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    Bedknobs and Broomsticks Blu-ray Review

    Blu-ray Disney

    Aug 01 2014 01:45 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    Robert Stevenson’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks marked quite an advance in quality and entertainment value on the earlier two Disney musicals produced in the wake of the fabulous success of Mary Poppins: The Happiest Millionaire and The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band. Its score is more memorable, its stars are quite at home with singing and dancing, and the magic in its make-up, while not quite matching Poppins in thrills and originality, certainly hold the attention and offer lots of giggles and glee. The original theatrical release offered in this new Blu-ray package isn’t going to please those who have become accustomed to and have a great appreciation for the 24 minutes-longer “roadshow” cut from the last DVD release, but many of the film’s strengths are still in evidence here, and most of the pieces missing from the previous release can be found in HD quality in the bonus section.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: Disney
    • Distributed By: N/A
    • Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
    • Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD
    • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
    • Rating: G
    • Run Time: 1 Hr. 57 Min.
    • Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy
    • Case Type: keep case with a slipcover
    • Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    • Region: ABC
    • Release Date: 08/12/2014
    • MSRP: $29.99

    The Production Rating: 4/5

    With World War II in its first year and the coast of England constantly on guard for attacks from the Germans, many English children were sent from frequently bombed London to the country for safety, and three orphans Charlie (Ian Weighill), Paul (Roy Snart), and Carrie (Cindy O'Callaghan) are billeted with Eglantine Price (Angela Lansbury) who they learn is actually an apprentice witch studying from a correspondence course offered by Emelius Browne (David Tomlinson). As with any apprentice, Eglantine makes mistakes, but she’s absolutely desperate to retrieve the information for the final spell in her course that will allow her the ability to make inanimate objects move – substitutionary locomotion which she then plans to use to help defend the coast of England from invaders. To get the spell, she, Emelius, and the children go on a series of adventures which takes them everywhere from Portobello Road to the depths of the sea to learn the five magic words which will make the spell work.

    Based on the novel by Mary Norton, the screenplay by Bill Walsh and Don DaGradi is workmanlike if a trifle slow to get going. Once the children and their new witchy guardian start journeying to various locales via their magical flying brass bed, the film’s lyrical magic takes full flight and never flags again. Angela Lansbury’s lovely Oscar-nominated ballad (written, as are all of the songs, by Richard and Robert Sherman) “The Age of Not Believing” invites us to let down our guards and accept the fantasy to come, and this invitation takes us to an extended “Portobello Road” production number which even in its truncated form offers a delightful variety of dance styles and variations on the tuneful ditty (choreography by Donald McKayle). With the magnificent reception to the live action/animation sequence “Jolly Holiday” in Poppins, the filmmakers go a similar route here with the “Beautiful Briny Sea” number, partly under the sea (though even underwater everyone seems able to breathe perfectly and remain completely dry) and later in a riotous if somewhat elongated soccer match which poor, maligned Emelius referees. The film’s climactic face-off between the Germans and Eglantine’s magically resuscitated army is quite the delightful action sequence directed with spirit by Robert Stevenson (who had also helmed Mary Poppins to box-office record acclaim) and no doubt contributing to the film’s only Oscar win for its special effects. It also earned nominations for its production design and costumes.

    After conquering Broadway with two Tony wins in the musicals Mame and Dear World, it was brilliant casting to bring Angela Lansbury back to the movies as a musical leading lady after years of toiling in features in mostly heavy dramas, and she handles the songs and dances with great aplomb if lacking perhaps just the slightest bit of magical twinkle. David Tomlinson takes on a character quite a world removed from the uptight Mr. Banks of Mary Poppins as the slick if slightly tatty street magician Emelius Browne, and he remains quite a bit more appealing here than he was in the earlier film and shows off his singing voice in this movie with much more security than before, too. The children Cindy O'Callaghan, Ian Weighill, and Roy Snart all do their chores professionally, but an array of great character performers mostly gets precious little time to show their stuff. Sam Jaffe as a bookseller gets perhaps the best chance, but Roddy McDowall, Bruce Forsyth, Tessie O'Shea, and Reginald Owen have few opportunities to shine (though McDowall’s best stuff was the victim of the editor’s scissors). John Ericson has some fun as the befuddled German officer in command of the scouting party.
    Traveling Spell


    Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA

    The film is presented here with the aspect ratio of 1.66:1 and is offered in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. It’s a beautiful presentation of this classic film with sharpness excellent and color wonderfully rich with realistic and appealing skin tones. If contrast occasionally gets extreme in trying to portray fogbound England, it’s not really detrimental to the final look of the movie, and black levels are very good indeed. The film has been divided into 18 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 4/5

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix does justice to the delightful Oscar-nominated song score even if the ambient sound effects don’t get the wide spread or resonance through the soundstage that a modern musical film like Enchanted would command. Dialogue and song lyrics have been expertly recorded and have been placed in the center channel.

    Special Features: 4/5

    Music Magic: The Sherman Brothers (20:42, SD): those not in the know may be confused by this bonus feature in which Richard and Robert Sherman, restorer Scott McQueen, and star Angela Lansbury extol the virtues of the newly reconstructed version of the film present on the disc. (Of course, this bonus was prepared for the last DVD release which did present the extended version of the movie.) The longer version of the film is not present on this Blu-ray release.

    Deleted and Extended Songs (23:54, HD): five song sequences either cut wholly or in part are presented here: “A Step in the Right Direction” reconstruction (3:09), “With a Flair” (4:18), “Eglantine” (3:42), “Portobello Road” (10:50), “Nobody’s Problems” (1:23).

    Deleted and Extended Scenes (10:06, HD): the eight sequences may be watched in montage or individually.

    David Tomlinson Recording Session (1:10, SD)

    Song Selection (20:40, HD): the film’s six song sequences may be watched individually or together and with or without sing along song lyrics provided in subtitles.

    The Wizards of Special Effects (8:06, SD): Jennifer Stone hosts a look at the differences between special effects done in the era of Bedknobs and Broomsticks and today’s The Wizards of Waverly Place by interviewing effects historians Les Perkins and Greg Kimble and her own show’s John Allison.

    Theatrical Trailers (9:09, SD): four trailers may be watched separately or in montage.

    Promo Trailers (HD): Sleeping Beauty, Legend of the Neverbeast

    DVD/Digital Copy: disc and code sheet enclosed in the case.

    Overall Rating: 4/5

    Fans of Bedknobs and Broomsticks are going to be understandably perturbed by the lack of seamless branching in order to offer both the theatrical and extended cuts of this classic Disney musical. This release does offer wonderful picture and sound in high definition of the theatrical cut and comes with a recommendation for that even with a strong exclamation of disappointment that both versions of the movie weren’t made available for completists.

    Reviewed by: Matt Hough
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    73 Comments

    Thanks Matt! I am looking forward to receiving my copy from The Disney Movie Club. I'll be having friends over for a special screening.

    I'm going to save my money here.

    Thanks for the review, Matt. I know it's an unpopular opinion around here, but I actually prefer the 117-minute cut (although I think a 130-or-so-minute cut probably would have been perfect; alas, we'll never know).

     

    That said, there is no reason the 139-minute version couldn't have been presented also. Even if seamless branching would have been too tricky due to some of the smaller additions and audio differences, I think this film has enough of a cult following to have made a 2-BD set reasonable.

     

    Even odder is bringing back the Scott MacQueen portions of the making-of featurette, referring to a version that's not on the release.

     

    Strange, strange decision. (And of course, though expected, the exclusion of the original mono soundtrack is also disappointing).

    It seems weird to include a special feature praising the special extended version of the film, without actually including that version of the film.  I don't quite get that choice.

    Now Warner should release the 154 minute cut of A STAR IS BORN, Sony/Columbia should give us the 180 minute version of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and Fox should offer the 180 minute edit of CLEOPATRA.

