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Robert Stevenson
Angela Lansbury, David Tomlinson, Roddy McDowall, Sam Jaffe, John Ericson, Bruce Forsyth, Cindy O'Callaghan, Roy Snart, Ian Weighill, Tessie O'Shea, Arthur Gould-Porter, Ben Wrigley
Writing Credits:
Ralph Wright (animation story), Ted Berman (animation story), Bill Walsh, Don DaGradi, Mary Norton (book, "Bed-Knob and Broomstick")

You'll beWITCHED! You'll beDAZZLED! You'll be swept into a world of enchantment BEYOND ANYTHING BEFORE!

Bedknobs And Broomsticks is a delightful Disney production that combines live-action and animated sequences. A novice witch aids the British forces during WWII with the help of her young sidekicks. Along the way, they travel to a mystical land inhabited by talking animals where they must take possession of an amulet that holds the key to defeating the bad guys.

Box Office:
$20 million.

Rated G

Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 117 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 8/12/2014

• “The Wizards of Special Effects” Featurette
• “Music Magic: The Sherman Brothers” Featurette
• “A Step in the Right Direction” Reconstruction
• David Tomlinson “Portobello Road” Recording Session
• Deleted/Extended Scenes and Songs
• “Sing Along With the Movie”
• “Disney Song Selection”
• Previews and Trailers
• DVD Copy


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Bedknobs And Broomsticks [Blu-Ray] (1971)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 4, 2014)

Many people view 1971’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks as a poor cousin to Mary Poppins, and the comparisons between the two seem quite logical. Both offer musicals in which a) a magical woman cares for - and straightens out - some mildly problematic kids and b) animation gets combined with live-action footage.

In addition, Robert Stevenson directed both, Bill Walsh and Don DaGradi wrote both, and the Sherman brothers composed songs for both. Indeed, the two projects boast so much in common that when the production of 1964’s Poppins looked iffy due to rights questions, Bedknobs got prepped as its alternate.

Obviously things went forward with Poppins, so Bedknobs had to remain in the bullpen for another seven years. When it appeared, it did decently except for the ignominious fate due to those inevitable comparisons. While I realize the film warrants them, Bedknobs nonetheless deserves positive attention of its own, for it’s actually an entertaining and winning effort.

In 1940, German bombings threaten the safety of London residents, so the city’s children are shipped to the country to keep them from the danger. Despite her protestations, eccentric single woman Eglantine Price (Angela Lansbury) takes in three kids: oldest Charlie (Ian Weighill), middle Carrie (Cindy O’Callaghan), and youngest Paul (Roy Smart). They aren’t too eager to be with her either, and - spurred by cynical little Charlie - they immediately hatch a plan to escape back to London.

However, the kids - and the audience - soon learn that Miss Price is no ordinary spinster. Indeed, she’s a full-fledged witch, or at least a trainee who still needs to finish a lesson or two from her correspondence course. In any case, the kids decide to stick with Eglantine, largely because Charlie figures he can blackmail her; the other two - especially Paul - seem more eager to have a stable place to stay.

Apparently due to wartime concerns, Professor Emelius Browne (David Tomlinson) doesn’t send Eglantine’s final lesson, so she uses her traveling spell to whisk the kids and herself to London to find him. Method of transportation: bed, as operated by the knob. (Hence part of the movie’s title; the “broomstick” only comes into play a couple of times during the film and it less important than the “bedknob”.) Once there, they find Browne and embark on a journey to discover the secret to “substitutiary locomotion”, a spell that Eglantine hopes will sway the war effort to the side of the Allies.

One way in which Bedknobs differentiates itself from Poppins stems from its storyline: it actually has one. Poppins was more a conglomeration of different episodes linked together by the overall theme, whereas in Bedknobs, the film always goes forward in search of that “subtitutiary locomotion” spell.

Granted, it takes about 800 sidetrips along the way, so Bedknobs will never be accused of being a terribly plot-driven movie, but at least it attempts to create a coherent narrative. Many Disney films from this one’s era feel like little more than compendiums of unrelated skits, so it’s nice to see a flick that tries to form a true story.

Also in the “positive” category are the cast of Bedknobs. While none of the adult actors truly distinguish themselves, they seem more than adequate for the roles. However, I must note that Roddy McDowall appears wasted as Mr. Jelk, the local vicar. He has little to do and shows no obvious reason for existing at all; the character could have been completely cut from the movie and no one ever would have noticed.

I was rather impressed by the children of Bedknobs, or at least the boys. Middle children usually get the shaft, and Carrie’s no exception, as poor O’Callaghan doesn’t get to do much in the film. As wily Charlie, Weighill provides appropriate levels of duplicity and cynicism, and Smart offers a charming but not excessively saccharine portrait of innocent little Paul.

British child actors usually seem much more believable and “normal” than American kids; the Brits often lack many of the cutesy and cloying qualities of our tots, which makes them much more enjoyable to watch. These kids add a lot to the film and give it an edge it easily could have lacked.

As for the remainder of the production, it seems eminently adequate. The quest for the magic spell becomes exceedingly muddled along the way, as it gets bogged down by side treks and musical numbers.

The latter were a minor nuisance in my opinion. About a half an hour passes in Bedknobs before we hit the first true musical bit, but after that, the tunes come at a more rapid pace, and some of them go on too long. I feel the story is confused enough as it was; the song and dance bits just make matters really drag.

Still, the songs themselves aren’t bad. The Shermans didn’t outdo themselves here, but the tunes are generally tolerable and don’t bother me too much.

