Bedknobs and Broomsticks

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Bedknobs and Broomsticks is a 1971 Disney musical film that stars Angela Lansbury as an English witch who fights Nazis during World War II, with the aid of a charming criminal (David Tomlinson) and three children dumped on her by Big Government. Featuring a mix of live-action and animation and songs by the Sherman Brothers, the film has been re-edited so many times, the original camera negative is only held together by sheer willpower. Disney restored the film to near its original length in order to distract from the other films they have cut, censored or outright suppressed.

Contents

[edit] Plot

It is 1940, and Britain is under attack by Adolf P. Hitler (voice of Pat Buttram) and the Luftwaffe (Lorna Luft). In order to protect their precious child labor, the government of PM Neville Chamberlain (Richard Chamberlain) have ordered all children in London to be hidden away in the country so the child catcher won't get them. Three children; Carrie, Charles and Paul Rawlins (some kid actors who quickly evaporated into a singular drop of liquid), are sent to the small, poorly guarded [1] village of Pepperidge Farm, where they are forced to live in a large house with a prudish closet lesbian named Eglantine Price (Angela Lansbury), who asks local War Activities Committee chairwoman Mrs. Hobday (Roseanne Barr) to promptly dispose of them as soon as possible. Mrs. Hobday agrees, but for the time being the Rawlins children must suck it up and deal with it.

Frustrated at being stuck in a house where Miss Price, who suffers from OCD and probably has Assburger's syndrome as well, forces them to wash their hands constantly, yet does not even have indoor plumbing [2], the children plan to escape to Witch Mountain. At the same time, Miss Price tries to poison them with food she claims is "healthy," [3] but they refuse to eat it, as they know that lovable Cockney waifs evolved over 350,000 on a diet of fried foods no Americans have ever heard of and would be disgusted by if they ever attempted to consume. [4]

As the children pretend to sleep while waiting for the right moment to escape, Miss Price opens up a package she picked up: a "broomstick" from her "professor" Emelius Browne [5], who runs a for-profit Correspondence College of Witchcraft. As the children attempt their escape, they see Miss Price practicing with it, but she does not see them. As he has studied Freudian psychiatry thoroughly, Charlie decides to stay and use what he saw as blackmail [6]. Miss Price sees right through the little coward's pathetic charade and turns him into a rabbit. Miss Price's black cat, Cosmic Creepers, attempts to eat Charlie, but the spell wears off, forcing Charlie to retaliate. As his siblings restrain him from attempting to kill Miss Price, she realizes they will need something to shut them up, as the unenlightened rubes of Pepperidge Farm would burn her at the stake if they knew the truth [7].

Despite the inept execution of the rabbit spell, she wants to give them a magic spell, proving they could be bought easily. However, she needs a twistable physical object to which to apply it. Paul, who suffers from kleptomania, has swiped the bedknob from the bed in which he and Charlie sleep together [8], ostensibly to either commit an act of vandalism or to play cricket [9]. Miss Price puts a spell on the bedknob that makes it into a means of transportation when attached to the bed, without considering the effects it would have on CO2 levels in the atmosphere, nor the fact that the bed contains no seatbelts. She also makes it so only Paul can use the bedknob, leading Charles to plot his "accidental" death.

When Miss Price receives a letter from Professor Browne, delivered to her by Rev. Jerk (Roddy MacDowall), a priest with ulterior motives [10], because Mrs. Hobday, despite being postmistress, is such a fat, lazy fuck, she won't do it herself. The form letter says the college is going out of business forever, and Miss Price will not receive the valuable spell in the last lesson, will not graduate, cannot transfer her credits, and will have to work in a chip shop until she becomes a pensioner. Also, the Nazis will win if she does not learn the spell. After dissuading Paul from using the bed to stage an invasion of Africa, Miss Price convinces him to take her to London to force Mr. Browne to comply with the terms of her contract.