     

    The whole point of the restoration done twenty years ago on this title was to repair the ravages done by the marketing department on its initial release.  Why this cut of the film should come back from the dead to haunt us now is beyond me.

     

    But to those who prefer this cut, enjoy!  I'll be watching my DVD.

    The UK DVD version of the "Enchanted Musical Edition" was also the shorter version - despite holding all the extras from the US disc.  

     

    http://www.amazon.co...ywords=bedknobs

    I still don't understand why they went to the trouble of doing clean-up work and to make the cut-again scenes look and sound as good as the rest of the film and not have a way to seamlessly branch them back into the film. Was that really beyond their capabilities and budget? Probably not. It would have cost nothing other than the time it takes in authoring to create the buttons and paths.

     

    And the "Music Magic" featurette is a cut-down version of something that was shown longer on The Disney Channel in 1998. It extolls a version of the film you can't watch on the disc. The extra footage seen on TDC supposedly included Roddy McDowall and Ward Kimball talking about the film at that AMPAS screening.

     

    No uncut version = no sale. No excuses, no exceptions.

    It's so, so sad.  From the moment this title was first announced I was literally jumping for joy.  "Bedknobs" on Blu!  I never thought it would happen.  Funny, because, in essence it still hasn't.

    Now Warner should release the 154 minute cut of A STAR IS BORN, Sony/Columbia should give us the 180 minute version of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and Fox should offer the 180 minute edit of CLEOPATRA.

     

    The whole point of the restoration done twenty years ago on this title was to repair the ravages done by the marketing department on its initial release.  Why this cut of the film should come back from the dead to haunt us now is beyond me.

     

    But to those who prefer this cut, enjoy!  I'll be watching my DVD.

     

    Same here. No sale. Sad.

    This is just a travesty - period. The extended cut was in fact the way Disney Inc. had intended to showcase the movie at Radio City for the Christmas release - edited at the last minute to accommodate Radio City's live Christmas show and thus fit in more screenings.

     

    I'm not surprised. Disney's current management isn't thinking ahead AT all. Lest we forget, here is a regime that gave us Pretty Woman in an extended cut on DVD then reissued the film on Blu-ray within months, but only in the theatrical edit. There's a difference, I suppose. While the edited cut of Pretty Woman was the one its director intended for general release, the shorter version of Bedknobs WAS NOT!!!

     

    Losing the Portabello Road and Nobody's Problem numbers alone is enough of an outrage to say to everyone - THIS DISC SHOULD NOT BE ON YOUR MUST HAVE LIST!!!

     

    Getting Disney to pull this and reissue it at some later date with a properly minted 2 version edition would definitely be "a step in the right direction!" As it stands, no - I won't be buying this one. Not now. Not ever!!! I still have my DVD. 

    I'm not waiting for another release and will be buying it for my wife for Christmas as it is a favourite of hers.

    Buy this, and this is how every future release will turn out. The phrase "behavior that is rewarded will be repeated" comes to mind.

     

    In the meantime, here's the email I sent to Leonard Maltin:

     

    Mr. Maltin,I enjoy reading your blog and learning new things I never knew about the movies of the past and present, and I was a big fan of the Walt Disney Treasures discs you were involved with. Disney is releasing Bedknobs and Broomsticks on Blu-ray on August 12, but only in the 117-minute version; the 22 minutes of scenes restored to the film in 1996 were taken out again and put in a supplement section, though they took the time to present them in HD. There is no seamless branching option to watch the 139-minute reconstruction. Since you had some interesting comments on the film in The Disney Films, I wonder if you had any opinion on Disney's decision to do this. And what did you do to get the "special thanks to" credit in the reconstruction?Thanks for your time,Matthew A

    I'm not waiting for another release and will be buying it for my wife for Christmas as it is a favourite of hers.

    I've read that BB is selling this title for $17.99 next week which means Amazon will probably price match.  Don't know how that affects you in the UK.

    Was planning to get this but I will pass and stick with the DVD.