Most of Bedknobs and Broomsticks provides a fun excursion. It doesn’t belong among the best Disney offers, but it’s generally entertaining, and considering the poor quality of most Seventies work from the studio - such as the abysmal Pete’s Dragon - “generally entertaining” is more than acceptable.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus C+

Bedknobs and Broomsticks appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Despite the limitations of the source, this became an appealing presentation.

Sharpness seemed fine. A little softness stemmed from the mix of effects/optical shots, but those instances remained inevitable and didn’t distract. Instead, the majority of the flick showed nice clarity and delineation.

No issues with jagged edges or shimmering appeared, and edge enhancement appeared to be absent. Print flaws also failed to mar the presentation. The movie came with a fair amount of grain – another factor exacerbated by all the effects components – but issues like specks and marks didn’t cause problems.

Colors looked pretty nice. The grain could tone them down somewhat, but they usually deliver solid range and vivacity. Blacks were dark and deep, while shadows seemed smooth and clear. The transfer brought the film to life in a satisfying manner.

I also felt pleased with the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Bedknobs. The soundfield presented a modest environment, but it seemed fine for a film of this vintage. Music mainly benefited from the multi-channel treatment, as the songs and score indeed offered decent stereo separation. Even with that, most of the mix stayed anchored in the center.

Audio quality seemed typical for the period but presented no serious problems. Speech appeared a bit thin and flat, but dialogue was consistently clear and intelligible, even in the face of the various accents. Effects were also somewhat dull and they generally lacked dynamic range; I heard a little rumble during the soccer game, but that was an exception. Nonetheless, the effects came across as acceptably clean and accurate for the era.

Music worked best, as the score and songs demonstrated nice range. Neither element transcended its age, but those components seemed pretty perky and full. While the mix showed its age, I thought it satisfied.

How did this Blu-ray compare to the Special Edition DVD from 2009? Audio was peppier and more dynamic, though it did lack some of the side/surround material found on the DVD; for instance, the soccer match seemed more restricted here in terms of speaker usage. Visuals looked tighter, brighter and cleaner. Even with the restrained soundscape, this was a considerable improvement over the DVD’s quality, mainly due to the superior picture quality.

One major change from the DVD versions to the Blu-ray relates to the cut of the film itself. The DVDs restored Bedknobs to the filmmakers’ preferred 140-minute length, while the Blu-ray gives us the original 117-minute theatrical release.

That creates a disappointment. On one hand, I can’t complain that we get the theatrical cut, as I think the version an audience originally saw should be part of the package. However, the longer cut should’ve been here as well, especially since it’s the one fans have enjoyed on DVD for years now.

When we shift to extras, we open with Music Magic: The Sherman Brothers, a featurette that apparently ran on the Disney Channel. This 20-minute and 42-second program mainly chats with composers Robert and Richard Sherman as they discuss their music for the film, with a primary focus on songs cut from the original release. In addition, we learn more about the production from Angela Lansbury, and the piece also offers a nice mix of production art and behind the scenes footage. It’s a solid little program that includes some good information about the movie.

One fun snippet appears in the guise of a David Tomlinson Recording Session. This 70-second clip shows Tomlinson as he croons a few bars of “Portobello Road” with the guidance of arranger/conductor Irwin Kostal.

It’s a neat look at this element, though unfortunately the original audio doesn’t survive. Instead, the finished track gets played over the piece, so we can’t hear the short discussion between Kostal and Richard Sherman at the end. Still, it’s a cool addition to the disc.

Next we shift to The Wizards of Special Effects. Hosted by Disney Channel actor Jennifer Stone, the eight-minute and six-second show features comments from Disney historian Les Perkins, visual effects historian Greg Kimble, and visual effects supervisor John Allison. They tell us a little about the effects of Bedknobs and compare them to more modern techniques. We get a smidgen of good info here, but the program usually feels more like a promo for Stone’s series.

Two areas look at cut footage. We find five Deleted and Extended Songs (23:54) as well as eight Deleted and Extended Scenes (10:06). I suspect a fair amount of this footage showed up in the longer version of the film I discussed earlier, though we get some pieces that never made the movie, such as the reconstruction of a cut songs called “A Step in the Right Direction”. I’m happy to get this unused material but still disappointed the Blu-ray left out the movie’s extended version.

Two features concentrate on music. Disney Song Selection acts as a form of chapter search that lets you access any of the movie’s six songs – or run them one after another via “Play All”. Sing Along with the Movie provides on-screen lyrics for the tunes. Of course, so does the standard subtitle option, but who am I to quibble?

We get four theatrical trailers for Bedknobs, the first three of which seem to have accompanied the movie’s initial release in 1971. While the fourth doesn’t mention a reissue, I have the feeling it comes from a later re-release, especially since it plays off of the famous “you’ll believe a man can fly” tagline of 1978’s Superman.

The disc opens with ads for Sleeping Beauty and Legend of the Neverbeast. Sneak Peeks adds a promo for Disneynature: Bears.

A second disc provides a DVD copy of Bedknobs. This delivers the film’s theatrical version and lacks any extras other than four trailers. If the Blu-ray won’t include the extended cut, why not include it on a DVD? It stinks that Disney didn’t even bother to throw in already-existing DVDs for fans who want both versions.

Despite my less-than-enthusiastic general opinion of Disney’s live-action films, I find Bedknobs and Broomsticks to provide an entertaining experience. The movie features a muddled but fun narrative plus some positive performances to create an enjoyable movie. The Blu-ray offers very good picture and audio along with a decent set of supplements. I remain disappointed that the Blu-ray lacks the movie’s extended version, but I feel pleased with the manner in which it presents theatrical cut, as it looks/sounds better than ever.

To rate this film, visit the original review of BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main