“What is this, a freak out?”–Violet Beauregarde
DIRECTED BY: Mel Stuart
FEATURING: Gene Wilder, Peter Ostrum, Jack Albertson, Julie Dawn Cole
PLOT: Charlie is a poor boy supporting his mother and four bedridden grandparents with the earnings from his paper route. When eccentric chocolatier Willy Wonka announces he will be awarding a lifetime supply of chocolate and a tour of his mysterious candy factory to the finders of five golden tickets, Charlie wants to win more than anything. When he, along with four bratty companions, finally meets the exceedingly odd Mr. Wonka, Charlie finds the factory, and its owner, far stranger and more magical than anything he could have imagined.
- A note for those who believe product placement and corporate tie-ins are a recent phenomenon in movies: although this film was based on Roald Dahl’s bestelling children’s novel “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” it was retitled to incorporate the Wonka name in order to promote the release of real-life Wonka candy bars (which were still made up until 2010) by Quaker Oats, who financed the production.
- Dahl himself wrote the original script, but it was extensively rewritten by an uncredited David (The Hellstrom Chronicles) Seltzer, reportedly to Dahl’s displeasure. (It’s worth noting that Dahl, like most authors, pretty much hated every adaptation of his work).
- This was the only movie Peter Ostrum (Charlie) ever acted in.
- The movie just broke even at the box office, but became a cult sensation thanks to television screenings and home video. In 2003, Entertainment Weekly ranked Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory as the 25th biggest cult movie of all time.
- The score was nominated for a “Best Music, Scoring Adaptation and Original Song Score” Oscar but lost to Fiddler on the Roof.
- Despite the fact that he was rejected for the role of the candy shop owner in the film, Sammy Davis, Jr.’s 1972 rendition of the film’s first musical number, “The Candy Man,” became a #1 hit and a staple of his live shows.
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Tim Burton‘s 2005 adaptation of the same material with Johnny Depp as Wonka, is somewhat closer to Dahl’s original novel.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: Wonka’s face, bathed in flashing red and green lights, as he shrieks incoherently at the end of his terrifying trip down a psychedelic tunnel of horrors. It’s the capping image of a horrifying scene that’s been scarring unsuspecting children for 40 years now.
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Is it Gene Wilder’s ultra-eccentric performance as the charming but vaguely demonic candyman in a purple velvet jacket and burgundy top hat who suavely arranges for wicked children to hang themselves with the licorice ropes of their own vice? Or the chorus of orange-faced, green haired, dwarf laborers who sing moralizing “Oompah Loompah” tunes after each victim ironically offs him or herself? No, we all know it’s the bad trip boat ride, where Wonka recites Edgar Allan Poe inspired verse (“By the fires of Hell a’ glowing/Is the grisly reaper mowing?”) as the craft careens down a tunnel of horrors while colored strobe lights flash and avant-garde footage plays on the walls that tips this celebration of imagination into the weird column.
Original trailer for Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
COMMENTS: When I was a kid, they used to play Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory on Continue reading 104. WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (1971)