Friday, September 02, 2016

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Based on the novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is the story of a young boy who finds a golden ticket to be invited to go to the chocolate factory of its mysterious creator. Directed by Mel Stuart and screenplay by Roald Dahl and David Seltzer, the film is whimsical take on Dahl’s story with explorations of innocence and the desire of hope for a young boy who lives with his poor family with Gene Wilder playing the role of Willy Wonka. Also starring Peter Ostrum, Roy Kinnear, Denise Nickerson, Julie Dawn Cole, Paris Themmen, Dodo Denney, Leonard Stone, and Jack Albertson. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is a delightful and majestic film from Mel Stuart.

The film is about a boy from a poor family who learns about a contest to be invited to a mystical chocolate factory owned and run by the reclusive Willy Wonka. The contest revolves in trying to find five golden tickets where whoever gets a golden ticket will be invited to the factory which hadn’t been open to the public for many years due to spies disguised as employees stealing Wonka’s ideas for rival competitors. Once five of these children, accompanied by their parents, enter the factory and meet Wonka. They would embark into a unique world yet also strange places with strange workers where the children would also find ways to cause trouble. The film’s screenplay which was largely re-written by David Seltzer, who would be un-credited for his work, has a unique structure where much of its first half is about finding the golden tickets and the five children who would find them.

One of the children in the story is its protagonist Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum) who is the most eager to find a golden ticket as he lives in the town where Wonka’s factory is. He struggles to help his family while being a child as he is encouraged by his Grandpa Joe (Jack Albertson) to find it as he believes the ticket and its prize of a lifetime supply of chocolate will give their poor family hope. The other four children the gluttonous Augustus Gloop (Michael Bollner), the spoiled Veruca Salt (Julie Dawn Cole), the gum-chewing Violet Beauregarde (Denise Nickerson), and the TV-obsessed Mike Teevee (Paris Themmen) are all these kind of individuals who represent some form of sin as they represent everything Charlie isn’t. Even as all five enter the factory where they’re being tested in what they do as they were each approached earlier in the film by a man claiming to be one of Wonka’s rivals in Slug worth (Gunter Meisner) who wants one of Wonka’s new candies.

Mel Stuart’s direction is this nice mixture of comedy, drama, fantasy, and bits of the musical as it has this balance that doesn’t make it jarring or inconsistent. Shot largely on location in Munich and Bavaria in then-West Germany, the film plays into a world that is a mixture of the modern world with a sense of the old world as well as an environment where this chocolate factory is at. Much of the compositions are simple as Stuart favors a more intimate look to play into the world of Charlie’s family life while there are a few wide shots to establish some of the locations and the mania that surrounds the search for the golden tickets. Once the film enters the factory, it is this world that is quite imaginative as it has these elements that looks very fun to look and to eat while it also borders into the line of the absurd and surreal. Most notably a scene where Wonka and his guests ride on a boat through this tunnel that is scary but also kind of fun in a dark way.

Even in how some of the kids in their own bad vices would get their comeuppance as it has that air of dark humor that is often followed by songs sung by Wonka’s workers known as the Oompa-Loompas who sing about the sins of these children. There is also some sentimentality as it play to why Wonka is opening the factory and sent out the tickets to showcase some of the wonders of life and imagination. Overall, Stuart creates an exhilarating and dazzling film about a boy who goes to a wondrous chocolate factory created by its eccentric creator.

Cinematographer Arthur Ibbetson does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography for how many of the nighttime interior/exterior scenes are shot as well as the way many of the factory‘s interiors including its room with the chocolate river looks. Editor David Saxon does nice work with the editing as it is very straightforward as it doesn‘t go into any kind of style with the exception of the surreal tunnel scene. Art director Harper Goff does brilliant work with the look of the many different sets from the labs that Wonka does for his experiments, his office, the room of chocolate with the chocolate river, and other sets which also include the interior of Charlie‘s family home.

