“Bedknobs and Broomsticks” is a magical journey from the treasure trove of Disney’s yesteryears, a musical adventure for everyone.
The film, directed by Robert Stevenson, stars the great Angela Lansbury, known for “Sweeney Todd” and “Beauty & The Beast,” as Eglantine Pryce, a witch-in-training working to discover a spell to defeat the Nazi Army during World War II. While on the cusp of her work, Pryce is saddled with three orphans evacuated from London to avoid the bombings. After a lapse in her studies, she decides to go to London and find her teacher Emelius Browne, played by David Tomlinson, to acquire the final spell she needs. This takes the found family on a wild goose chase through all sorts of musical mishaps.
The art of the movie musical is largely lost on modern audiences. The last major movie musical was “A Star Is Born” in 2018 and before that was “The Greatest Showman” in 2017. These were largely successful because of their stark difference to anything resembling that of “Bedknobs and Broomsticks.” The film is a very traditional musical film, and hits all the beats of other musical films that it is trying to emulate. This was 1971. It was a time before Disney had really hit its stride and to be perfectly honest, Disney was not exactly doing well in terms of money. This could definitely be considered the “dark age” of Disney. This was a time where their production was stalled by financial strains, creative visions, and the wants of their primary audience: parents who watched their films as children and now desired the same treatment with their kids.
“Bedknobs and Broomsticks” is a return to that style of filmmaking from the late 40s and early 50s, mimicking many of the tropes. Disney saw great success with “Mary Poppins” just seven years earlier and so the film also borrows from that as well. Note: these are not criticisms. These are just things to note before watching so that viewers are watching with the proper context.
The film’s songs are very well written despite their distinct lack in the Disney song canon. They get far overshadowed by the likes of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” from “Mary Poppins” or most songs taken from films of the “Disney Renaissance,” or the films that primarily encompass the 90s era of Disney. It’s very likely that you may have never heard any of these songs, but you will find yourself singing them all day long after watching. Angela Lansbury’s solo “The Age of Not Believing” features themes that anyone can relate to and that’s why it can draw such a powerful emotional connection to the listener. In addition to this, Lansbury is just a stunning vocal talent. Her lower-setting voice is very soothing to listen to, like that of a grandmother.
Ultimately, the musical beats and the comedic timing is like something from an era long past. I suppose for some of us, the era of the 70s is a long time ago. “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” receives an A rating.