James Helsby

LRE #42: Bedknobs and Broomsticks

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Little Red Envelope

In my mailbox this week:
Bedknobs and Broomsticks

Release Year: 1971

Staring: Angela Lansbury, David Tomlinson, Roddy McDowall

Bedknobs and Broomsticks, left me with just one lingering thought. Angela Lansbury was born old. I mean, this is an old movie, and she was old in it. 

Who hasn’t seen Bedknobs and Broomsticks? In my household growing up, it was as much a staple in our diet as Potatoes. We probably watched it every few months at the most, though I don’t know whether this was because it was the only VHS we had at the time (probably) or because it reminded my parents of their upbringing in reconstruction period Great Britain.

Regardless, Bedknobs is a Disney live action classic. Perhaps one of the best that they made during that period in time. Other than Mary Poppins and Pete’s Dragon, Bedknobs is probably the most successful live action Disney film from the 60’s and 70’s. With a budget of $10M in 1971, Bedknobs was actually intended to be an epic film of approximately 3 hours in length. However, that didn’t test to well with audiences. So it was cut down to a theatrical length of 119 minutes by taking out several song and dance numbers, and trimming down the iconic Portobello Road number.

An extended edition Directors Cut was released on DVD several years ago, and that was the basis for my review. That being said, I don’t think I would have needed to watch any portion of the film at all, seeing as I pretty much have the entire thing memorized. It was rather humorous to recite lines verbatim to a film that I hadn’t seen in at least 15 years, but sure enough it was still filed away in my memory bank under useless info. The most enjoyable aspect of that vivid memory, was that seeing the new scenes made their appearance painfully obvious. I wouldn’t say detrimentally, but that extra 20 minutes of run time definitely makes the film cross the line from enjoyable, to Laurence of Arabia long.

Bedknobs is set in 1940’s World War II England, in a quiet country village of Pepperinge Eye. Paul, Carrie, and Charlie are 3 young children who are sent to live in the village after an evacuation order is issued to London residents. Seeing as how no one else is able to take care of them (no family survived a bomb blast), the 3 are sent to live with Eglantine Price, an amateur witch who is learning her trade via a correspondence school of Witchcraft. Mrs. Price is old, and a little stodgy, but has a good heart. She kindly takes the children in with a series of rules that they must follow.

But when the children witness Mrs. Price’s failed attempt to fly on a broom, they engage in a little bit of blackmail in order to try and change their living conditions to suit their liking. It fails. But an accord is struck, where Mrs. Price grants Paul a powerful gift, or a bedknob. A magical bedknob that will transport the bed it is attached to, to any where that Paul desires. Including London, and The Isle of Naboombu.

Mrs. Price, needing to finish her correspondence school and desperately seeking just one additional spell, takes the children to London to visit Emelius Browne, con man and ‘Professor’ of the school. Mrs Price specifically is looking for the spell for substitutiary locomotion, which she says will help bring about an end to the war. But the spell is only found in one place, inscribed on the Star of Astoroth, and finding the star proves to be a difficult challenge.

Hopefully I didn’t spoil anything for you, on this 40 year old movie. If I did, then you have been living in a cave. Bedknobs is perhaps my favorite live action Disney film of all time. I mean, yes, I love Tron Legacy. I also love Pirates of the Caribbean. But those are different types of films. Probably the only one that I hold in such high regard is The Black Hole. Bedknobs is just a wonderful fun old movie. While it may not make you laugh, it won’t really disappoint. It is basically what you would come to expect from Disney at the time. Lots of singing, dancing, ridiculous characters and tons of animation.

And lest I forget, Angela Lansbury in a swimsuit. If that isn’t enough to encourage you, I don’t know what is. Oh wait, that would be filed under discourage, wouldn’t it. Oh well, don’t let it bother you, it’s very fleeting. But there is definitely something weird about Angela Lansbury that I just couldn’t figure out until I re-watched this film. She’s really old.  I mean, very very old. Bedknobs was made in 1971. Lansbury was born in 1925. She was basically 50 years old when this was made, and it’s a film from my childhood. She’s 85 now. She was 60 something when she was doing Murder She Wrote. The woman is old.  And that makes me feel old too.

Bedknobs and Broomsticks is a must have / watch for you and your children. I don’t say that because I am a fan, but because it was a good old movie. Something that you can stick on the TV and walk away from, not having to worry too much about what your kids are watching. The closest thing it gets to violence, is a Nazi vs Possessed Knight gun fight.

How painful was it: Such a flashback. Thank god, I refrained from singing.

Rating: 9/10. It doesn’t get more Disney than this.

The Wife’s Retort: It’s old, but a good movie. Reminds me of my mom for some reason.

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