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Saturday, August 15, 2015

Bewitched In Japan

Growing up in the 1970s, I was privy to a lot of rerun TV shows from the 1960s, including Bewitched starring my favorite actress Elizabeth Montgomery as the suburban witch, Samantha Stephens.

Man... she was so beautiful... probably why as soon as I was old enough I had a thing for blondes... then later redheads and brunettes, as I learned not to discriminate merely on hair color.

Elizabeth Victoria Montgomery was born on April 15, 1933 and died of colorectal cancer on May 18, 1995. But she will always be that stunning WILF of my youth.

Bewitched was an American television show that was on from 1964 through 1972, and was renewed for another season but Elizabeth declined to participate, as she was falling out of love with her husband and show producer William Asher, and was falling in love with another man... awkward...

Bewitched... I certainly was.
Anyhow, despite not being able to see Elizabeth wiggle her nose in that cute manner for Samantha to make her spells work, I still got to see reruns.. but she never did wiggle her nose for viewers again...

... unless you were living in Japan.

For whatever reason - I suspect copyright, Elizabeth never reprised her role as the witch again, but that didn't stop Japanese confectionery company Lotte from contracting her and paying her very well, I might add, to appear in three Japan-only television commercials hawking their Mother brand of chocolate cookies.

Here's the first two from 1979 and 1982:

Here's the third from 1984 - her commercial kicks in at the 30-second mark:

Now... obviously Elizabeth didn't have any speaking part in these commercials, despite her flapping those gorgeous lips of hers. But, the woman who actually provided the voice of Samantha in the Japanese overdubs of Bewitched also provided the voice-over in the first two commercials.

I have searched and searched, and can't find the name of the Japanese voice actress, but did find one for Darrin, Samantha's human husband - Yanagisawa Shin'ichi (surname first).

 That was the intro to the Japanese version of Bewitched, which was known as Oku-sama wa Majo ("My Wife is a Witch").

There was also a 1994 Japanese sitcom of 11 episodes in 2004 called Bewitched in Tokyo (in English), but was known in Japanese exactly as it was for the original 1960s re-runs: Okusama wa majo (奥さまは魔女)... apparently with English subtitles, if you are looking for the DVD: 
The main character, Matsui Arisa (surname first), was portrayed by Yonekura Ryōko (surname first). Pretty sexy. Maybe I just like the whole sidesaddle broom-riding thing that shows off the legs. Also... I know you can look up her skirt if you are around when she happens to be flying by. The skirt is shorter in THIS version.

Back to Elizabeth and the Lotte commercials... 

You'll notice that in keeping with the character of Samantha Stephens, television's hottest-ever witch does perform some witchcraft for the Japanese viewer.

She does a bit of hand waving in the first two commercials, but does a half-nose wiggle in the third.

It may have come far too late for me and my infatuation with Elizabeth Montgomery, but at least I get to see her in some original film work once last time.

Oh... and as an aside, Sony... the Japanese corporation, actually owns the rights to Bewitched after it purchased Columbia Pictures in 1989... which is kind of cool considering the Japanese also had a huge fascination for the show. 

Andrew Joseph

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