Costume designer Helen Colvig does terrific work with the costumes to play into the different look of the children as well as the whimsical look of Wonka. The special effects work of Logan Frazee are wonderful for the scenes set in the tunnel as well as in some of the magical moments that goes on inside the factory. Sound editors Charles L. Campbell and Roger Sword do superb work with the sound in the way some of the sound effects are presented as it play into the whimsical world of Wonka. The film’s music and songs by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley is incredible as it has this air of serenity in its orchestral score while its songs play into that sense of sorrow, heartbreak, imagination, and whimsy as it says a lot to its characters and the situations they’re in.

The film’s cast is phenomenal as it include some notable small roles from Steve Dunne as a newscaster, Tim Brooke-Taylor as a computer scientist, Werner Heyking as Charlie’s newspaper vendor boss, David Battley as Charlie’s schoolteacher, Peter Capell as the Tinker who works outside of the factory, and Gunter Meisner as Wonka’s rival Slugworth who offers a great deal of money to the kids in exchange for one of Wonka’s candies. In the roles of the Oompa-Loompas as they’re played by Rusty Goffe, Rudy Borgstaller, George Claydon, Malcolm Dixon, Ismed Hassan, Norman McGlen, Angelo Muscat, Pepe Poupee, Marcus Powell, and Albert Wilkinson where they all provide that sense of whimsy into their role as Wonka’s little working men who sings songs that play into the sins of some of the children. Small roles from Dora Altmann as Grandma Georgina, Ernst Ziegler as Grandpa George, and Franziska Liebing as Grandma Josephine are wonderful while the performances of Ursula Reit as Mrs. Gloop, Dodo Denney as Mrs. Teevee, and Leonard Stone as Sam Beauregarde are fun to watch with Roy Kinnear in a fantastic performance as Veruca’s father who does whatever to please his daughter.

Diana Sowle is excellent as Charlie’s mother who tries to ensure some hope for Charlie as the search for the tickets become impossible while Aubrey Woods is superb as the candy shop owner Bill who would sell the candy including the one to Charlie that would feature his golden ticket. Jack Albertson is amazing as Grandpa Joe as Charlie’s maternal grandfather who urges Charlie to find that ticket as he knows how much it means to him while also knows about the story of Willy Wonka. In the role of the other children Charlie has to compete with, Michael Bollner is terrific as the gluttonous Augustus Gloop who is always eating something while Paris Themmen is energetically fun as the smart-aleck Mike Teevee who watches too much TV. Denise Nickerson is brilliant as the gum-chewing Violet Beauregarde who just loves gum as well as do whatever she can to hold on to the gum-chewing record.

Julie Dawn Cole is remarkable as Veruca Salt as this very bratty and greedy young girl that wants everything including the golden ticket while being full of energy and has her own song to sing. Peter Ostrum is marvelous as Charlie Bucket as this young kid who is hoping to go to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory as he clings for some hope in his life as well as give his family a chance to end their life in poverty. Finally, there’s Gene Wilder in an incredible performance as Willy Wonka as this very offbeat yet charming creator who is sarcastic at times but also ambiguous and weird yet Wilder has something in his performance that is just indescribable as it’s really an iconic role from the actor.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is a spectacular film from Mel Stuart that features Gene Wilder in an outstanding performance as the titular character. Featuring a great cast, lovely visuals, beautiful art direction, and a phenomenal music soundtrack, the film is definitely a film that families can enjoy as well as be weird enough for adults to be engaged by. In the end, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is a magnificent film from Mel Stuart.

© thevoid99 2016


Dell said...

What a fun movie, this is. Delightful is a great word to describe it. R.I.P. Gene Wilder.

thevoid99 said...

It was on FreeForm (formerly known as ABC Family) this past Friday and I just decided to watch it as it's something I haven't seen in a while. It's such a beautiful film. Gene Wilder is truly missed.

ruth said...

I just read that Gene Wilder didn't care for the Johnny Depp version, I haven't seen that one but can't imagine it standing up to this classic. RIP Gene Wilder.

thevoid99 said...

@ruth-Tim Burton's take on the film is OK but it's filled with too many CGI and bad photography for the look of the factory. The original is the definitive one, bar none. Gene Wilder is Willy Wonka and no one will ever change that.