contest. Winning the contest is very important to Lucinda (for reasons, which I won’t disclose), and she realizes that she must overcome the snooty "Coven" witches in order to triumph. Lucinda decides that she must use her natural charm and her connections around town to gain Jason’s prize. However, many obstacles, including a secret from her past will stand in her way.

The main problem with "Lucinda’s Spell" is the character of Lucinda. As the film opens, we see Lucinda as a spunky, somewhat obnoxious "sex witch", but when the secret from her past is revealed, she becomes a very serious character. The film then waxes between these two sides of Lucinda and that keeps the film from gelling. Even in the most realistic film, it would be hard to accept a character who is fun and carefree one minute and then serious and moody the next. In the whimsical setting of "Lucinda’s Spell", this character is even more difficult to stomach.

But, that’s not to say that Lucinda’s uneven qualities ruin the film. The plotline concerning the contest is intriguing and writer/director Jon Jacobs does a good job as Jason. Speaking of the contest, the audience isn’t given many details as to what to expect from this competition, so when it finally commences, prepare yourself for a wild ride. There are some interesting scenes in the film, such as when Jason communicates with Merlin. Jacobs also does a proficient job behind the camera, given the film a dreamy look that adds to the bizarre qualities of the story. The flashback scenes are especially well shot and show that Jacobs is interested in telling a concise story. "Lucinda’s Spell" is one of the most impressive looking low-budget independent films that I’ve seen in a long time and its portrayal of witches is much different from the typical "goth" look that most films adopt.

One other small tidbit about the film. "Lucinda’s Spell" is being marketed as a sex-comedy. ("Sex is magic" is the adline.) But don’t expect a lot of sex from the film. Actually, there’s no real sex or nudity in the film to speak of. Instead, Jacobs has created an aura of sexuality around the film. "Lucinda’s Spell" is all about the art of teasing, not exploitation.

The DVD of "Lucinda’s Spell" from ADV Films presents the film in a <$PS,widescreen> format and it is <$PS,letterboxed> at 2.35:1. The framing of the picture is questionable at times, as important visual information often seems to be chopped off by the edge of the frame. It’s difficult to tell if this was intentional on Jacob’s part or if it occurred during the digital transfer. The picture itself is crisp and clear for the most part. The digital transfer has revealed some significant grain during some scenes, while other scenes are practically free of grain. The colors on the image are very nice, as Jacob’s has given "Lucinda’s Spell" a pastel palette. Also, the black and white flashbacks look particularly nice on this DVD.

The audio on "Lucinda’s Spell" is a <$DD,Dolby Digital> 4.0 mix. With this, there is a nice surround sound effect throughout much of the film. However, I actually got a more balanced surround sound effect by bypassing my Dolby Digital decoder with this DVD. Either way, the dialogue is always crisp and clear, and the frequent music in the film sounds very good.

The DVD of "Lucinda’s Spell" contains several special features. The theatrical trailer for the film is included. It is <$PS,letterboxed> at 2.35:1 and has a running time of two and a half minutes. There is a short "Making of" featurette that runs for two minutes and forty-five seconds. But, unlike most behind-the-scenes featurettes, this segment features no scenes from the actual film and concentrates solely on showing us footage from the shooting of the film. Jacobs speaks directly to the camera in this feature, giving it a necessary cohesiveness. An <$commentary,audio commentary> by Jacobs will appear on the finished version of the DVD, but unfortunately, a preview copy with this feature was unavailable at presstime.

There are two features that were taken from E! Entertainment Television specials. The first one comes from "E! Sex on the Riviera". This seven-minute long featurette focuses on the "Cannes You Dig It" film festival, for which "Lucinda’s Spell" was an entry. We see Jon Jacobs and many of the women from the film cavorting around Cannes. We also get to see Christina Fulton posing with Lloyd Kaufman and the Toxic Avenger from the Troma Team. (Yikes!) Incidentally, "Lucinda’s Spell" won the film festival. The second snippet from E! is a four-minute segment from "E! Wild on Italy." This shows the "Lucinda’s Spell" team touring Venice. This segment actually contains more nudity than the actual film, although it is optically fogged, of course.

ADV Films has made a name for itself by specializing in anime, but they are now moving into distributing independent films. If "Lucinda’s Spell" is any indication, ADV is off to a pretty good start. The film is smart and funny, and though flawed, is still infectious. The DVD brings us a nice transfer of the film and some intriguing extras. So, if you’re tired of the same old slacker/bad relationship/downer ending independent film, then give "Lucinda’s Spell" a try and let it work its magic on you.