Today! Because the suspense is terrible – I hope it’ll last –
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)
Directed by Mel Stuart
Starring Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson, Roy Kinnear, Peter Ostrum, Leonard Stone, Nora Denney, Michael Bollner, Denise Nickerson, Paris Themmen, Julie Dawn Cole, Gunter Meisner
One of those movies you see again as an adult and wonder “Is this too scary for kids?” But you remember watching it as a kid and this never occurring to you. Really, it’s just the boat ride, the rest of the movie is fun musical weirdness. But man, that boat ride!
On Gene Wilder’s death three years ago, I wrote that growing up he might’ve been the top movie star in my whole world, and almost exclusively because of films made previous to that present day. Along with Harrison Ford and…Kermit the Frog maybe? But it seemed like Gene Wilder movies were playing all the time in my house in the ’80s, and many of those will appear in this space in days to come.
First up though is this bizarro children’s book adaptation, loaded with literally colorful characters and burping as a plot device. What kid wouldn’t like that? Sure, you’ve gotta wade through that whole opening sequence finding all the golden tickets and “The Candy Man” number, but once they reach the factory it proves worth the wait. Wilder is terrifically sinister as Wonka, and is a fun precursor to his manic work in Young Frankenstein a few years later, and the dispatching of the ticket winners is increasingly inventive and surprising. The movie doesn’t cotton to the bounds of reality, and so anything is possible around every corner of the film. It’s wonderfully strange.
In addition to a Best Actor – Comedy or Musical nomination for Gene and an Oscar nod for Music, why has the film forever been overlooked for its obvious greatest achievement, Best Lickable Wallpaper? Why isn’t this a standard feature of all modern homes?? Also, how about Best Inedible Candy Design, for the film’s Everlasting Gobstopper. Look at that thing! It’s a ball of points! That doesn’t look like mouth fun at all!