Warner Bros. // 1971 // 100 Minutes // Rated G
Reviewed by Chief Justice Mike Jackson (Retired) // December 3rd, 2001
Invention, my dear friends, is 93% perspiration, 6% electricity, 4% evaporation, and 2% butterscotch ripple.
Some people have favorite movies from their childhood. For some people, that movie is Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory. But not for me. I have a vivid memory of seeing it once, on my tenth birthday, but I do believe that was the only time until I was in college. I was, however, a big fan of Roald Dahl's book "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and the sequel "Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator." I think it was a case that I liked the book so much, it was difficult to get into a film based on it. I've warmed up to it in recent years
A couple months ago, Warner released a "special edition" of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in open-matte full-frame. The fans on the Internet went into apoplectic fits. Letters were written, petitions were signed, and Warner got the message: DVD buyers prefer films on their little shiny discs in their theatrical aspect ratio (now if only we could convince Warner to do the same with the Kubrick films...). So, here we get all the special features of that release along with preferable aspect ratio.
World chocolate magnate Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder) has kept his legendary chocolate factory off limits to the public for decades, until, without warning, he announces a contest that will allow five lucky winners to tour the factory. The winners must find one of five Golden Tickets hidden in the millions of Wonka candy bars. The winners are the food-obsessed Augustus Gloop, television-obsessed Mike Teavee, chewing gum-obsessed Violet Beauregarde, spoiled rich girl Veruca Salt, and poor little Charlie Bucket. One by one, the children succumb to their avarice in the factory, until only Charlie remains to become Willy Wonka's heir.
If I can say one thing for Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, it's this: I can't wait until I have kids so I can show it to them.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, made in 1971, is one of the last family musicals produced. It has unmistakable energy and magic. It starts by showing its central character, Depression-grade waif Charlie Bucket, in the dire straits of his poor existence. Roald Dahl had a way of writing child characters that his young readers could identify with -- when things are bad for a kid, don't they always think that there's no other kid in the world who could possibly have it worse? Except, Charlie has a magical experience -- he finds one of the hallowed Golden Tickets in a chocolate bar he purchased with coins found in the gutter, even after he's given up all hope (he bought the bar just before hearing the announcement that once was still available after a hoax). Then, in Willy Wonka's factory, there is magic around every corner, things even the most privileged child has never imagined and couldn't help but covet. The tour of the factory, in a way, is also the hero's trial of classic myth. Charlie passes the trial -- he resists the temptation of wealth offered for stealing Wonka's secrets for an alleged competitor -- and his reward is great: he becomes the new owner of the vast riches of Wonka's confectionary wonderland.
It's a veritable parlor game (fun for the whole family!) tracking the later movements of the young cast of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. It would be the only film appearance for two of the five, Peter Ostrum (Charlie) and Michael Bollner (Augustus Gloop). The other boy, Paris Themmen (Mike Teavee), didn't go on to act per se, but in his listing at the Internet Movie Database you can see a few films where he appeared as an uncredited extra, as well as one episode of Star Trek: Voyager (and to think I've seen that episode, "Virtuoso," two or three times and never noticed him!). The girls, Julie Dawn Cole (Veruca Salt) and Denise Nickerson (Violet Beauregarde), both had acting experience prior to Willy Wonka, so it's natural that they also were the only ones who pursued show business careers after the film. Julie Dawn Cole appeared in a few movies (like a Hallmark television production of Camille) and short-lived British television shows (like Married for Life, a British remake of the American Married...With Children). Denise Nickerson only acted for a few more years, leaving the business in the late '70s. She appeared in small roles in a few movies (she was billed over Melanie Griffith in 1975's Smile), but her most memorable gig was a two-year stint on The Electric Company.
The freshly remastered image of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is remarkably clear and impressive. Here it is anamorphically presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. It show its origin in the 1970s with some dust speckles and the sort of soft image that you'll recognize from the era. It is grainy throughout, but that again is part of its age and I don't think distracts from the overall presentation. What is important to this film is the rich palette, and Warner captured that perfectly. Flesh tones are accurate, and the few dark areas have detailed shadows. As for everything else, the colors are vibrant, veritably popping off the screen without bleeding. It has an acceptable 6.50Mb/sec average video bitrate. I noticed no pixelization and very minimal edge enhancement. Good show, Warner!
Audio is available in Dolby Digital 5.1. The mix is forward-centric, only occasionally using the surrounds is a few scenes. However, the effects and music have excellent fidelity and there is little extraneous noise.
It would be pointless to double-dip if there weren't any extras, wouldn't it? Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory includes a nice selection for the entire family. A commentary track reunites all five Wonka kids for the first time in thirty years. Even if they are old enough to have kids the same age they were when they filmed the movie, they laugh and joke with each other like little kids. Obviously, they all had considerable fun making the movie and it's a rare treat to have a commentary that gives performers the chance to catch up like this.
A 30-minute documentary is included, "Pure Imagination: The Story of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." The commentary may not really talk much about the making of the film itself, but the documentary more than makes up for it. It has recent interviews with director Mel Stuart, producer David L. Wolper, uncredited screenwriter David Seltzer, as well as all five of the kids and Gene Wilder. All have interesting anecdotes to share, and it's a fun watch. Another supplement is a four-minute featurette from the film's release that talks mostly about set designer Harper Goff. The other extras are less substantial: the original theatrical trailer (presented in non-anamorphic widescreen), a production photo slideshow, and four "Sing-Along Wonka Songs."
What was with Charlie's hair? It looks like his stylist is the same guy who provides William Shatner's rugs. Positively dreadful!
Do you have kids? Are you young at heart? If so, why haven't you picked this up yet? For fans of the film or those who entertain those with imagination, the widescreen version of this special edition of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is a must-buy.
Oompa Loompa, doopi-de-dee
We declare this disc isn't guilty!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 1971
MPAA Rating: Rated G
* Commentary with the Five Wonka Kids
* "Pure Imagination" Documentary
* Original 1971 Featurette
* Four Sing-Along Wonka Songs
* Photo Gallery
* Theatrical Trailer
* Roald Dahl Official Site
* Wonka Facts Mega-Site
* Roald Dahl Fans