After Charlie raises important questions about the logistics of bedknob-based transportation, Miss Price glibly dismisses his concerns as a result of him being only 11 years old, which her father called "The Age of Not Believing," and lectures him in song, also called "The Age of Not Believing." [11] Surprisingly, the magic spell works, and it takes Miss Price and the children to Mr. Browne, who is desperately trying to sell his old magic props in order to survive. When Miss Price confronts him, he refuses to give her the final lesson, so she turns him into a rabbit with the intent of making him into rabbit stew if he doesn't comply. He convinces her to have dinner with him at the luxurious pad where he currently crashes, as the owners have evacuated due to an unexploded bomb. Mr. Browne candidly admits his life has so little value, he would risk being killed in an explosion in order to live a life of luxury. Miss Price continues to demand the spell, known as Substutional Locomotive, while Mr. Browne gives her the song-and-dance routine—literally, in the form of the song "Eggs Florentine"—until Miss Price threatens to change his species again. He finds the book, which is missing the spell, which is why he was forced to go out of business. That and the fact he is essentially a hobo.

The five of them go to the street market on Portobello Road, where Mr. Browne found the book and tore it in half during a vicious gang battle. They find no books about magic and get sidetracked by a big production number featuring plenty of Indians, Scotch, Irish and West Indians who love being part of the British Empire so much it makes them feel like dancing [12]. After the street fair ends and the hyperkinetic brown folk start to question whether independence might be superior to British rule, a thug (Bruce Forsythe) threatens Mr. Browne with a knife and takes him to a vicious mob boss named The Bookman (Al Jaffee), who has the other half of the book, which still doesn't have the spell. He also rambles about a medieval sorcerer named Astoroth [13], who came up with the spell. He also had a spell that would turn animals into humans; he also wore a piece of medieval bling bling around his neck that had the words to the spell. The animals, who resented being used for experiments once they became sentient, killed him and formed their own society on the nonexistent Isle of Naboombu. In addition to his kleptomania, Paul is deluded into believing the isle exists because he stole a children's book about it from the house in which Mr. Browne was crashing. After narrowly escaping The Bookman's attempt to stab the boy for the book, the bed occupants actually go to Naboombu. Miss Price and Mr. Browne fall into the lagoon and manage not to drown, so they enter a dance contest and win. They even develop sexual tension, leading Miss Price to question her previously assumed disinterest in men [14]. After a particularly stupid bear, who is not in a bromance with a pig, hooks the bed while fishing and reels it in, he leads the five travelers to the King of Naboombu, a lion king who rules as a vicious autocrat and does not consult horn-billed birds, farting warthogs or gay meerkats. He also considers himself the world's greatest soccer player, as the star of the Dirty Yellows club, who only plays the easily intimidated True Blues. The King also happens to wear the Star of Astoroth. Mr. Browne volunteers as a referee for the soccer game; as he's spending more time trying to steal the Star of Astoroth than actually doing his job as referee, the King wins 1-0 by destroying the ball and attempting to devour any player that gets in his way [15].

The bedhoppers return home, but not before Mr. Browne steals the star and avoids being eaten. Upon returning home, the star disappears, as it wasn't real to begin with. Mr. Browne takes Charlie to the grocery store, where he meets the omnipresent Mrs. Hobday. When the fat, nosy slag suggests he marry Miss Price before someone else does [16], he comes up with excuses why he won't marry her. Rev. Jerk comes into the store as they are talking, determined to convert her first.

As they listen in horror to the radio news, which warns the nation to collectively bend over and kiss its arse [17] goodbye, Paul reveals that his picture book has the words to the spell: Treguna Mekoides Tracorum Satis Dee. Instead of punishing him for not telling them sooner, they try out the spell. When Miss Price fails to animate Mr. Browne's shoes, he suggests putting the words to song, which they do. The shoes come to life, as do many other things in Miss Price's house, and physically attack them to get them to stop singing.

That night over dinner, Mrs. Hobday finally manages to stop by to tell Miss Price she has found a new home for the children. Yet Miss Price changes her mind, and the delusional Paul insists Mr. Browne, whom they have only known since this afternoon, is their father now. After the old busybody finally takes her nose out of other people's business, the commitment-phobic Mr. Browne chickens out and catches the next train back to London. A distraught Miss Price tries to console herself in song, but fails.

