Plot: What’s it about?
Eglantine Price (Angela Lansbury) is an apprentice witch, but as of now she must watch three young children, who have been sent to live with her for a time. Although Eglantine tries to keep her magical habits under wraps, one of the kids soon stumbles onto the truth and soon, demands that she give them something in return for their silence. So she takes a bedknob, places a special hex upon it, and now they can all travel, simply by piling onto the bed and activating the spell. The first trip taken on the magical bed takes them to meet Emelius Brown (David Tomlinson), the headmaster of Eglantine’s witch studies school. Soon after, Eglantine and the children discover half of a powerful magic book, called The Spells of Astoroth. But since the book is not all present, the spells within do them little good and as such, they need to track down the missing half somehow. In order to gain access to that other half however, they’ll have to deal with the underhanded Bookman (Sam Jaffe), which will make this more of an adventure than any of them could imagine…
This disc celebrates the 30th Anniversary of the film and in grand form, as this is one terrific release. In addition to the complete version of the film, restored and remastered, this disc also houses a new Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and a wealth of supplemental features. But I’ll get to the disc specs a little later on, for now I want to focus on the film itself. Bedknobs and Broomsticks is a fantastic movie, complete with adventure, a great cast, and of course, impressive visuals. The cast is led by Angela Lansbury (Tv’s Murder She Wrote), but also includes such names as David Tomlinson (Mary Poppins, The Love Bug), John Ericson (7 Faces of Dr. Lao, Operation Atlantis), and Roddy McDowall (Planet of the Apes, Lord Love A Duck). I like the performances here a lot, especially the ones where humans and animated characters interact, classic stuff indeed. In case you haven’t seen this movie, it contains a lot of mixing between animation and live action, with excellent results. In fact, this picture took home an Oscar in 1971 for the visual effects, which I think was a very deserved nod, to be sure. I like this movie a lot and I think this new release is superb, which leads me to give this disc a very high recommendation, so either purchase or rent this little beauty as soon as possible.
Video: How does it look?
Bedknobs and Broomsticks is presented in a 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. All in all, this is an excellent treatment and is much better than the laserdisc, which wasn’t bad either. The source print looks clean and free from damage, while grain is minimal and never lessens the visual experience. The colors look bold and rich, with no fading evident and flesh tones were also natural and consistent. I saw no signs of problems with contrast either, black levels were accurate and detail looked strong as well. A few small instances of color flaws and grain can be seen, but not enough to knock the score much in the end, superb work from Disney here.
Audio: How does it sound?
The included Dolby Digital 5.1 track is more than adequate, but don’t expect a powerful audio presence, as this mix is natural and that means minimal surround use. A few scenes do make excellent use of the surround channels, but those times are infrequent, as this material simply doesn’t need an over the top sound mix. I am pleased the surrounds are used so little, as forced use would have ruined this mix, as it has many mixes prior to this one. The music sounds terrific from start to finish, while dialogue is clean and always easy to understand. I know the lack of surround presence will disappoint some, but I am glad Disney chose such a natural mix for this disc. This disc also includes English subtitles, in case you’ll need those.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This installment in Disney’s Gold Collection has some nice extras, such as featurette with interviews with Angela Lansbury, Scott MacQueen, and the Sherman brothers. This piece runs about twenty minutes and is a treat to watch, as there’s some terrific information to be gleaned, even if the piece is on the brief side. A very short clip from David Tomlinson’s Portobello Road recording session is also housed here and while very brief, this is still a most welcome inclusion. Although the complete materials for A Step In The Right Direction were lost, this disc includes a reconstruction sequence, which uses pieces of the original audio with photographs. This is an excellent addition, as this the only chance we have to experience this sequence, even if in such limited form. This disc also includes a selection of concept art and promotional materials, four theatrical trailers, some film facts, and two bonus animated short films, The Worm Turns and The Vanishing Private.