Bedknobs and Broomsticks Review
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I never did read The Magic Bed-Knob: or How to Become a Witch in Ten Easy Lessons, the 1943 childrenís book by Mary Norton that provided the basis for the 1971 Disney film Bedknobs and Broomsticks. As a child in the early Ď80s, I did, however, watch the film enough times on the newly-formed Disney Channel that, from time to time, I still get bits of the songs bubbling up from deep in my memory.

Following on the recent release of Peteís Dragon (another personal favorite), Disney has reissued the film as Bedknobs and Broomsticks: Enchanted Musical Edition, featuring a digitally restored and remastered cut, taken from the extended edition that was originally released on laserdisc in 1997 and on DVD in 2001. This version is significantly longer than the original theatrical release, and it includes a couple of songs and a subplot that had been dropped entirely.

The plot covers a lot of ground, but here are the basics: As World War II hammers Great Britain, a trio of orphans from London are temporarily relocated to the small village home of standoffish spinster Eglantine Price (Angela Landsbury). It doesnít take long for them to learn Miss Priceís secret: sheís an Apprentice Witch, learning magic from the Correspondence College of Witchcraft, headed by Professor Emelius Brown (David Tomlinson), in order to make a contribution to the war effort. When the lessons abruptly end shortly after the arrival of the children, Miss Price resolves to find Prof. Brown and finish her studies.

Of course, the children arenít about to be left behind. Having already used their knowledge of Miss Priceís unusual hobby to procure an enchanted bed that will take them anywhere they wish to go, they decide to provide transportation in return for being included on the adventure. After picking up Prof. Brown, who turns out to be a bit more mountebank than mage, they go in search of a very special spell called ďsubstitutiary locomotion,Ē taking them as far as a cartoon island thatís inhabited by the traditional Disney talking animals.

Thereís a charming, timeless quality about Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Yes, the special effects are decidedly old-school, but theyíre among the best of the era. The songs are memorable and catchy, especially in the hands of stage veterans Landsbury and Tomlinson. Itís one of those rare family movies where everything works. The story carries along nicely, despite the slightly overlong running time, and itís capped off by a wonderful finale, in which Miss Priceís dearly-sought spell repels a wave of Nazi invaders through a gambit that is sheer childhood wish fulfillment.

Despite the onslaught of tween-oriented fare that has characterized Disney in recent years, this is the kind of thing that Iíll always remember the studio foróa family-oriented fantasy that took the best traditions of stage and cinema musicals and infused them with a sense of whimsy that any child could appreciate. I almost hate to say it, but they really just donít make them like they used to. But, at the same time, Iím heartened to see that Disney is taking care to keep these classics available.

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