Meanwhile, the Nazis invade by sea, and they conveniently happen to stop right by Miss Price's house and use it as a home base, sending her and the children to a small, conveniently unguarded museum that has a lot of old medieval armor [18], but was being used as the evacuation centre for children because it's the only building big enough to hold that many screaming brats. Mr. Browne is reduced to sleeping on a bench at a train station, but when he sees Nazis cutting power lines in an attempt to conserve electricity that could be put to better use for genocide, he gives them a few upper cuts to show Jerry who's boss, then goes crawling back to Miss Price. After breaking into her house to find her gone, he turns himself into a rabbit to escape the Nazis who spot him when Cosmic Creepers meows in fear, which makes him the Nazis' first feline collaborator [19]. In trying to find a good place to hide, he comes upon the same museum where Miss Price and the children are being held captive. Encouraged by her lover running back into her lap to confirm her newfound heterosexuality, and unable to find any arms made since the Industrial Revolution, Miss Price settles for the ancient armor and is able to animate it. This being a Disney movie, you can figure out how it turns out for everyone. But at least there's violence. And some 'splosions.

[edit] Songs

  • The Old Folks Home Guard
  • The Age of Not Believing (a song cut from Hair during its pre-Broadway tryouts)
  • With A Flare
  • Eggs Florentine
  • Portobello Roadkill Sandwich (big-budget musical celebration of British imperialism, featuring the Disney studio's first non-slave black performers)
  • The Beautifully Grimy Sea (an animated tribute to water pollution)
  • Substitutional Locomotive
  • (I Don't Give A Shit About) Nobody's Problems But Mine

The original soundtrack album featured a 17 minute drum solo by The Briny Boys called "A Step in a High Direction," but it was cut from the film and couldn't be reinstated to the long version because of the ongoing feud between band members over royalties.

[edit] Production History

Extremely loosely based on Tom Wolfe's books Magic Mike's Bedknob and Bonfire of the Broomsticks, Walt Disney won the movie rights to the film in a craps game in an alley in Beautiful Downtown Burbank. While Walt was trying to seduce Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers in order to trick her out of the film rights to her books, story development and song composition began on this film in case these plans fell through, so they would at least have something to show for their exercises in futility. After Disney Imagineers accidentally discovered rophynol from substances found in the churro stand, Walt successfully bedded Travers and got the Poppins film rights. After Walt's death in a drug deal gone wrong, the studio went into panic mode trying to come up with new ideas [20]. Realizing that, unlike Poppins, this project had a properly developed storyline, and that the author of the books promised not to interfere because he didn't give a shit whether the movie was faithful to them, they greenlit the film in 1969, making only minor changes [21].

Julie Andrews, who was given an Oscar for Mary Poppins as a fuck-you to Audrey Hepburn over My Fair Lady [22], was first considered for the role of Miss Price. However, as she was in a court-ordered rehab treatment after spinning through a Los Angeles middle school and singing The Sound of Music while on PCP and completely naked, she told the studio, "Fuck off. I was once an acclaimed Broadway actress, but you turned me into a bloody Sunday School teacher." One Disney executive is said to have fainted and remain unconscious for three days after hearing the word "actress." Others considered for the role include Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, Liza Minnelli and Bette Midler. Angela Lansbury was cast after a TV airing of The Manchurian Candidate sparked an intense debate about the Kennedy Assassination.

Zero Mostel was considered for the role of Mr. Browne, but the studio could not fulfill his request to be paid in beet borscht and potato kugel, as no one there knew what they were. They offered a bag of 13 grocery store bagels, but Mostel refused. The actor later accused them of anti-semitism, to which a studio executive replied, "we're not anti-semitic. We just resent you people being so goddamn pushy all the time just because the Krauts tried to kill you." Said executive was fired for taking the Lord's name in vain and for using an ethnic slur agains the Master Race. Others considered for the part included Gene Hackman, David Niven, Dennis Hopper and, once they realized they couldn't afford actual movie stars, Tim Conway, Don Knotts and the guy who played Mr. Drysdale on The Beverly Hillbillies. David Tomlinson won the role at a raffle at the Grand Opening of Ralph's Supermarket in Chatsworth, along with two tickets to Disneyland, which he promptly traded for weed, which he promptly traded for three Disneyland tickets, and so on until he became one of the nation's 500 Wealthiest Drug Dealers.

