RELEASE DATE: Thursday 7th October 1971
Disney had hit the jackpot with Mary Poppins in 1964. Even though Walt was no longer with the company, Bedknobs and Broomsticks was an attempt to make lightning strike twice; another attempt at a British story where the live actors would go into an animated world. While I doubt anyone would consider this film to be the equal of Mary Poppins, it did prove popular and still holds up as a pretty enjoyable movie to this day.
Its running time is an interesting point of fact. In its original cut the movie was apparently close to 3 hours; way too long for a family film. It was promptly re-cut to a more standard 2-hour running time. When it was re-released in 1979 it was re-cut again so that it only ran for 99 minutes, resulting in almost all of the songs being removed from the film.
For its D.V.D. release in 2001, excised footage had been located in the Disney archives, and they set to work recutting the film back to its original state (although footage of Angela Lansbury's early song "A Step In The Right Direction" has still never been found...) One major problem was that the audio from these reels was destroyed beyond repair, so all dialogue had to be re-recorded via A.D.R. (Automated Dialogue Replacement) Thankfully Angela Lansbury was able to re-record her own lines and there's very little difference to her original recording. Other actors had to substitute for the additional characters though, and the results... are... AWFUL.
The postmistress in particular was played by a Welsh actress called Tessie O'Shea. Her Welsh accent is very noticeable in her performance as Mrs. Hobday. When they overdubbed her new scenes, Mrs. Hobday suddenly becomes Scottish! It's blatant bungles like this (not to mention that the dubbing hardly even matches the original lip movements) that make it feel like the process was cheap and nasty, and in my opinion it would be better if they had kept the scenes out of the movie and maybe included them as "Deleted Scenes" in the bonus features.
MALEFICENT: I love this movie. And apart from the fact that the A.D.R. is terrible... terrible, terrible terrible... it's still a very good movie.
IRVYNE: This version we watched, which is the 2001 version with the old scenes inserted back in, runs for 134 minutes. According the Amazon, the new "Special Edition" Blu-Ray that is coming out next month, is only 117 minutes. I hope that means that they have re-removed these additional scenes. They really don't add anything to the story, and the dubbing is so jarring, it feels like you're watching some old Japanese movie where the dubbed voices don't even match the mouths!
HAKU: The story still works though. It held my interest the whole way through.
MALEFICENT: Yeah, if you can look past that, it's still a very good story. There are lots of little subplots, which I like. Not many Disney movies have them. It is quite slow in the beginning.
IRVYNE: Yeah, it definitely takes a while to get going.
MALEFICENT: But it's not pumped full of exposition. It lets you gradually learn about the characters.
ANNA: I don't actually think kids today will love this as much as we used to. Their imaginations aren't as good as ours were.
IRVYNE: Wow, who's sounding like an old lady now? "Get off my lawn, you rotten kids!"
HAKU: I was talking to a kid the other day, and she was saying that she doesn't watch a lot of films because she gets bored so easily.
ANNA: I taught 11 and 12 year-olds last year, and they couldn't sit for more than 20 minutes through a movie before they got bored.
IRVYNE: I doubt they'd make it through the 134-minute version of Bedknobs and Broomsticks then! I have to admit, it does feel slow to me. I think it was actually the right decision to trim scenes and make the story move faster.
HAKU: They got their money's worth out of the choreographer again!
MALEFICENT: Yeah. with Portobello Road... Crazy amounts of chorry.
IRVYNE: Too MUCH chorry, if you ask me! A lot of that was new to this "restored" version. It never used to go on that long.
SHENZI: It goes on WAY too long.
IRVYNE: My problem with it, is we spend like 5 minutes watching people dance, who aren't even characters in the story!
HAKU: It completely stops the plot.
MALEFICENT: I always laugh at the house that Emelius Brown is squatting in. A beautiful, opulent house that's only vacant because there's an undetonated bomb in the front yard. That is so funny!
IRVYNE: It's funny seeing David Tomlinson play a completely different character to Mr. Banks. He could have a bit more fun with this film, be a bit cheekier.
MALEFICENT: Angela Lansbury is such a lovable person. You can't help but love Eglantine Price.
IRVYNE: Can't say I love her name. What kind of crazy parents would look at a cute little baby and name it EGLANTINE??
MALEFICENT: What about the Sherman Brothers songs? I love the songs in Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
IRVYNE: I would say "good," but not Mary Poppins "good."
ANNA: Nowhere near.
MALEFICENT: They're nice and catchy.
IRVYNE: A couple of them are. I'd give you "Beautiful Briny Sea" and "Substitutiary Locomotion" as catchy tunes.
HAKU: I like "Portobello Road."
IRVYNE: Songs like "Eglantine" and the newly added one that she sings to herself, "Nobody's Problems..." They're nice enough, but they never really stick in your head. Oh, I forgot about "The Age of Not Believing." That's got a nice melody.
It's just a shame that this story theme is never really repeated or resolved later in the movie. It's almost like it's setting up this plot of Charlie not believing things and trying to act all grown-up, with the expectation that he would eventually have to face this fact about himself. The only problem is, he never does. That entire plot thread gets forgotten as soon as they jump on the bed, even though the song is repeated instrumentally whenever they fly to a new location. As I said earlier, this story has children in it, but the story is not about them.
MALEFICENT: I love the animation in the Beautiful Briny Sea.
HAKU: Yeah. It does feel like a poor man's version of "Jolly Holiday" from Mary Poppins though.
MALEFICENT: That's only if you're being comparative.
IRVYNE: It's kind of hard NOT to be.
MALEFICENT: I never compare the two, they're very different.
IRVYNE: It's directed by the same guy, the music's by the same guys, it's got a number of the same actors in it. They were trying to replicate the success they had with Poppins, seven years later.
HAKU: I don't think it could ever be as successful as Mary Poppins with all the war themes.
ANNA: As a kid, I don't think I ever really got all the war references.
IRVYNE: It's got quite a serious side, doesn't it? Mary Poppins was just wacky.
MALEFICENT: This is actually a very grown-up story. The main characters are the adults, not the children. They're just along for the ride.
HAKU: I think I appreciate Bedknobs and Broomsticks more as an adult than I used to as a kid.
HAKU: You can tell the film was made in America because they call it "soccer" and not "football," which is what it's called in England.
IRVYNE: The armour effects at the end of the movie still hold up pretty well I think.
MALEFICENT: They really do!
IRVYNE: Did you know that they rented all that armour from the set of Camalot, which had just finished filming before they shot this scene?
ANNA: It's my favourite scene.
HAKU: I used to get really scared by the moving armour when I was a kid.
MALEFICENT: I used to go into museums and say the magic spell, hoping that everything would come to life! I love the scene where Miss Price first makes the spell work on the clothes.
IRVYNE: How bizarrely abrupt is the ending? Miss Price spends the entire movie trying to be a successful witch, and then she suddenly says, "Oh, I never really wanted to be a witch in the first place." Huhh??
HAKU: It is stupidly sudden. I suppose she's thinking that she's completed her war effort... but she could have done more!
IRVYNE: And then Emelius Brown, who's never gives any inclination that he's interested in being a soldier, suddenly says, "Well, I'm off to war."
MALEFICENT: It's a very random ending.
IRVYNE: I wonder if, being that it was released in 1971, this was some subtle kind of way to rally patriotism for Vietnam...
HAKU: Was England even involved in the Vietnam war?
IRVYNE: I'm not talking about England. This is Disney. The movie was filmed in California and made for mostly American audiences in 1971. Anyway, I don't know, I'm just wondering.