Bedknobs and Broomsticks is a 1971 American musical film produced by Walt Disney Productions and released by Buena Vista Distribution Company in North America on December 13, 1971. It is based upon the books The Magic Bed Knob; or, How to Become a Witch in Ten Easy Lessons (1943) and Bonfires and Broomsticks (1945) by English children's author Mary Norton. The film, which combines live action and animation, stars Angela Lansbury and David Tomlinson.
The film is frequently compared to Mary Poppins (1964): combining live action and animation and partly set in the streets of London. It shares some of the cast from Mary Poppins, namely Tomlinson, supporting actor Reginald Owen (in his last film role) and Arthur Malet, (Restored Version Only) a similar filmcrew, songwriters the Sherman Brothers, director Robert Stevenson, art director Peter Ellenshaw, and music director Irwin Kostal.
According to film critic Leonard Maltin's book Disney Films, Leslie Caron, Lynn Redgrave, Judy Carne, and Julie Andrews were all considered for the role of Eglantine Price before the Disney studio decided on Angela Lansbury. David Tomlinson replaced Ron Moody as Emelius Brown due to Moody's busy schedule. The film received generally positive reviews from critics, scoring 66% on Rotten Tomatoes, and won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. This was the last film released prior to the death of Walt Disney's surviving brother, Roy O. Disney, who died one week later.
During the Blitz, the Rawlins children, Charlie, Carrie, and Paul, are evacuated to the Dorset village of Pepperinge Eye. They are placed in the care of Eglantine Price, a reclusive woman who reluctantly takes them in. Ms. Price is actually an apprentice witch and a student of the Correspondence College of Witchcraft, hoping her magic can bring the war to an end. She receives a broomstick from the college, though her attempt to fly it ends with her crashlanding. The children observe her, Charlie challenging her skills, prompting Ms. Price to briefly transform him into a white rabbit, and being chased by Ms. Price's Cat "Cosmic Creepers". Cosmic Creepers corners Charlie, but Charlie reverts to his normal form before he is harmed. Deciding to form an agreement with the children, Ms. Price enchants a bedknob, which will transport them to any location when attached to her father's antique bed, giving ownership to Paul.
Ms. Price receives a letter reporting the college has been closed down, forcing her to go to London to speak with the college's headmaster Emelius Browne. Convincing Paul to help her, the children use the bed to travel to London, where they meet Mr. Browne, actually a charismatic con artist who found some apparently meaningless formulas in a very old spellbook and turned them into an imaginary educational course. Ms. Price asks for the final spell of the course, so the elated Mr. Browne, believing his spells were fake, invites her to an abandoned mansion he is occupying. Mr. Browne gives the spellbook to Ms. Price, but it the second half is missing. The group go to Portobello Road where they search for the other half of the book, attracting the attention of a spiv named Swinburne.
Swinburne takes them to see his associate, the Bookman, who has the other half of the book. Ms. Price and the Bookman examine the book but find out that the final spell is missing. The Bookman explains the book's author, a sorcerer named Astaroth, used his magic to give wild animals anthropomorphism, only for them to kill him and steal the source of his magic, a medallion called the "Star of Astoroth". The animals sailed to the Isle of Naboombu, believed to not exist until Paul reveals it does, proved in a storybook he has. Ms. Price's group escape on the bed before the Bookman can stop them. The group crashland in the animated world of Naboombu, travelling through the lagoon until fished out by a bear, learning no humans are allowed on the island. Mr. Browne speaks with King Leonidas, a lion who is a soccer fanatic and wears the Star of Astaroth, offering to act as referee in an upcoming soccer match.
Mr. Browne participates in the chaotic match, which ends with the king's self-proclaimed victory. Mr. Browne secretly steals the Star, and Ms. Price has to turn Leonidas into a rabbit to make their escape back home, but they discover the Star has vanished before they can read the spell. Paul spots the incantation for the Substituiary Locomotion spell, able to animate inanimate objects, within his book. Ms. Price tests the spell on Mr. Browne's shoes, but its power animates other clothes. Mrs. Jessica Hobday, organizer for the children's refuge, visits and tells Ms. Price that the Rawlings can be moved, but Ms. Price declines. Mr. Browne grows worried he is becoming too attached to Ms. Price and the children, and departs for London, only to sleep at the railway station to wait for the next train.
