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Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) – DVD Review

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory DVD cover art


Written by: Roald Dahl & David Seltzer, based on the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Dahl
Directed by: Mel Stuart
Starring: Gene Wilder, Peter Ostrum, Jack Albertson, Julie Dawn Cole, Denise Nickerson


  • Audio commentary with the Wonka Kids: Ostrum, Cole, Nickerson, Paris Themmen & Michael Bollner
  • Pure Imagination “Making Of” featurette
  • Four sing-along songs
  • Original featurette from 1971
  • Photo gallery
  • Theatrical trailer

Released by: Warner Brothers
Region: 1
Rating: G
Anamorphic: Nope.

My Advice: Own it.

[ad#longpost]Charlie Bucket (Ostrum) is just the sweetest, most honest and caring boy ever. He tries to help out his family, which consists of his mother (Diane Sowle) and his two sets of grandparents, who never leave their bed–the same bed. Out of this impoverished state, Charlie dreams of maybe finding one of the five golden tickets, announced to be hidden in candy bars from the Wonka chocolate factory. Apparently, the winners all get to tour the secretive factory, and one of them will be chosen to win a lifetime supply of chocolate. When you’re lucky to ever be able to afford chocolate, a lifetime supply is a helluva prize to shoot for, but Charlie has his dream and will keep trying till he gets there.

Well, what can you say? It’s Willy Wonka, for God’s sake. It is a veritable trippy children’s classic. Well, there are two things I can say. One, I miss Gene Wilder and I never see enough of him these days. Two, they should turn this into a Broadway musical starring Alan Cumming as Wonka. That is a no-brainer.

The movie is still as sweet and as fun as it ever was. And the disc that goes along with the experience is well done, and rightfully so for the thirtieth anniversary. The audio commentary, consisting of the first time the five Wonka kids have seen each other since the film. They manage to impart little tidbits about the movie, while at the same time joking and cutting up. Apparently, the two girls alternated days on which they “had” Ostrum, for instance. They point out the people and tell stories about them and reminiscence about the actors who have since passed on. Slim on technical details and whatnot, but it’s still a hoot to listen to.

Gene Wilder is Willy Wonka
Gene Wilder *is* Willy Wonka.

In addition to that, there’s the “Pure Imagination” featurette, which provides all manner of tidbits. For example, when I saw this as a kid, I had no clue about the fact that Quaker Oats financed the film. In fact, whenever I saw it in later years, I was still without clue. But that’s just me. There’s also the story about Wilder’s single demand that had to be met in order to take the role, and of course, the tale about how the closing lines came about. Fascinating stuff. It’s also bizarre to see the Wonka kids that you had previously been listening to. Even without their names coming up at the bottom of the screen, you could have picked them out. The only drawback to the documentary is it makes me long for an additional commentary track with Wilder.

The original 1971 featurette is nice for historical reasons, and it’s short. And hell, you can laugh at 70s fashions, if nothing else. The trailer, like most trailers, gives away everything in the film. The photo gallery is relatively short, and it would have been nice to have some more extensive stuff there: perhaps the designs for the Wonka vehicles, more set design stuff–that sort of thing.

Willy Wonka DVD menu
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory DVD menu

Always I can think of other stuff that could have been included on a disc set–that’s just the way I am–but this is still nothing to sneeze at, and a decent version to come out on DVD. Until Criterion releases their version, I won’t complain too loudly. It’s definitely worth a purchase.

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