    I'll hang on to my 139 min DVD version as the cut material adds so much to the poorly cut "theatrical" version. A hack job done to fit into a Radio City Music Hall Christmas presentation on its premier. Was really looking forward to this but I'm getting use to dissapointments from Disney. They always take the cheapest non-3D presentation while continuing to have the highest pricing. To bad :(

    Yeah. No sale here, sorry to say.

    Today I called 1-800-72-DISNEY in order to get some answers, which of course I didn't get, but I did get a very polite operator who said she would take my message to whoever she's supposed to take it to. Then there was a survey where you voted on how well the operator did her job, and after that they let you leave a message.

     

    The operator also gave me a second address to write to: PO Box 3100, Neenah, Wisconsin 54957.

    Neenah, Wisconsin?  If I were a more cynical person...

    Is that the address of an abandoned warehouse or a city dump? 

    It reminds me of all those contests The Disney Channel used to have that required self-addressed stamped envelopes to some PO Box in Blair, Nebraska.

    Google says Matthew's address is the Disney Disc Replacement Center, so I think it should be legit.

    I fell in love with the theatrical release of this film and have no problem in getting it as an upgrade in PQ.

     

    I also saw the extended cut at the Academy with Lansbury in attendance. It was a special evening and I enjoyed the reconstruction and bought the dvd.

     

    Disney definitely should have put it in with the suggested seamless branching--BUT I personally think there is a certain amount of excessiveness in the extra length that isn't required to love the film...particularly for younger viewers.

    Most of us were brought up on the 117-minute cut, but the extended version is like discovering a whole new chapter of your favourite book.  

    This reminds me of the "Pocahontas" Blu-ray release which omitted the restored "If I Never Knew You" song and it's reprise. I know you can't compare a four minute song to what's happened here, but a lot of us which were fans of the restored 2005 DVD still felt just about as upset. As is the case here, the restored footage was presented in HD on the Blu-ray ... but only available via the "Deleted Scenes" supplement. It was frustrating to the extreme. At least I still own the 2005 DVD.

    Disney definitely should have put it in with the suggested seamless branching--BUT I personally think there is a certain amount of excessiveness in the extra length that isn't required to love the film...particularly for younger viewers.

     

    I'm not entirely convinced that kids won't sit through long movies. Avatar, the highest-grossing film of all-time, is three hours long, almost long as the previous record-holder, Titanic. At one point, The Godfather was the record-holder, and before that it was The Sound of Music, which in turn replaced Gone With the Wind. All those movies are longer than 139 minutes.

     

    As for specific things that are better in the longer cut, "Eglantine" is just warming up in the theatrical cut when it ends abruptly after its second chorus. All the stuff with Miss Price's pointed response to Mr. Browne, particularly when she sings "I have always had a bit of a knack for witchcraft," is gone. Even the visual imagery reinstated to "Portobello Road" adds depth to the characterization; Miss Price rejects the fancies and fineries of ages when Mr. Browne puts them on her, but Carrie loves them. Cutting out most of Mrs. Hobday's scenes was even more detrimental than doing the same to Roddy McDowall's. The relationship subplot is more credible with the initial meeting between Mrs. Hobday and Mr. Browne included. It makes one understand his fear of commitment, especially to a woman he's just met. And without "Nobody's Problems For Me," Miss Price seems not to be affected by Mr. Browne's departure in any way. It's a beautiful, beautiful song, but apparently it got cut before anything else did, and while the fact that the orchestra track is a re-recording is obvious, Disney Magazine claims Irwin Kostal did the actual orchestrations. Some people at the studio seemed to have a bias against ballads, at least in Richard M. Sherman's opinion. Yet those often ended up being the ones that got submitted to the Oscar nomination committee.

     

    Radio City Music Hall has gotten most of the blame for the cuts, but the studio didn't put up much of a fight. And would the Music Hall really give up a Disney film even if the studio had stood their ground and tried to call their bluff? And then there's the fact that they made even more cuts in 1979, after they stopped regular film exhibition because their G-only policy backfired on them. Interestingly enough, the attraction for Christmas 1972 was 1776. :D