Movie Report: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

Book coverOn an evening where my youngest was on an involuntary sabbatical from electronic devices, he joined me for a movie night, and I pulled this videocassette out. Actually, as I’ve mentioned, I’ve been going through the Nogglestead to-see library of unrewound videocassettes and popped them in with the television off to let them run to the end and fully rewind. So the Nogglestead to-see library has a lot of videocassettes atop it in unrewound or rewound states, so we’re watching lots of videocassettes these days. Which is good: We have lots of videocassettes to watch. And with the Friends of the Library Spring Book Sale looming, the number is likely to grow.

At any rate, I saw this film when freshly moved to Missouri, living in St. Charles. My uncle had a VCR, and he rented the film for us to watch, and we did. And although my son was not sure that he’d seen the film before, he knew all of the songs, not just the Oompa Loompa songs.

Oh, wait: This is a musical? I didn’t remember that.

But indeed it is, and not just the Oompa Loompa song. Charlie is a young man in England who is supporting his mother and four bedridden grandparents with his odd jobs. When reclusive Willy Wonka, famous candy maker, announces a contest where five young people and a guest will get to tour his chocolate factory, the world goes nuts. A series of vignettes introduce families and children who will be the winners, including a gluttonous German boy, a spoiled British girl (Veruca Salt), an American boy who watches too much television, and a girl who chews too much gum. All hope appears lost for Charlie when a winner is announced in Argentina, but that ticket turns out to be fake, so he wins.

They all start out a tour of the fantastic (as in fantasy) candy factory, and one by one the children are picked off by their own character flaws until only Charlie is left. At the end, he is dismissed by Willy Wonka, and he is about to take up a rival candymaker’s offer to pay for a sample of Wonka’s Everlasting Gobstopper, but Charlie returns it to Wonka instead, which triggers his ultimate victory–ownership of the chocolate factory itself.

I don’t know how much it varies from the book as I’ve not read it. But it was an enjoyable experience to share with my youngest, although he is already a bit older than the target audience.

The first song number in the film is “The Candyman” (The candyman can….) which was written for the movie (and Wonkaized for the film or de-Wonkified for subsequent covers). I pointed out to the boy that he and/or his brother had, when they were younger, once requested that I put on Sammy Davis, Jr’s version on. They liked Candy. He still does.

So I have the Johnny Depp version around here somewhere. I thought I’d watch them on consecutive nights while they were fresh, but of course now that I sought out the later film, I could not find it. So maybe that will be sometime soon.

Oh, and now that I think of it, Willy Wonka might have been top-of-mind because I just read a two-part Substack post Willy Wanker and the Great Glasgow Grift about the off-brand Willy Wonka “event” that earned Internet infamy for its poor execution in Scotland.

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