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Toon Talk: Bedknobs and Broomsticks: Enchanted Musical Edition
Page 1 of 1

by Kirby Holt (archives)
September 8, 2009
Kirby reviews the new DVD release of the live action film Bedknobs and Broomsticks: Enchanted Musical Edition.
Toon Talk: Disney Film and DVD Reviews
by Kirby C. Holt
 
 
BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS
Enchanted Musical Edition
 
Disney DVD
MPAA Rating: G

Broom With a View

In the wake of the overwhelming success of Mary Poppins, the Disney Studios tried on several occasions to catch that lightning in a bottle once again with a live action feature that combined magic and music in the same way their award-winning English nanny did. They came closest with another British period fantasy with a spell-casting leading lady, Bedknobs and Broomsticks (reissued on DVD this week in an “Enchanted Musical Edition”). Released in 1971, Bedknobs, while not quite the blockbuster that Poppins was, still captured the imaginations of audiences all over the world and even won an Academy Award for its special effects.

Hedging their bets, Disney rehired such Mary Poppins alum as director Robert Stevenson, screenwriters Bill Walsh and Don DaGradi (adapting the Mary Norton books The Magic Bed Knob; or, How to Become a Witch in Ten Easy Lessons and Bonfires and Broomsticks), songwriters Richard and Robert Sherman and, most fortuitously, actor David Tomlinson. So effective as the neglectful Mr. Banks, here he is cast against type as two-bit showman Professor Emelius Brown. Joining them was then two-time Tony Award winner Angela Lansbury as witch-in-training Eglantine Price. With that line up of talent, smooth sailing was expected for Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

However, the original release of Bedknobs was as bumpy as a ride on the story’s magical bed. Originally intended as a large-scale road show release along the lines of Poppins, its original running time was cut from approximately two-and-a-half hours to 117 minutes after its premiere, the reason being that a shorter film could have more showings per day. Gone were three whole musical numbers, a dance sequence and almost all of the third-billed Roddy McDowall’s scenes. This truncated version of Bedknobs is what most people have seen for more then 25 years …

That is, until 1997, when, for Bedknobs’ laserdisc release, almost all of the deleted scenes were found and restored, including the cut songs “With a Flair” and “Nobody’s Problems” and the extended dance break in “Portobello Road”. Some of the original dialogue tracks were still missing, so Lansbury and McDowall re-recorded their lines, joined by “sound alike” actors for the remaining parts. (As a result, you should be able to spot the restored scenes, especially when it comes to the ones featuring Emelius Brown; Jeff Bennett is an accomplished voice actor, but he sounds nothing like Tomlinson here.)

BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS
The Awards:

Academy Awards:

  • Best Art Direction - Set Decoration Nominee: John B. Mansbridge, Peter Ellenshaw, Emile Kuri and Hal Gausman
  • Best Costume Design Nominee: Bill Thomas
  • Best Music, Scoring Adaptation and Original Song Score Nominee: Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. Sherman and Irwin Kostal
  • Best Music, Original Song Nominee: “The Age of Not Believing”, Music and Lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman
  • Best Special Visual Effects Winner: Alan Maley, Eustace Lycett and Danny Lee.

Golden Globes:

  • Best Motion Picture Actress, Musical or Comedy Nominee: Angela Lansbury

Alas, the footage for another song, “A Step in the Right Direction”, has never been located and is presumed lost forever. For Bedknobs’ 30th anniversary DVD release in 2001, the number was reconstructed using the original soundtrack and production stills to show what the completed scene would have looked like. That bonus feature has been carried over to this new release, along with the restored feature film, clocking in at 139 minutes (if you care to see the original theatrical version, it still airs on Turner Classic Movies at least once a month).

Also recycled from the previous DVD is “Music Magic: The Sherman Brothers”, a featurette spotlighting the famous duo, who received Oscar nominations for their Bedknobs score and it’s signature song, “The Age of Not Believing”. Here you’ll learn that Bedknobs was the “back-up” project in case Mary Poppins’ picky author P.L. Travers turned Disney down and that “The Beautiful Briny” was originally written for an extended Poppins sequence that was cut. Speaking of cut: so is this feature, almost in half from the last release; sadly gone is a whole section on the film’s restoration.

In its place we are “treated” to the new “The Wizard of Special Effects”, ostensibly meant to explore the Oscar winning effects used on Bedknobs and Broomsticks but actually just a thinly-veiled promotion of The Disney Channel series The Wizard of Waverly Place; instead of the awkward “Enchanted Musical Edition”, perhaps they should have named it the “Wizardly Waverly Edition”. But wait, it gets worse.

Nestled in among the remaining bonus features (including four trailers and a brief look at a “Portobello Road” recording session) is an infomercial on how “Blu-ray is Suite”. No, that’s not a misspelling; “suite” as in The Suite Life of Zach and Cody, whose stars spend five minutes extolling the virtues of Blu-ray … oops, Disney Blu-ray. I don’t know what is more offensive, that Disney thinks this is a bonus feature or that we won’t notice that the movie in question (Bedknobs and Broomsticks) isn’t even on Blu-ray yet.

Until Bedknobs does go Blu (including, hopefully, both versions of the film), I would suggest either hunting down the 30th Anniversary DVD or hanging on to it if you already have it (even though the cover for this one is better); for while that edition rates a B+, the shameless shilling of this one knocks it down to a Toon Talk Rating of C-.

Coming Soon:

  • The toys are back in town … and in 3-D! The Pixar classics Toy Story and Toy Story 2 return to theaters for a special double feature engagement October 2.
  • Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure promises more Pixie Hollow adventures from our favorite pixie (Disney DVD, October 27).
  • “Out of the night, when the full moon is bright …” This year’s Walt Disney Treasures offers the first two seasons of Zorro (Disney DVD, November 3).

Discuss It

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-- Kirby C. Holt
-- Logos by William C. Searcy, Magic Bear Graphics

Kirby is a lifelong Disney fan and film buff. He is also an avid list maker and chronic ellipsis user ... In addition to his Toon Talk reviews, Kirby is the creator of Movie Dearest, a blog for movie fans.

Took Talk: Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt is posted whenever there's something new to review.

The opinions expressed by our Kirby C. Holt, and all of our columnists, do not necessarily represent the feelings of LaughingPlace.com or any of its employees or advertisers. All speculation and rumors about the future plans of the Walt Disney Company are just that - speculation and rumors - and should be treated as such.

-- Posted September 8, 2009
-- Kirby C. Holt
-- Logos by William C. Searcy, Magic Bear Graphics

 

 

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