Bedknobs and Broomsticks is a 1971 musical film produced by Buena Vista Distribution and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures which combines live action and animation and was released in North America on December 19, 1971. It is based upon the books The Magic Bed Knob; or, How to Become a Witch in Ten Easy Lessons and Bonfires and Broomsticks by Mary Norton, and stars Angela Lansbury and David Tomlinson.
The film has similarities to Mary Poppins (1964 ): combining live action and animation and partly set in the streets of London. It shares some of the cast, namely Tomlinson, supporting actor Reginald Owen, a similar fimcrew, songwriters the Sherman Brothers, director Robert Stevenson, art director Peter Ellenshaw, and music director Irwin Kostal.
During the 1940 London Blitz, a family of three siblings, Charlie, Carrie and Paul Rawlins, are evacuated to the small village of Pepperinge Eye. There, they are placed in the care of Eglantine Price, who reluctantly accepts the trio into her home. The children learn that Miss Price is an apprentice witch, who wants to use her witchcraft to aid the war effort. In exchange for their silence, Miss Price casts a spell on a bedknob that Paul removed from a brass bed in their room. When re-attached to the bed, it will travel anywhere that Paul asks.
Their first excursion is back to London, to locate the headmaster of Miss Price's correspondence school. There they meet Emelius Browne, in reality a con artist who created the Correspondence College of Witchcraft using what he believed were nonsense passages in an old book about a wizard named Astoroth. Browne is surprised to learn that the spells actually work for Miss Price.
Miss Price asks to see the book, and Emelius takes the group to an abandoned mansion where he is currently residing. While the children explore the home, Browne shows Miss Price the book, which is actually torn in half, thus explaining why he closed the college before sending out the final spell, one that Miss Price believes will greatly help her cause. Browne and Miss Price travel to Portobello Road with the children to search its many stalls and carts of old books.
But their search attracts the attention of a spiv named Swinburne, who works for a man known as the Bookman. Swinburne takes the entire group, including the magical bed, to see the Bookman, who is revealed to possess the other half of the book. Miss Price and the Bookman exchange their halves, but the completed text only says the spell is inscribed on a medallion known as the Star of Astoroth. Bookman tells the group that, during Astoroth's life, the wizard used his magic to imbue animals with anthropomorphism. However, the animals rebelled, stole many of his possessions and traveled to an unknown island. When Bookman names the island, Paul realizes it's the island described in a children's book he took from Browne's house. Bookman asks Paul to give the book to him but Paul refuses.
Before Bookman can get the book, Miss Price, Browne and the children escape on the magical bed and travel to the island, Naboombu. Initially landing in a nearby lagoon, where the whole crew go underneath the beautiful briny sea, where both Eglantine and Emelius win a dance contest at an underwater night club, until the bed, with the children on it, is caught by a bear that is fishing in the lagoon. The bear reveals that no people are meant to be on the island by order of the king. The bear leads the party to meet the island's king, a lion (Who's voice is an imitation of the actor Robert Newton), The king is upset because nobody has volunteered to referee a royal soccer match. Browne convinces the king he can referee the match, and he observes the Star of Astoroth hanging on the king's neck. The game becomes a silly contest among the animals, where the rules are made up on the spot, and Emelius tries in vain to grab the Medallion off the king, while being knocked down repeatedly by the animals. Following the game, Mr. Browne secretly switches the Star with his referee's whistle. Sulfurous, the king ran after them to get it back. But Miss Price turns him into a rabbit.
The group use the bed to return home, only to discover that the Star has disappeared, as it cannot leave the fantasy world. Fortunately, Paul reveals that the words of the “substitutiary locomotion” spell have been in his book all along. Miss Price attempts the spell, which gives inanimate objects the ability to move on their own, but is unable to control it. That night, a German raiding party invades Pepperinge Eye and commandeers Miss Price's house. She and the children are captured and taken to the village museum inside the old castle.
