Blu-ray Review
by Kevin Carr

    MOVIE: ***** (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5 stars)

    Gene Wilder as WILLY WONKA
    Jack Albertson as GRANDPA JOE
    Peter Ostrum as CHARLIE BUCKET
    Roy Kinnear as MR. SALT
    Julie Dawn Cole as VERUCA SALT
    Leonard Stone as MR. BEAUREGARDE
    Denise Nickerson as VIOLET BEAUREGARDE
    Dodo Denney as MRS. TEEVEE
    Paris Themmen as MIKE TEEVEE
    Ursula Reit as MRS. GLOOP
    Michael Bollner as AUGUSTUS GLOOP

    Rated G
    Own it on Blu-ray October 6
    Studio: Warner Bros.

    Directed by: Mel Stuart

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Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum) lives a humble life with his mother and four bed-ridden grandparents. However, he gets a chance at greatness when the famous chocolatier Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder) holds a contest in which five lucky golden ticket winners get a grand tour of his chocolate factory. Charlie has a bizarre, frightening and educational time visiting the chocolate factory with four of the most dreadful little kids from around the world.

I remember several years ago when Tim Burton remade this film as the originally titled “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” some people were irate. There was a distinct group of people who didn’t want the memory of this movie to be tarnished by the remake. As much as I love this movie, I was happy with the remake simply because it didn’t retread the original but made the story its own.

But I will always have a soft spot in my heart for “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” Like “The Wizard of Oz” (which was likewise recently released in a special edition Blu-ray by Warner Bros.), “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” was an annual favorite in my house when it came on television. I watched it every time it was one, got the willies from seeing the Oompa Loompas and subsequently had nightmares. But I loved every minute of it.

This film is a fantastic cautionary tale for children and adults alike. As is pointed out in the special features, the filmmakers made this movie for the grown-ups more than they did the kids, and that’s why it can be appreciated by people of all ages today.

When I got this Blu-ray, I showed it to my kids, and I was actually surprised at how much they connected with the movie. My six-year-old son wandered around the house for the rest of the night, humming the songs from the film. They didn’t get bored at all, and they also didn’t get scared. Maybe things have changed a bit since I was their age.

Forget “Blazing Saddles” and “Stir Crazy.” It is “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” that is Gene Wilder’s legacy. He was perfect for the role, and it was his mixture of childlike wonder and bitter, deserved vengeance that made the character so compelling. Plus, the look and style of the film was brilliant and ahead of its time.

The last fifteen years or so has seen some excellent Roald Dahl adaptations, including “Matilda,” “James and the Giant Peach” and (cross your fingers!) the upcoming “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” But it was “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” that paved the way.

This movie wouldn’t be made today as it is startling politically incorrect, and can be terrifying to younger kids. But it’s that sense of danger that made this movie so awesome in its day and also now.

The biggest problem with this movie is the previously mentioned possibility of giving your kids nightmares. I sure was haunted by those creepy Oompa Loompas when I was younger. But in a strange way, it is this possibility of bad dreams that gives the movie a strange charm.

The only other gripe I have with the movie is with its marketing. The trailer, which was cut back in the early 70s, literally shows one of the last shots of the film. There’s no respect for the viewer, so if you haven’t seen it yet, watch the trailer afterwards.

The new Blu-ray has some nice features, but is not loaded down with them. The packaging is probably the coolest part, which falls in line with Warner Bros. other Blu-ray re-releases (e.g., “300: The Complete Experience” and the upcoming “North by Northwest”). The Blu-ray comes in a full-color hardbound book that looks back at the production.

Other features includes a vintage featurette about the making of the film as well as the new in-depth 30-minute documentary “Pure Imagination: The Story of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” There’s also the theatrical trailer and four of the songs presented in a sing-along format.

Probably the coolest thing for me was the commentary by the Wonka kids – the actors who played Charlie Bucket, Veruca Salt, Violet Beauregarde, Augustus Gloop and Mike Teevee. Their recollections of the production of the film was the most interesting.

Gene Wilder fans and anyone who might risk drinking from a river of chocolate.

Watch this clip from "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory"

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