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  • Theatrical trailer
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Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory: 30th Anniversary Edition

Warner Bros./Warner Bros. . R4 . COLOR . 96 mins . G . NTSC

  Feature
Contract

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is a classic film which has only gained in popularity since its release some 30 years ago in 1971. It is one of those films that has universal appeal to both adults and children the world over, and no matter how many times you watch the film, it still manages to put a smile on your face. The screenplay was based on the Roald Dahl book 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory', and it was he who also wrote the bulk of the screenplay for the film version. Probably the most important aspect of this movie though is its soundtrack. With songs written by the legendary Leslie Bricusse (of Superman and Dr Dolittle fame) it was hard for this movie to do wrong. Even though the film opened to lukewarm reviews back in 1971, it has since gained a cult status among young and old viewers alike and - like a fine wine - just gets better with age.

Most of you would know the storyline, so I'll keep it brief. The greatest chocolate maker in the world, Willy Wonka, announces that for the first time ever he will let five lucky people into his factory to see all of his most precious candy-making secrets. If that is not good enough, one of these lucky winners will receive a lifetime's supply of chocolate. But there is a catch - only those who find one of the five specially hidden golden tickets inside Wonka bars will win. And so begins the world's quest to find the golden tickets, and at the centre of this quest is Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum). Although Charlie is poor and can't afford to buy boxes of Wonka bars like everyone else - he wants more than anyone else to meet Mr Wonka. Charlie's hopes and dreams alone make up for his lack of finances and not before long… well - I'll leave the rest to the movie.

With its newly restored transfer and Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, it was with much anticipation that this reviewer sat down to watch the new 30th anniversary release of Willy Wonka - but there would be a catch.

"We have so much time and so little to do - strike that, reverse it!"

  Video
Contract

Despite indicating on the back cover that the film is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, this is not the case. The presentation is a 4:3 full screen transfer only. The only mention of a full frame presentation is the discreetly listed and conflicting '4:3 Transfer' tag inserted at the bottom of the sleeve. This is both frustrating and misleading, and in a period when some amazing releases are becoming available this is a disappointment. The only positive side to this is that the transfer is open-matte rather than pan-and-scan, which means you are seeing more of the image than you would on a normal pan-and-scan release.

A major uproar occurred in the US earlier in the year when Warner Bros announced the region 1 release of Wonka would only include a full-frame version of the film. After much heated online petitioning for a widescreen release Warner Bros relented by announcing a widescreen version of the film would be released in November. It's hard to tell why Warner Australia has decided to go with the full frame version. Including both the wide and full screen versions of the film on the region 4 (R4) release might have been a favourable option, and it is currently unclear whether a widescreen version will be released in R4 at all.

Why oh why did we get an NTSC transfer? If including the full frame version of the film was not bad enough, we are inflicted with a double-whammy! It would be interesting to receive an official comment from Warner Australia regarding this. It seems they served up a family classic to the R4 market that is technically sub-standard. The lack of a PAL transfer means there is potential for both loss of resolution and incompatibility with PAL-only televisions but - fortunately - this brilliant transfer saves what might have been a R4 disaster.

All negatives aside - this is a beautiful transfer. I have never seen the colours in this film look so vibrant and alive - the red dress of Veruca Salt, the orange faces of the Oompa-Loompas and the purple jacket of Willy Wonka all jump off the screen in amazing detail and brightness. Even act one of the film which is purposely dark and absent of colour looks wonderful - the sharpness of the images and shadow detail is the best I have seen the film look. Being an NTSC transfer, it was suprising just how good the picture looked. There have been some pretty poor R4 NTSC releases, but this is definitely not one of them. There is some evidence of grain in certain scenes, and film artefacts do pop up on occasions, but this would have certainly been caused by the source material rather than the transfer (and let's face it - this movie was made in 1971 on a mere budget of $3 million!) This new transfer is a credit to Warner Bros and by comparing it to the original theatrical trailer included on this disc it really is amazing what they have done with the transfer. One can only imagine how good a PAL widescreen transfer would have looked...

  Audio
Contract

The newly mixed Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack brings this movie to life and sounds fantastic. The fidelity of the soundtrack sounds much more rich and balanced than I've ever heard it before and hearing the Wonka classics such as 'Pure Imagination' and 'I've Got a Golden Ticket' in 5.1 surround sound is a treat. The mix is very front-heavy during the non-musical passages, which is to be expected with a movie of its age. Dialogue is very clear throughout and based in the centre channel. There is little in way of surround channel use until the songs kick in, when all 5.1 channels come alive and really do make you want to dance around the room like Grandpa Jo and Charlie. The usage of the LFE channel is minimal but adds depth to all the musical numbers during the film. Overall, a great sounding mix.

  Extras
Contract

This is where this release shines. The name of the game here is quality over quantity, and quality is what we get.

Documentary - Pure Imagination (1.33:1, Dolby 2.0): This is a newly produced 30 minute documentary that focuses on the actors and people involved with the making of Willy Wonka. Here we get interviews with all five Wonka kids (all grown up now which is a treat in itself), Gene Wilder, director Mel Stuart (Welcome Back Kotter) and producer David L. Wolper (L.A. Confidential). Intercut with these interviews is rare 16mm footage that was found only recently which shows the production in full swing on the set of the main candy room - this is fantastic stuff!

Original Featurette (1.33:1, Mono): Clocking in at just over 4 minutes in length this original 1971 featurette focuses on art director Harper Goff (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) and his numerous designs that are featured in the film - including the amazing candy room complete with chocolate river!

Audio Commentary: The audio commentary by the five Wonka kids is a real treat and its great to hear all the stories of what went on during the five month shoot in Munich, Germany. One funny story mentioned is how both Julie Dawn Cole (Veruca Salt) and Denise Nickerson (Violet Bearegarde) had a crush on Peter Ostrum (Charlie Bucket) and would take turns at trying to win him over.

Original Theatrical Trailer (1.85:1, Mono): This 3:08 version of the theatrical trailer is in quite poor condition. It suffers from film scratches, grain and low brightness and really does highlight how much work has gone into restoring the original transfer for this release.

Wonka Sing-a-long: Totalling nine minutes, this is a karaoke-type feature that includes the songs 'I've Got a Golden Ticket', 'Pure Imagination', 'I Want It Now' and 'Oompa-Loompa-Doompa-De-Do' and are taken directly from the same scenes in the movie. The words for each song pop up on the screen highlighting when to sing. The little ones will like this, however there's not much here for the adults.

Photo Gallery: Basically 18 black and white promotional photographs from the film.

  Overall  
Contract

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is a timeless family classic that can be enjoyed by all ages. Repeated viewing does not dilute the fun experienced during the classic performances given by Gene Wilder and the Wonka kids.

This anniversary release is a great document of the film and the extras alone are worth adding this disc to your collection.


  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=973
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      And I quote...
    "This anniversary release is a great document of the film and the extras alone are worth adding this disc to your collection."
    - Derek Baker
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Panasonic 68cm 90P22A
    • Receiver:
          Pioneer VSX-901
    • Speakers:
          JBL SCS 135
    • Centre Speaker:
          JBL SCS 135
    • Surrounds:
          JBL SCS 135
    • Subwoofer:
          JBL SCS125
    • Audio Cables:
          Monster Optical
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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