Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"Bedknobs" Flies Away to Fun

Cleveland Press November 22, 1971

Bet you didn't know that England would have been successfully invaded by the Nazis in World War II if were not for the daring of an apprentice witch.

This little known moment in history is recorded in "Bedknobs and Broomsticks," the Walt Disney Studio production of the year (as opposed by the lesser efforts that turn up other times of the year).

This is a fantasy with several animated sequences including the combination of live performers with animated ones, with some wild and wonderful special effects and with a heavy sprinkling of music.

The tunes by Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman are neither very good by themselves nor helpful to the movie. If they had been left out, the picture would have been better, shorter and lots more fun.

Angela Lansbury is Miss Eglantine Price, an apprentice witch just winding up her mail order course from the Correspondence College of Witchcraft.

She lives in the seacoast town of Peppering Eye, England, where youngsters from London are being billeted to protect them from air raids.

Placed in her home, against her wishes, are three Cockney kids who plan to run off as soon as they can to avoid such evils as vegetables at dinner and washing up before meals.

"A ‘ouse of ‘orror, that's what we've come to," announces the eldest.

But after they observe their hostess try her first solo flight aboard a broomstick they decide to stay.

There's other magic too and pretty soon they are flying to London aboard a brass bed where they meet the witchcraft school professor, a wandering entertainer (who knows nothing about real magic) engagingly played by David Tomlinson.

From London they go to the Island of Naboombu where the movie becomes an animated cartoon, and a very good one, the likes of which marked the best efforts of the Disney Studios years back.

Here the music works as everyone goes dancing in the Briney Sea Ballroom. Later there is a riotous soccer game with vultures with Red Crosses on their chests serving as medics.

Back to England they go in time to try a process called substitutiary locomotion. This allows the witch to send suits of armor without bodies and legless armored horses into battle against a Nazi landing party. The sequence is a triumph for the special effects department.

Miss Lansbury has fun though she doesn't seem always at home in the fantasy. The others are pleasantly agreeable.

The Shermans did the music for "Mary Poppins" and "Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang" but there's no comparison. One number, a salute to a place called Portobello Road, simply makes the picture stop until it is over.

But audiences who can get past these moments have a fine family fantasy to watch.