Weekend Review – “Bedknobs and Broomsticks”

Magic, mayhem, and just a bit of love fill this 1971 family film.

Cast and Crew Information

Angela Lansbury as Miss Price
David Tomlinson as Emelius Browne
Roddy McDowall as Mr. Jelk
Cindy O’Callaghan as Carrie
Roy Snart as Paul
Ian Weighill as Charlie

Book by Mary Norton. Screenplay by Bill Walsh and Don DaGradi. Animation story by Ralph Wright and Ted Berman.
Directed by Robert Stevenson

Availability Information

Available on DVD from Amazon.com or Amazon.ca.

Premise

Apprentice witch Ms. Price is forced to take in three orphans during the early days of World War Two. Her plans to become a witch to aid the war effort derail when her correspondance school closes. Not one to give up, she and her young charges journey to London to find her former headmaster, only to find things are never as they seem.

High Point

The armies of history march against the Nazi invaders.

Low Point

This is a children’s movie clocking in at 2:19, based on witchcraft and musical numbers, and it takes over half an hour to see either witchcraft or musical numbers. Man, this is slow for the target audience.

The Review

This is an adaptation, and it feels like it’s trying very hard to recapture the success of Mary Poppins, so it doesn’t feel original. (It’s the same director, still using David Tomlinson as a star, employing Walsh and DaGradi as screenwriters, and taking some kids from “Olde Tyme” London on a magical journey in and out of animated and magical worlds.) I give it 2 out of 6.

The effects had improved since the 1964 outing. The animation, transformation and transportation sequences all needed some tricky photography in the days before CGI and blue-screens, and the substitutiary locomotion sequences are actually quite well done. There had to be wires or rods keeping most things in motion, but I can’t see them. I give it 5 out of 6, particularly since this was a 1971 release.

The story is logically sound, though it tends to drag. There are a lot of “spectacle” scenes, most notably on Portobello Road, which seem to hijack the narrative flow just to spend time on nifty visuals. I give it 4 out of 6.

The acting gets a bit stiff. Lansbury and Tomlinson are okay, but the child actors and Nazis are all terrible. I give it 3 out of 6.

The production is pretty pedestrian. The lighting in the live action portions uses various shades of “dim.” In fact, the sequence in the workshop lit by a single lamp to the right of the actors has very clear shadows running behind the actors. One of them even cast a shadow on the “light source” in the scene! How does that not seem obvious to the production crew? At least have them stand behind the table the lamp is on so it doesn’t show as clearly while the lamp is in the frame. Little things like this crop up all the way through, and they add up. I give it 3 out of 6.

The emotional response is due partly to quality and partly to nostalgia. It’s a bit slow going, but the second half does have its fun sequences. I give it 4 out of 6.

Overall, it’s a decent family movie for the near-ten age group who have the attention span for it. (No wonder my niece won’t watch it yet; I clearly didn’t remember it accurately when I suggested it and ended up in Hotel for Dogs instead.) If you have access to Mary Poppins, go that route instead. I give it 4 out of 6.

In total, Bedknobs and Broomsticks receives 25 out of 42.

Additional Notes and Comments

Don’t think times are changing? The romantic leads in this movie were 46 (Angela Lansbury) and 54 (David Tomlinson) years old the day this movie was released. The characters then continue to care for three kids, ages 11 and below, with no mention of legal adoption or foster care.

8 replies on “Weekend Review – “Bedknobs and Broomsticks””

  1. y42 says:

    fond memories
    I loved that movie when I was a kid.
    It had just the right amount of belief and disbelief, and a lady who doesn’t let silly little things like nazis get in her way. I might have kept a vague sense of the value of hard work from that flick.

    Oh! Oh! Do the Disney movie where the kids are aliens waiting for the mothership next! That one left me waiting for the fleet to come for me ever since :-)

    • Timeshredder says:

      Re: fond memories

      I loved that movie when I was a kid.

      I saw this the first time as a kid and really got into it. Yeah, it’s slow in places, but it has travel to other worlds, human/’toon interaction, and the Armies of History versus Nazis ("Pretty good trick.").

      I saw it years later as an adult. I was living in an apartment building and for some reason stopped by to see the biker who had the apartment upstairs (if you’re picturing a guy with a beard, a bit of a belly, and a beer, that’s him). He was watching it on television.

      Movie memories can be a funny thing.

    • fiziko says:

      Re: fond memories

      Oh! Oh! Do the Disney movie where the kids are aliens waiting for the mothership next! That one left me waiting for the fleet to come for me ever since :-)

      I don’t have Escape to Witch Mountain, so I can’t guarantee that, although I also remember it fondly. (I’m sure it’ll be released again in time for the remake to hit theatres.) I’d be happy to review Flight of the Navigator and The Rocketeer, which I bought in the same bout of nostalgia that prompted me to buy this.

      • y42 says:

        Re: fond memories

        Oh! Oh! Do the Disney movie where the kids are aliens waiting for the mothership next! That one left me waiting for the fleet to come for me ever since :-)

        I don’t have Escape to Witch Mountain, so I can’t guarantee that, although I also remember it fondly. (I’m sure it’ll be released again in time for the remake to hit theatres.) I’d be happy to review Flight of the Navigator and The Rocketeer, which I bought in the same bout of nostalgia that prompted me to buy this.

        Ah, that was the name of that movie! Wiki says it’s a sequel coming out next month.

        And my vote is for the rocketeer, because it’s also a fight against nazis.

        • Tara_Li says:

          Re: fond memories

          Ah, that was the name of that movie! Wiki says it’s a sequel coming out next month.

          And my vote is for the rocketeer, because it’s also a fight against nazis.

          The disc is available still at Sam’s Club, so you might be able to pick it up most anywhere you want to pick up DVDs.

          And no, it’s not a sequel coming out next month. It’s a re-imagining, much like GINO. I’m not hopeful. Though I doubt it can be worse than the re-imagining (*shudder*) before they came up with the term that was the 90’s version of Escape To Witch Mountain.

          I really liked Escape to Witch Mountain, and Return From Witch Mountain (damn, Tia was an age-appropriate [for when I saw it] dish!) I never got to see the failed pilot for the series – I’ll be looking for it.

          Oh, those who found the idea particularly powerful, and not just the really nice production values, might want to look for "Ingathering: The Complete Book of the People" at your local library or bookstore.

          • y42 says:

            Re: fond memories

            And no, it’s not a sequel coming out next month. It’s a re-imagining

            I saw an ad for it on TV. It had The Rock driving the winnebago. Damn that’s not a good sign.

            Oh, those who found the idea particularly powerful, and not just the really nice production values, might want to look for "Ingathering: The Complete Book of the People" at your local library or bookstore.

            I also loved that book. With the flying and the kid who shreds his boots. Good times.

  2. Jethro says:

    Eh
    If you’re going to see a movie with a "young" Angela Lansbury, you may as well go with The Court Jester!

    • Tara_Li says:

      The Vessel with the pestle, the Chalice from the Palace, and the Flagon with the Dragon

      If you’re going to see a movie with a "young" Angela Lansbury, you may as well go with The Court Jester!

      Oh, HELL yeah!!! Court Jester is probably my favorite Danny Kaye movie. There’s *NOTHING* like the poisoned potion scene, or the knighting scene… Ok, the movie was just *FULL* of win. And dammit, Angela Lansbury was pretty damn nice looking.

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