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.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 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
Run Time: 1 Hr. 57 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copykeep case with a slipcover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 08/12/2014
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.
The Production Rating: 4/5
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.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
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.
Audio Rating: 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 NeverbeastDVD/Digital Copy: disc and code sheet enclosed in the case.
Special Features 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.
Overall Rating: 4/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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