When I was a young gay Disney geek one of my favorite movies was the 1971 movie Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Some people thought of it as a poor man’s sequel to Mary Poppins released only 7 years earlier, but even as a child I could clearly see differences in the heart of the story.
For those who don’t know the plot of this movie, it is set during early World War II, and many children were being evacuated out of London to live in foster care in small villages in an attempt to keep them safe until the war was over. It is here we meet three orphaned children who come under the care of an eccentric woman named Miss Price (Angela Lansbury), who is secretly training to be a witch in an attempt to help England win the war. The children find out her secret and hilarity ensues.
As I said before, I grew up with this movie, and when it came out in home video I eagerly purchased it, first on VHS, later on DVD, and even after that a special “restored” DVD edition with many edited scenes actually put back into the movie for a longer cut of the film. It was this final edition that even as an adult I would watch regularly. Then, with all of the Blu-Ray remastering that Disney was doing with their older movies, I was elated when I learned that Bedknobs and Broomsticks was next on the list to be given this special treatment. Sadly, that elation did not last long.
While the remastering of both video and audio of this movie is excellent, it is the content of this movie that I find to be disappointing. One of the bonus features talks about the painstaking efforts made in an effort to find old and discarded footage (which was originally cut for the initial theatrical release), remaster all of the lost pieces of film and then reinsert them in an attempt to make a more complete film experience, as well as paying respect to the original vision of the filmmakers of this movie. However, after all of this talking about finding and restoring the lost footage, when it comes to the movie we are presented again with the original theatrical release. While the previously deleted scenes are presented in the Bonus Material section, they are not reinserted into the film as had been done on the previously released DVD.
As I said before, I’ve seen the restored version of this film, and while some of the dubbing in that version of the movie is poor, the story is really fleshed out in ways I never imagined. We come to better understand the primary characters, and even the secondary players are given more screen time. Watching this shamefully edited theatrical version was not only irritating, but I felt like I was watching a misrepresentation of the characters and story in this movie.
While the remastering of this film is superb, I can say with great confidence that I will not be watching this version again. I’d rather stick with the movie with the subpar video and audio, but with the better told story.