While there have certainly been a few classics for families in recent years (such as Pixar's "Finding Nemo"), seeing family films in an age of increasingly detailed CGI animation sometimes makes one (at least those beyond a certain age range) fondly remember simpler times and simpler movies, where family films had to get by on charm and an enchanting story that played out at a deliberate pace.
“Bedknobs and Broomsticks” is a fine example of a children film that not only offers fun and magic for all ages, but is also a wonderful, rich story that sticks with the viewer. The film is a great example of Disney at its finest with conflict, solid direction, well-defined characters and a fine mixture of animation and live-action. It is not only a story about an unlikely witch paired with orphaned children, but a street magician who goes in search of a powerful spell.
For those unfamiliar with the Disney classic, “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” follows Miss. Eglantine Price (the perfectly-cast Angela Lansbury), a woman who wants - more than anything - to be a real witch. She sends off for packages from a so-called famous magic professor, Emelius Browne (David Tomlinson) in hopes of strengthening any powers she may have. One day, when picking up her packages in town, she meets three orphan children: Carrie (Cindy O'Callaghan), Paul (Roy Snart) and Charlie (Ian Weighill) and reluctantly agrees to take them in for the time being since they were evacuated to the country due to the war. The story of the children is a sad one that adds some emotional undertones to the film, as does the war taking place, incorporating the fantasy aspects of the film with difficult aspects of reality.
Despite the children’s presence, Miss. Price continues to practice her witchcraft with the hopes of using her skills to benefit the war. Eventually the children get involved when Miss Price shares a traveling spell. Together, Miss Price and the children use the traveling spell to travel to Portobello Road to the College of Witchcraft to get the final lesson she needs after it closes due to the war. From here, the story takes a marvelous and even more magical turn when at Portobello Road the meet Emelius, who turns out to be the opposite of magical. Together, the unlikely group go in search of the final spell for Substitutiary Locomotion, a smell used to bring inanimate objects to life. They get into some trouble along the way when the run into an old bookkeeper looking for the same spell, as well as when they make their way to an island in search for the final steps to bring the spell to life. The animated island is run by animals that behave like people, which offers some very memorable moments.
What makes “Beadknobs and Broomsticks” so fantastic to watch is in part due to the performance from Angela Lansbury, and also greatly due to the musical score from the Sherman Brothers - who also wrote music for “Marry Poppins”, “The Jungle Book”, and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”, to name a few. The songs help tell the story here, especially the memorable “Portobello Road”, “Beautiful Briny”, “Substitutiary Locomotion” and finally “Age of Not Believing” (which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song in 1972.) Not only is the score winning, but the effects are inspired and imaginative, probably pushing the envelope for the time period.
It's wonderful to have these sort of yesteryear classics be released on DVD (and Blu-Ray in some cases), so that a future generation can be introduced to these films that feel so different in terms of pace and storytelling than most of what's released today. “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” was a fantastic film in the seventies and still holds up today. Whether you’re a fan of the classic, or you’re looking for something new and original for your family to watch, “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” is definitely worth a look and a listen.
VIDEO: The film is presented in 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen. While the animation process does result in some mild-to-moderate grain, the transfer generally handles this well, and the result is a picture that - while certainly not perfect - looked pretty good. Sharpness and detail were fine, as while the picture didn't appear crystal clear, considering the material, definition remained satisfactory.
The print looked - at least for the most part - rather clean, with only the occasional specks, marks and debris spotted. A couple of mild instances of edge enhancement were also spotted. Colors looked relatively fresh and bright, with no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: "Bedknobs" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 by Disney. The film's repurposed soundtrack sounds reasonably crisp and clear for the era, and while the audio isn't remarkable it sounds as if the elements have been preserved rather well. Audio quality is fine, with clear dialogue and crisp music.
EXTRAS: BONUS FEATURES:
“The Wizards of Special Effects" (hosted by Jennifer Stone from Disney Channel original series, “Wizards of Waverly Place”)manages to be an entertaining look at the special effects used in “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” with informative interviews about the process and history of special effects used for the film. Jennifer Stone proves to be a wonderful choice as host, and the information presented here is interesting and definitely worth a look for fans of the movie, as well as those interested in how effects have changed over the years and the time and effort put into them.
“Music Magic: The Sherman Brothers” is a great look at the musical talents behind “Bedknob and Broomsticks” (among many other Disney films), the Sherman Brothers. The interviews included here with the Sherman brothers and Angela Lansbury are both entertaining and fascinating, especially how the song, “Beautiful Briny” was originally written for “Mary Poppins”. There’s also a song not included in the final version of the film. This is a truly wonderful look at the songs from the film with footage, as well as a few informative interviews. Definitely recommended for fans of the film and the memorable songs throughout.
“A Step in the Right Direction Reconstruction” is a piece of the film that was cut for running time. Since there was no footage found to accompany the musical score for the song “A Step in the Right Direction”, a reconstruction of the scene is included using production photos.
Also included on the Enchanted Musical Edition are: “David Tomlinson ‘Portobello Road’ recording session” that’s very brief archive footage of David Tomlinson performing ‘Portobello Road’, and four theatrical trailers for the film.
“Like Stars on Earth”, “UP”, Disney Movie Rewards, “Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure”, Disney Blu-ray: Magic in High-Def, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, D23, “The Princess and the Frog”, and “Santa Buddies”
Final Thoughts: Whether you’re a fan of the classic, or you’re looking for something new and original for your family to watch, “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” is definitely worth a look and a listen. Recommended.
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