Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)

Posted by on Dec 29, 2011 in Welcome to Our World | 0 comments

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Disclaimer: Explicit use of witchcraft, cockney, and obligatory celebrations of Britishness.

Disney couldn’t possibly try to cram more novelty into one film than it did in Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Viewers will no doubt compare this movie musical featuring a mix of live action and animation to Mary Poppins, but in all reality it’s unparalleled in its combination of witchcraft, Nazis, animals playing soccer, underwater ballroom dancing, flying beds, chases, and kidnapping – all in England. If ever there was a film for the ADD age, it’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Not even Baz Luhrman could out-pace this one.

With such a vast array of entertaining fare, it’s Bedknobs2nearly impossible to summarize it; suffice to say it follows Miss Price (Angela Lansbury) as she takes charge of three orphan siblings (Carrie, Charles, and Paul) against her will. Craziness ensues after the siblings discover she’s an apprentice witch under the teachings of Emilius Brown (David Tomlinson). Together, they scramble to find the coveted Substitutiary Locomotion spell, which (as we all know) can make inanimate objects animate. Roddy McDowall, Sam Jaffe, and Bruce Forsyth also co-star.

I say it’s undeniably compared to Mary Poppins, as they share the same director (Robert Stevenson), production team, and co-star (Tomlinson). Oddly enough, the song The Beautiful Briny, in which Lansbury and Tomlinson sing and dance below sea level with animated aquatic accompaniment, was written for Mary Poppins. Though it resembles Mary Poppins, B&B is by no means as lasting, memorable, or (to be quite frank) good. But Bedknobs and Broomsticks is a rare breed of movie musicals in which its star can naturally disrupt a delightful song to pick up an apple core and instruct a nearby child to throw it away. It’s the kind of movie that prompts viewers to say, “What the hell?”

Bedknobs3Take, for instance, a scene in which the troupe uses a flying bed (don’t even ask) to travel to London. While there, they try to recover the spell at a famous market known as Portobello Road. The song of the same name that follows is fun enough, but when ethnic groups begin dancing in their stereotypical native way (a tired 10-minute sequence), even your kids will turn to you and say, “What in the hell does this have to do with plot exposition?”

Other sequences such as the animated animal soccer game on the Island of Naboombu or the climactic battle at the end, plus songs such as The Age of Not Believing and Eglantine, are also loads of fun. Beware, however, of the oft-repeated spell “Treguna, Makoidees, Trecorum, Sadis, Dee;” it’s likely to stay in your head for weeks (or years, in my case).

Though it’s a completely random celebration on celluloid, and quite a side-step from other Disney flicks, this Oscar-winning (best visual effects) adaptation of Mary Norton’s book is a real treat. If nothing else, it presents a world where Britons, witches, and animated animals can all co-exist peacefully as long as those pesky Nazis don’t get in the way.

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