Animators worked for a year on a 22-minute sequence that caused crippling arthritis in some of the animators. The special effects included actual armor used in medieval times, while the craft table featured authentic Armor™ hot dogs [23].

[edit] Release

Disney released the film in the United States on December 13, 1971. The premiere was marked by a witches coven in which Pete's Dragon was ritually sacrificed by three witches who recited the Act IV Scene I chant from Macbeth, as set to music by Burt Bacharach [24]. However, the coven took so long, Disney had to cut the movie. With no time to actually put thought into the cuts, they just randomly started taking bits and pieces out until the film was under two hours. The Sherman Brothers left Disney to protest the cuts, and also because Charles M. Schulz offered to pay them in quaaludes to write the score to Snoopy Come Home.

Critics gave the film backhanded compliments, saying they liked it, but not as much as Mary Poppins. Others had trouble following the storyline and noticed the heavy editing. Angela Lansbury got back at the film's critics with a very special episode of Murder, She Wrote entitled "A Spoonful of Poison," in which a superficially cheerful yet psychologically abusive British nanny (Fran Drescher) and her chimney sweep boyfriend with an unbelievably bad Cockney accent (Morey Amsterdam) are killed by one of the woman's young charges (Brice Beckham), who is gay and practices wicca. Other guest stars included Emmanuel Lewis as the killer's lover, Robert Vaughn as the Chief of Police, and a dozen washed-up old movie stars Lansbury cast out of pity because she knew them during the silent era, when they were relevant [25].

While the film won an Academy Award for Best Special Effects [26], the film was such a huge flop that the studio was forced to hock the Oscar to pay for the power costs on the freezer that contained Walt Disney's head. It was re-released in 1979 as a 90-minute non-musical, and again in 1987 as a five-minute short subject before the film Benji Goes Bananas.

[edit] Restoration

To celebrate the film's 25th anniversary, Disney restored and re-released the film in 1996, fulfilling their legal obligation to pay marginal lip service to any film anyone born after 1980 gives a shit about [27]. Bowing to pressure after the Sherman Brothers, who were unable to prevent the huge cuts made before the film's original release, threatened to release surveillance footage of Disney CEO Michael Eisner attempting to give surprise buttsex to one of the Laker Girls, the studio spent $50 million dollars to reconstruct the film to its originally intended length of six hours. The footage was discovered in a crack house bust in Salinas, California. A DEA agent [28] delivered the footage to a contact at Disney [29]. Lines of dialogue had to be re-recorded to censor dialogue referring to Charlie's years in an East End gang, selling drugs and beating up homosexuals for recreation. Other restored scenes included two songs and long a subplot in which Roddy MacDowall's character, a Catholic priest, attempted to "council" the boys on matters of faith, but Miss Price cast a magic spell to prevent him from carrying out his true intentions. This is the only version of the film that makes sense, with or without drugs.

However, Disney did not locate any footage of infamous glam rock sequence, shot while director Robert Stevenson was tripping on LSD he had managed to bum off Ward Kimball, member of the infamous Nine Old Men motorcycle gang. However, everyone involved in the film not dead or in rehab swears they shot it, despite having no other recollections of anything else, nor the ability to speak coherently.

After a gala premiere at a run-down drive-in in Dubuque, Iowa, Disney first released the restored version on a Betamax tape in Malaysia, then in an under-the-radar DVD release in the United States five years later. It went out of print within three days. Excess units were ground into powder and made into homeopathic remedies [30], making the DVD a rare collector's item to someone, somewhere, one can safely assume [31]. A Blu-Ray will come out eventually, but only if you say the magic word [32].

[edit] Remake Threats

In 2004, Disney announced threats to remake the film with Patricia Heaton as Miss Price, Steve Carell as Mr. Browne, and Cedric the Entertainer as a wisecracking bedknob named B-Dawg. Rob Marshall, Oscar-losing director of Chicago and other movies nobody not gay gives a shit about [33], was signed to direct. Marshall planned to re-invent all the numbers as psychotic fantasies going on inside Miss Price's head, arguing that if it worked in Chicago, then that's the only way film musicals can work [34]. The film planned to cost $400 million dollars. This news led a Disneyland Militia led by Walt Disney's nephew, Roy Eejit Disney, with John Lasseter serving as second-in-command, to oust Michael Eisner in a bloodless coup.