A Nazi raiding party sneak onto the coast and occupy Ms. Price's house, placing her and the children in a local weaponry museum. Mr. Browne sneaks into the house, using magic to turn himself into a rabbit, and joins the others in the museum. Ms. Price uses Substituiary Locomotion to animate the museum's displays, and leads an army of medieval knights, Cavalier, Redcoat, and Highlander costumes upon the Nazis. The army, unharmed by gunfire, quickly overwhelms the Nazis. Surmising Ms. Price's workshop is the source of her magic, the Nazi commander destroys it with explosions, knocking Ms. Price off her broomstick and the army collapses. The Nazis retreat to the sea, with the local Home Guard firing at them as they flee.
Though disappointed her witchcraft is gone, Ms. Price expresses happiness she did help out in the war effort. Shortly after, Mr. Browne enlists into the British Army and marches off with the Home Guard escorting him, while Paul reveals he still possesses the enchanted bedknob.
Angela Lansbury as Ms. Eglantine Price,
David Tomlinson as Mr. Emelius Browne,
Ian Weighill as Charles "Charlie" Rawlins,
Cindy O'Callaghan as Carrie Rawlins,
Roy Snart as Paul Rawlins,
Roddy McDowall as Mr. Rowan Jelk,
Sam Jaffe as Bookman,
Bruce Forsyth as Swinburne,
Tessie O'Shea as Mrs. Jessica Hobday,
John Ericson as Colonel Heller,
Reginald Owen as Major General Sir Brian Teagler,
Arthur Gould-Porter as Captain Greer,
Hank Worden as A Old Home Guard Soldier (uncredited),
Cyril Delevanti as Elderly farmer,
Lennie Weinrib as King Leonidas, Secretary Bird,
Dallas McKennon as Bear,
Bob Holt as Codfish,
Filming took place at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California. The castle scenes were shot on location at Corfe Castle, Dorset, England.
The armor used for the climactic battle against the Nazis had been assembled in Spain for the movie El Cid and was later shipped to Burbank for use in the movie Camelot before being rented for this film.
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.
Although the musical score was recorded in stereo, and the soundtrack album was presented that way, the film was released in mono sound.
The movie was reissued theatrically in 1979, with a lower time of 99 minutes, with all songs, excluding "Portobello Road" and "Beautiful Briny Sea", being muted out.
Home media releases:
The film has been released for home several times on VHS,and DVD
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, and it is believed that the footage was possibly destroyed. 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 was scored. When the song was cut, the orchestrations had not yet been added; therefore, it was finally orchestrated and put together when it was placed back into the film.
The soundtrack for some of the spoken tracks was unrecoverable. Therefore, Lansbury and McDowall re-dubbed their parts, while other actors made ADR dubs for those who were unavailable. Even though David Tomlinson was still alive when the film was being reconstructed, he was in ill-health, and unavailable to provide ADR for Emelius Browne. Some of the alternate actors that re-dubbed the newly inserted scenes had questionable likenesses to that of the original voices (the postmistress, for example, had a British regional accented voice that changed from Welsh to Scottish and back again on the reconstructed scenes). Elements of the underscoring were either moved or extended when it was necessary to benefit the new material. The extended version of the film was released on VHS and DVD on March 20, 2001, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the film.
The reconstruction additionally marks the first time the film was presented in stereophonic sound.
A new edition called Bedknobs and Broomsticks: Enchanted Musical Edition was released on DVD on September 8, 2009. This new single-disc edition is an identical transfer to the 30th Anniversary Edition, dropping the Scrapbook and Film Facts to make room for a Wizards of Waverly Place Special Effects featurette and a The Suite Life of Zack & Cody Blu-ray infomercial. The Sherman Brothers Featurette, the lost song "A Step in the Right Direction" and most of the other bonus features are retained from the previous edition.
The movie will be released on Special Edition Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD on August 12, 2014
Awards and nominations:
The film received five Academy Award nominations and won one.
44th Academy Awards
Best Visual Effects
Alan Maley, Eustace Lycett, Danny Lee
Best Costume Design
Best Art Direction
John B. Mansbridge, Peter Ellenshaw, Emile Kuri, Hal Gausman
Best Original Song
Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. Sherman
Best Original Score
Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. Sherman, Irwin Kostal
Although the film is in mono sound recording, the songs for the film were recorded in stereo. These songs include:
"The Old Home Guard",
"The Age of Not Believing" (received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song),
"With a Flair" (only in the 2001 reconstruction),
"Don't Let Me Down" (only in the 2001 reconstruction),
"The Beautiful Briny",
"A Step in the Right Direction",
"Nobody's Problems" (only in the 2001 reconstruction),
"Solid Citizen" (replaced by the soccer match),
"Fundamental Element" (sections were incorporated into "Don't Let Me Down"),
It was also released on CD in 2002.