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Bedknobs And Broomsticks (1971)

Treguna Mekoides Tracorum Satis Dee

movie poster Angela Lansbury stars in Robert Stevenson's movie about a novice witch who's been taking witch lessons in rural England that turn out to have simply been pages torn out of an old book a conman (David Tomlinson) found for sale in London. It is 1940 and Miss Price (Angela) has taken in three children from London (as in the opening scene in the Chronicles of Narnia). It turns out to have been a genuine magic book so she and Mr. Browne and a couple of kids go off on a flying bed to the magic kingdom of Naboombu under the ocean where fantasy animals rule (mixing live actors and animation as Disney did previously in 1964's Mary Poppins and later licensed some of their cartoon characters to the live action/animated film Who Framed Roger Rabbit), looking for a magic amulet she needs to make a magic spell work. They are pulled out of the water by a cartoon bear (voice of Dal McKennon, similar to the bear in 1967's animated Jungle Book movie voiced by Phil Harris) onto an island where cartoon animals rule. The animals play soccer, then the animal king gives her the amulet he's wearing and they head back to WW2-era England, where Miss Price wants to use magic to stop a planned Nazi invasion by raising a ghost army using artifacts in a local castle. It turns out that Sam Jaffe in London has the other half of the magic book, which completes the story. During the night, a German raiding party invades Miss Price's house--she and the children are taken to the village armory/museum. There, she uses the spell to reanimate the ancient artifacts. So we have:
Ghost army
Invisible horses
Haunted kilt
Gratuitous bagpipes
Nazi submarine
Nazi invasion (actually I only saw one rubber raft come ashore from the submarine but we'll take the movie's word for it)
Angela Lansbury riding a broom
Roddy McDowall looking surprised
Sam Jaffe with frizzy hair
And of course cartoon animals playing futball (referred to by the British actors in the film as soccer, since it was partly filmed here in America)
My favorite scene is when the Nazi machine-gunner is blasting away at the haunted suit of armor near the end and the haunted suit of armor walks up to him, takes off a leg, pours out the bullets, and whacks the Nazi machine-gunner on the head with it, killing him. Actually, he probably just knocks him out. No one dies in a Disney movie, not even a Nazi machine-gunner. In fact, the island was that of cannibals in the original book, not cute animated animals, but this is a Disney fantasy after all so the cannibal island of Ueepe became Naboombu. David Tomlinson is a happy-go-lucky guy in this film, but more people recognize him from Mary Poppins (in which he played the kids' humorless banker father) and The Love Bug (in which he played an outright villain, inspiring the villain-character in the recent animated movie Cars). The only spell Miss Price has mastered for most of the movie is turning people into rabbits, which she does to Mr. Browne when he gets annoying. Rated G in U.S./Canada, Australia & New Zealand. Rated U (whatever that means) in Great Britain. Filmed at Disney Studios in California, the castle scenes were filmed on location in Dorset, England.

Additional cast:
Miss Hobday: Tessie O'Shea
Col. Heller: John Ericson
Rawlins children: Ian Weighill, Roy Snart and Cindy O'Callaghan
Directed by Robert Stevenson, animation by Ward Kimball (Disney's Jungle Book, Jumbo, numerous others). Both this film and Mary Poppins had the same Director, Art Director and Music Director.

A few too many songs (by the Sherman brothers Richard & Robert, who also did the songs for Mary Poppins including The Beautiful Briny Sea, originally written for Mary Poppins but not used in then), but it got the Academy Award
® for Best Visual Effects and was nominated for Best Art/Set Decoration, Costume Design, Song & Song Score/Adaptation. Originally released at 117 minutes, it was later re-issued at 98 minutes (the version most ofter seen on broadcast tv), then in 1996 a director's cut at 141 minutes that Leonard Maltin says has “more (longer) songs, clearer plot, and more of a part for McDowall.” Roddy was a bit more cynical in Fright Night. In 2001, additional songs that had been cut before the film's release were reconstructed and added back in for the DVD release, as well as changing it back to stereo (it was released to theaters in mono to save money). Roddy and Angela were even hired to come back and replace some of the dialogue missing from the cut scenes that were missing a soundtrack. The DVD also includes the song "A Step in the Right Direction" which was cut before release so no footage existed for the director's cut. Joe Bob Briggs review of Fright Night and Fright Night 2

The movie was based on 3 books by Mary Norton: "The Magic Doorknob or, How to Become a Witch in Ten Easy Lessons" (1943), Bonfires And Broomsticks (1947) and Bedknob And Broomstick (1957). She was born in London and moved to the U.S. in 1941.

