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" Time for me to row with all the other slaves "
— Leonardo DiCaprio, Titanic

MRQE Top Critic

Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life

Lara punches a shark, rides a motorcycle on the Great Wall of China, and dives off a skyscraper —Matt Anderson (review...)

Jolie fits nicely into Lara Croft's boots

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With Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Disney was clearly trying to duplicate the success of Mary Poppins. Both movies are based on British children’s fantasy books. Both have women with magical powers as the central character. And both are musical adventures with a mix of live action and animation. Even the DVD box lets viewers know that this movie is “from the studio that brought you Mary Poppins.” Bedknobs and Broomsticks doesn’t reach the supercalifragilistic heights of Poppins, but it’s fun and family-friendly.

The movie was originally 2 ½ hours long. About 30 minutes were cut before the first theatrical release in 1971. Much of that footage was restored for a 1996 video release. The 1996 version, at 140 minutes, is presented on this DVD, released in 2009.

War and Witchcraft

No Blu-ray (yet) for Bedknobs & Broomsticks
No Blu-ray (yet) for Bedknobs & Broomsticks

Set in 1940, the movie opens with English children being evacuated from London to the countryside. Three orphans, Charlie, Carrie and Paul, get stuck with the middle-aged spinster Eglantine Price (Angela Lansbury), who much doesn’t care for children. The kids don’t much care for the situation either, until they spy Miss Price riding a broomstick.

Turns out she’s taking a correspondence course to become a witch. The only problem is the school closed its doors before she could learn the spell for substitutiary locomotion, which she hopes to use against the Nazis. With the help of an enchanted bedknob, Miss Price and the kids head off on a quest to find Professor Emilius Browne (David Tomlinson), the head of the witchcraft school, and get the critical spell.

Like Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks is episodic. The difference is in the pacing. While Poppins marches merrily along, Bedknobs plods. Whoever decided to shorten the movie in 1971 probably had the right idea. Comparisons aside, Bedknobs stands on its own. Angela Lansbury and David Tomlinson are pros who tackle their roles with gusto; the 38-year-old special effects still look good; and the lengthy animation/live action sequence is great, silly fun. Watching it brought back fond memories of enjoying the movie when I was a child.

DVD Extras

While movies like Mary Poppins get the deluxe treatment for video releases, second-tier movies like Bedknobs and Broomsticks get the bare minimum of bonus features. The most interesting extra is Music Magic: The Sherman Brothers (11 minutes), which has interviews with composers Richard and Robert Sherman. They talk about the songs and the development of the movie. The other extra worth watching is “A Step in the Right Direction,” a three-minute song by Lansbury that was cut from the movie. The film of that song has been lost, so the surviving audio track is played with a sequence of still production photos.

The Wizards of Special Effects features an actress from The Wizards of Waverly Place, a Disney Channel series. It barely touches on the special effects of Bedknobs. Another promotional feature has the twins from The Suite Life of Zack and Cody (yes, another Disney Channel show) extolling the benefits of Blu-ray. Ironically, Bedknobs and Broomsticks is only available on standard DVD.

This section also has four theatrical trailers for Bedknkobs and several trailers for other Disney movies.

Picture and Sound

The movie is presented in a 1.66:1 aspect ratio with Dolby digital sound. Visually, the restored footage was indistinguishable from the rest of the movie. The soundtrack from the cut footage was lost, and dialog had to be re-dubbed. Lansbury dubbed her own voice, but soundalikes had to be used for other actors. There was no obvious difference in the voices, but sometimes the dialog was slightly out of sync, which was distracting.

How to Use This DVD

Watch the movie then check out the deleted song and the feature with the Sherman brothers.