Mr. Browne, while waiting overnight at the station for the first train to London, discovers other Germans engaging in acts of sabotage. He returns to Miss Price's home and breaks into her workshop. But the Germans hear the noise so he uses a spell to turn himself into a rabbit. He then joins group at the castle. After reverting to human form, Mr. Browne suggests the substitutiary locomotion spell be cast on the old uniforms and weapons in the castle. Miss Price agrees and uses the spell to create a magical army of medieval knights, Elizabethan Guards, Cavaliers, Redcoats, and Highlanders.
The Germans, unable to stop the seemingly invincible army, retreat back into the sea but not before destroying Miss Price's workshop. The explosion knocks her from the sky, where she had been directing the magical attack astride a flying broomstick, breaking the spell. The next morning, Mr. Browne enlists and departs (with an escort from the local chapter of the Home Guard) while Paul reveals he still has the magical bedknob, implying that they can at least go anywhere they like.
The voices of:
Bedknobs and Broomsticks was originally intended to be a large-scale epic holiday release similar to Mary Poppins, but after its premiere, it was shortened from its two and a half-hour length (while the liner notes on the soundtrack reissue in 2002 claims it was closer to three hours) to a more manageable (to movie theatres) two hours. Along with a minor subplot involving Roddy McDowall's character, three songs were removed entirely, and the central dance number "Portobello Road" was shortened by more than six minutes.
Upon rediscovering the removed song "A Step in the Right Direction" on the original soundtrack album, Disney decided to reconstruct the film's original running length. Most of the film material was found, but some segments of "Portobello Road" had to be reconstructed from work prints with digital re-coloration to match the film quality of the main content. The footage for "A Step in the Right Direction" was never located; as of 2009, it remains lost. A reconstruction of "A Step in the Right Direction", using the original music track linked up to existing production stills, was included on the DVD as an extra to convey an idea of what the lost sequence would have looked like. The edit included several newly discovered songs, including "Nobody's Problems", performed by Lansbury. The number had been cut before the premiere of the film. Lansbury had only made a demo recording, singing with a solo piano because the orchestrations would have been added when the picture wa the new material. The extended version of the film was originally released on laserdisc in 1996, and on DVD in 2001 for the 30th anniversary of the film.
The reconstruction additionally marks the first time the film was presented in stereophonic sound. Although the musical score was recorded in stereo, and the soundtrack album was presented that way, the film was released in mono sound.
A shorter version of the movie was reissued theatrically on April 13, 1979, removing all songs, excluding "Portobello Road" and "Beautiful Briny Sea". Even the Oscar nominated song "Age of Not Believing" was removed.
A new edition DVD called Bedknobs and Broomsticks: Enchanted Musical Edition was released on September 8, 2009. This new single-disc edition contains a new digitally restored and remastered version of the film, the Sherman Brothers Featurette (available on the old DVD), a new Special Effects documentary and the lost song "A Step in the Right Direction".
Awards and nominationsEdit
- Best Visual Effects (won) (Alan Maley, Eustace Lycett, and Danny Lee)
- Best Art Direction (John B. Mansbridge, Peter Ellenshaw, Emile Kuri and Hal Gausman, Nicholas and Alexandra won)
- Best Costume Design (Nicholas and Alexandra won)
- Best Scoring Adaptation and Original Song Score (Fiddler on the Roof won)
- Best Original Song for "The Age of Not Believing" ("the Theme from Shaft" won)
|Bedknobs and Broomsticks|
House of Mouse
Characters: Miss Eglantine Price | Professor Emelius Brown | Carrie | Charles | Paul | Mrs. Hobday | General Teagler | Captain Greer | Bookman | Swinburne | King Leonidas | Mr. Codfish | Secretary Bird | Bear (Bedknobs and Broomsticks) | Vultures | Rhinoceros | Crocodile | Hyena | Warthog | Gorilla | Ostrich | Hippopotamus | Kangaroo | Cheetah | Elephant | Mr. Jelk | Cosmic Creepers | Nazis