[edit] See also

[edit] Footnotes

  1. ^  Only a bunch of old men with uniform fetishes, also known as the "Home Guard," stand between it and Nazi victory.
  2. ^  The house belonged to her deceased father, a World War I veteran who purchased a four-acre seaside mansion with the profits he made manipulating the price of gold, causing the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression.
  3. ^  She does not eat actual food, only coffee beans, which she shits out later to produce kopi luwak.
  4. ^  This is the cause of the obesity pandemic because science says so and science is always right.
  5. ^  Disney was forced to use euphemisms and metaphors to maintain a "G" rating.
  6. ^  Homosexuality was illegal in the UK until 1967.
  7. ^  And they have the nerve to call Americans backward hillbillies.
  8. ^  Another subplot restored to the long version of the film; this prompted the Southern Baptist boycott of Disney.
  9. ^  That's all Disney believes English children do, just like they think all English babysitters do is fly and sing showtunes. Has anyone from that studio ever set foot in the UK?
  10. ^  He wants to marry Miss Price, kill her and inherit her assets; Disney has always been accused of sugarcoating reality, but in this case they got it right.
  11. ^  The song was nominated for an Academy Award, but it lost, as the 1970s was largely known as "The Age of Not Giving a Shit About Disney."
  12. ^  Disney, who built an empire on making things up, could not afford historical consultants after paying Roddy MacDowall's bail; the FBI caught him running a male prostitute ring out of his basement.
  13. ^  Who shortened his name from Astorothstein because of widespread anti-semitism.
  14. ^  Scientists have now identified this as lesbianism.
  15. ^  It's good to be the king.
  16. ^  Not all gaydar is created equal.
  17. ^  Englishmen and ladies have arses and bums. Only Americans, who are mostly bums, have asses, regardless of Noah Webster's attempted genocide of the English language.
  18. ^  The British Army was incredibly cheap.
  19. ^  He was just as bad as the Nazi butler in The Sound of Music who finked on the Von Trapp family.
  20. ^  The best they could do was a film series about sentient German car named Herbie, whom, despite his hippie pretensions, was designed for none other than Hitler himself. Hitler was known to drive the car around to run small errands, like picking up groceries, but because fangirls kept screaming whenever they saw him, eventually he had to have his brownshirts do it for him.
  21. ^  The biggest change was to make the Nazis the villains instead of the heroes.
  22. ^  Anyone who is still bitter about casting decisions in old movie musicals needs to die in a fire. Seriously, get a life. And people wonder why 31 states banned gay marriage?
  23. ^  What kind of kids eat Armor hot dogs?
  24. ^  The Sherman Brothers were unavailable, as they were awaiting trial in the International Criminal Court for writing It's a Small World.
  25. ^  Yes, Angela Lansbury is that old. Also, The Love Boat had been canceled and they were desperate for work.
  26. ^  It was also nominated for Best Way to Shut Your Kids Up For Two Hours While You Fuck Your Wife. Nobody won.
  27. ^  This does not include those whose obsession with Disney has ruined lives, careers and personal relationships, assuming they had any to begin with.
  28. ^  He later lost security clearance for being a huge theater queen. He never actually admitted he was gay, but with his extensive knowledge of Stephen Sondheim's career, why take chances?
  29. ^  An actor he slept with who played Aladdin in the Magic of Ramadan Parade.
  30. ^  Synthetic crack.
  31. ^  It now goes for upwards of $3,000 on eBay, almost as much as a half-decent bootleg of Song of the South.
  32. ^  Said word being "please," for the benefit of ill-mannered louts.
  33. ^  Such as the made-for-TV remake of Annie, for which several circles of Hell are currently under construction to accommodate everybody involved.
  34. ^  During the Golden Age of Hollywood, he would have been laughed off the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer lot and probably blacklisted.
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