Blackbeard's Ghost (1967)

One of Disney's more entertaining movies of the 1960s was this one starring Peter Ustinov as Blackbeard the Pirate. Due to a witch woman's curse, Blackbeard cannot leave this mortal realm until he helps at least one person do a good deed. And something comes along that just might do it. Racketeers want to turn Blackbeard's home, now run as a pirate museum by some kindly ladies, into an illegal gambling casino. Now all he has to do is get Dean Jones, the only person who can see him, to make everything come out right. Directed by Robert Stevenson. Cast includes Suzanne Pleshette The Birds), Elsa Lanchester (the Bride Of Frankenstein), and Richard Deacon (the tall bald guy on The Dick Van Dyke Show). No relation to The Black Swan (1942), in which privateer Henry Morgan (Laird Cregar) is made Governor of Jamaica on condition he rid the Caribbean of all the other pirates, putting him at odds with swashbuckler Tyrone Power (as James Waring). Power agrees to side with Morgan, but falls in love with the former Governor's daughter (Maureen O'Hara). With George Sanders, Anthony Quinn. There was also Moonfleet (1955), one of Fritz Lang's lesser known movies, a tepid pirate film starring Stewart Granger as a Britisher who turns buccaneer and tries to swindle a young lad out of a diamond. Also with George Sanders, from a story by J. Meade Falkner. A silent film, The Black Pirate (1926), was about a nobleman (Douglas Fairbanks, Sr) who turns pirate after being victimized by cutthroats after he gets off the island they marooned him on. Filmed in Technicolor but released to most theaters in black & white, both versions are on DVD. With Donald Crisp. Even Lon Chaney Jr. made The Black Pirates (1954), a low-budget Mexican movie about pirates searching for gold. In The Princess & the Pirate (1944), Bob Hope stars as a Vaudeville-type comic who falls for a beautiful princess (Virginia Mayo) while on the run from buccaneers on the Spanish Main. Cameo by pal Bing Crosby in closing scene. Originally mono, a remastered stereo version DVD is also available. 94 minutes, color. With Walter Brennan in a great comic role as an eccentric old pirate crewman, Walter Slezak as a potentate, and Victor McLaglen as the nasty ol' pirate of the title. Music by David Rose.

Disney has more recently released Pirates Of The Caribbean: Curse Of The Black Pearl and two sequels Dead Man's Chest and At Worlds End, with a possible 4th pirate movie in the works

The Three Lives of Thomasina (1964)

Two years after "Danger Man" (CBS/British) and three years before "The Prisoner" (CBS/British), Patrick MacGoohan did this charming Disney fantasy, playing a heartless veterinarian in turn-of-the-century Scotland (filmed on location). His young daughter is devoted to her pet cat, but he diagnosis it as having tetinus (for which there was no cure back then). So he gives the cat a lethal injection. The Distraught daughter takes the cat to a witch woman said to help ill and injured animals at her house in the woods. Sure enough, the woman gives the cat a potion that brings it back to life. Turns out the woman is not a "real" witch, she just uses herbs and folk remedies on the menagery of animals that have come to her. Leonard Maltin gives it 3 stars and calls it "a winner." 97 minutes, rated G. Based on a story by Paul Gallico.

Trivia from the Internet Movie Database

* The armor in the climactic battle with the Nazis was authentic medieval armor, previously used in Camelot (1967) and El Cid (1961). When any item of armor was to be destroyed, exact fiberglass replicas were created and used.

* Julie Andrews, Leslie Caron, Lynn Redgrave, and Judy Carne were considered for the role of Miss Price before Angela Lansbury was cast. Ron Moody was considered for the role of Mr. Browne before David Tomlinson was cast. This was Reginald Owen's final film
* The only non-European cast member is Sam Jaffe, who was born in New York.

* In the establishing shot of the animated soccer game, a bear wearing a Mickey Mouse T-shirt can be spotted in the crowd on the right side of the picture.

* The film's opening credits sequence is a homage to the Bayeux Tapestry, a seamless linen cloth made by the French in Medieval times which tells the story of the Norman Conquest of England in 1066
* The castle in the background of the town is real and situated in Dorset, England. Both the castle and the town where it resides are called Corfe Castle, where many Thomas Hardy adaptations have been filmed since

* This was the last film from the Disney studios to receive an Academy Award until The Little Mermaid (1989)

* The closing shot of a British newspaper article shows the word "rumor", which should be spelled "rumour" in England, where the film is set.

* During the dubbing process for the German version in the early '70s, it was decided to remove all scenes featuring Nazis (so who was attacking?)

* The GOOFY HOLLER is heard during the soccer game when the King kicks the hyena

* Another book series by Mary Norton turned into a movie was The Borrowers

* For the 1979 rerelease, Disney "borrowed" the slogan of another 1979 movie for this film: "You'll believe a woman can fly!"

* In the book, the children go back in time to fetch Emelius Jones, whereas in the movie, Emelius Browne is a contemporary and no time travel is necessary. There is no reference to World War 2 at all. And Eglantine Price remains with Emelius Jones in the past at the end of the second book, where they wed; an idea later used in the movies Somewhere In Time, Time After Time and Back To The Future 3. Come to think of it, Christopher Lloyd's character in that last one is Doc Brown. In the movie Miss Price and Emelius Browne remain in the present where they are shown to be involved by the kiss Browne gives Price before marching off to enlist.

* Walt Disney wanted to make this movie but got the rights to Mary Poppins instead. He had had died by the time this one came out.

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© Bill Laidlaw. All Rights Reserved. That's my 2½¢ worth