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  Directed by
    None Listed
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.66:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL 104:28)
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English, English - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • 4 Featurette
  • Photo gallery
  • Animated menus

Bedknobs and Broomsticks

Disney/Buena Vista . R4 . COLOR . 134 mins . G . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Following on from the huge success of Mary Poppins, the Disney studio released Bedknobs and Broomsticks with hopes of replicating that success. The same standard themes were there, a spinster with magical powers, children who are neglected, a funny man love interest, plenty of songs and the clever use of animation with live actors. Julie Andrews was missing, as was Dick Van Dyke, but two able actors were placed in the starring roles, Angela Lansbury and David Tomlinson. Tomlinson had appeared in Mary Poppins, but this time around he got to play the fun character and thrived on it.

The story is set in coastal England in 1940, with the threat of a German invasion ever present. Charlie, Carrie and Paul Rawlings are three orphaned children that have been sent to this coastal village to avoid the bombing blitz that is such a threat in London. Along with many other children, they are allocated to live with families in the village until this threat has passed. The Rawlings children are sent to live with spinster Eglantine Price (Angela Lansbury), much to her surprise. Miss Price is secretly an apprentice witch and is studying via correspondence to become a fully-fledged witch with the ultimate aim being to help with the war effort.

One afternoon a parcel arrives for Miss Price from Professor Emelius Browne (David Tomlinson), her tutor from the correspondence school, containing a new broomstick with the spell to enable her to fly. While giving the broom a test flight, she is spotted by the children. In order to keep her secret, Miss Price agrees to give the children a travelling spell. The spell is applied to an object and will allow the owner of the object to travel wherever they wish - in this case the object is the knob from the end of the children's bed. Miss Price soon discovers her correspondence school is to close and the lessons will no longer continue. She is distraught because she only needs one more lesson and the final remaining spell, the “Substitutiary Locomotion Spell”.

They all jump aboard the bed and head to London for answers. When they arrive they discover that Professor Browne is in fact a con artist and has been sending spells that are stolen from a book he has. He shows Miss Price the book and the spell she needs is missing, in fact the other half of the book is missing. They then encounter the Bookman (Sam Jaffe) who owns the other half and who is also looking for the spell. It turns out that they must travel to the Island of Naboombu to find the answers they need. The only problem with this is that the inhabitants of Naboombu are not too keen on humans.

This is in fact the 25th Anniversary Edition release of this Disney favourite,which is probably not mentioned on the case because the film was released in 1971, making it actually 31 years since first released. For this version the excluded scenes from the original theatrical release have been included, most notably scenes featuring Roddy McDowall. The character played by McDowall seems a little pointless to be honest, an actor of this stature playing a generally unnecessary character.

While trying to emulate the success of Mary Poppins, this film sadly fails on many accounts. The mixture of animation with live actors is technically superb for its time, but the story is lacking in many ways. The music from the Sherman Brothers is adequate but nowhere near as memorable as their efforts on Mary Poppins and the acting of the lead characters is also only adequate. The one big advantage for this film, however, is the way it does deal with certain issues without the sugary sweet treatment of its predecessor, can you imagine Mary Poppins facing a Nazi invasion? This film also contains the mangiest cat I have ever seen and although the special effects look second rate by today’s standards, they were for the time superb and worthy of the Academy Award, the film itself garnering five nominations overall. Praise is justified for these effects, but don’t expect The Matrix style effects as guide wires are often seen.

This fails on so many levels when held up against Mary Poppins, but is still a reasonable effort from Disney. The obvious dubbing of some actors' voices was needed due to them being unavailable, however they could have been done so much better. The highlights are of course the special effects, but the animation doesn’t kick in until over an hour into this version. Overall though, this is the full version and not the original theatrical release, so Disney collectors will no doubt be pleased to add this to their collection. It is by no means a Disney classic, but it is one that most adults would enjoy revisiting and the kids should enjoy the animation and special effects, even though the story is a touch lacking.

  Video
Contract

Presented in the aspect ratio of 1.66:1 and 16x9 enhanced, this film looks very good for its age. Overall the film does show signs of its vintage, but the picture is still sharp throughout with little problems considering. Colours are vibrant - in many case too vibrant - but this is intentional. There are odd occasions where colours do vary and the most notable is during the song Portobello Road, where a dancer wearing a blue airforce uniform is suddenly wearing a dark grey uniform, either a quick change artist or a lack of colour consistency. Inconsistencies such as this are rare though and overall the colours are very good. Shadow detail is generally good with only minor problems with grain. Blacks are generally very deep and consistent and aliasing does occur, but again is not too much of a nuisance. There are a few film artefacts in the form of white flecks, but these are surprisingly a lot rarer than expected and have generally been removed.

The layer change occurs at 104:28 and is hardly noticeable. Subtitles supplied are a choice of English and English for the Hearing Impaired and both are true to what is occurring on screen. There are also some subtitles embedded on the actual film during some of the dialogue of the German soldiers, but surprisingly not all of their dialogue, leaving the viewer wondering what they are saying, unless of course the viewer can “sprekken ze Deutsch”.

  Audio
Contract

The only choice of soundtrack with this release is the remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 track and this is more than sufficient for this film. Sound is kept predominantly across the front speakers, with the rears used for music build up. Directional effects do not really utilise all the channels, which is a shame but not terribly missed for this type of film. There is the occasional problem with audio synch, but overall the sound suits the film nicely and is more than adequate.

  Extras
Contract

There are some extras with this release that Disney fans should enjoy.

Animated short - Magician Mickey
Running for 7:15, this is a cartoon starring Disney favourite Mickey Mouse. It does show its age, but is still very entertaining and features Donald Duck. Considering the cartoon was originally made in 1937, it has held up very well and looks as good if not better than cartoons released much later.

Animated short - Trick Or Treat
Another cartoon from the archives, this time with Donald Duck as the star. This one runs for 7:55 and is also good entertainment. It looks much better than the first, but is still quite old, having been made in 1952. The co-stars this time around are Huey, Duey and Luey, the three nephews of Donald, who later became stars in their own right.

Music Magic: The Sherman Brothers
Running for 11:26, this featurette takes a look at the music of the film. This is reasonably informative and a nice addition.

A Step In The Right Direction
While most scenes not included in the original theatre release have been added, there is one scene that could not be added, as an original copy of the scene is no longer in existence. To compensate for this, this featurette contains the song A Step In The Right Direction and uses still photos that are still in existence to give an indication of how the scene would have looked. This is a great addition from Disney and a good substitute for original footage.

Bedknobs and Broomsticks Scrapbook
Presented in a scrapbook format, this feature contains 13 pages each featuring several pictures that can be selected and viewed separately. This is a great addition that contains some fabulous pictures.

  Overall  
Contract

If you compare Bedknobs and Broomsticks to Mary Poppins then there is only one winner, but if you look at this film in its own right then it is worthy of its Disney classic title. Although the story is lacking and the music is not the best the Sherman Brothers have ever produced, the special effects and mixture of animation and live action are very well done for the time and brought to life on DVD with great care. The fact that this is also the full version of the film and not the originally released theatrical version will attract viewers wishing to relive the experience and should entertain those that enjoy Disney family entertainment. It may not be the best Disney film ever made, and is possibly not one that will warrant repeated viewing, but overall it's worth adding to the Disney collection should you have one.


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      And I quote...
    "Angela Lansbury and not a murder in sight, well apart from the killing of a few songs..."
    - Adrian Turvey
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