"We're not here just to shit on the Tim Burton one"
June 16, 2020 6:04 AM   Subscribe

Mike and Jay from Red Letter Media talk about the 1971 classic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
posted by Pendragon (33 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
There are many good things about the Tim Burton one, all of those things being Deep Roy.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 6:33 AM on June 16 [7 favorites]

I was fond of the Burton remake in its way, although it made a lot of bad decisions with the backstory, and Depp is no longer adorably lighthearted to look at. Still, Danny Elfman's songs were great.

There's a good Rifftrax of the '70s movie with Neil Patrick Harris, of all people.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:54 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]

Gene Wilder. It's just. He's so amazingly talented and good. That forward roll as he walks toward the gate sans walking cane all of a sudden. It's just. He's brilliant. I miss him.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:58 AM on June 16 [43 favorites]

The original is just so deeply weird and scary for a kids movie. I saw it in the theater when it came out which would have meant that I was seven and it was really disturbing. I'd even already read the book beforehand but seeing it still freaked me out.
posted by octothorpe at 8:06 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]

@RolandOfEld He asked that the rest of the cast not be told he was going to do the roll so the gasps are genuine.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 8:51 AM on June 16 [13 favorites]

Didn't he ask to the roll as a condition of taking the part?

I have read Gene singing during the boat ride was not in the script. The freaked out reactions were real.
posted by Fukiyama at 8:54 AM on June 16 [5 favorites]

As the re:viewers point out, "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" works because of the contrast. Charlie is just a normal kid in a normal (if somewhat downtrodden) town, who steps into an outwardly normal factory that is anything but normal on the inside. Gene Wilder's Willy Wonka walks a fine line between the youthful exuberance of the children and the jaded cynicism of Grandpa Joe.

On the other hand... "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" is Burtonesque throughout. The town looks like something out of "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and Johny Depp's Willy Wonka is just enthusiastically bizarre. Its one note approach leaves no room for the reconciliation between Charlie and Willy at the end.
posted by eisenkrote at 9:11 AM on June 16 [15 favorites]

I was a bit disappointed that Mike hadn't read the book. It's pretty short, and there's a sequel where they fight vermicious knids!

Also every Doctor Who fan knows that Willy Wonka is a Time Lord and the Great Glass Elevator is a TARDiS.
posted by Catblack at 9:32 AM on June 16 [11 favorites]

Gene Wilder was a perfect Wonka. Too bad the rest of the movie is such a drab, leaden, joyless slog.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:51 AM on June 16 [3 favorites]

I'd like to add, and I think The Blue has mentioned it before, that while RLM has gone way, way too far into their shtick and their contemporary movie reviews have been unwatchable, their re:View series is very watchable, albeit laid back and rife with nostalgia.
posted by Dmenet at 9:58 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]

Too bad the rest of the movie is such a drab, leaden, joyless slog.

Did we watch the same movie?
posted by explosion at 10:41 AM on June 16 [22 favorites]

Once I realized that the 70s movie is preachy, moralistic Christian allegory, it lost a lot of its appeal for me. But I do love me some Gene Wilder and he's infinitely watchable as Willy Wonka. What a treasure he was. Even in the Mel Brooks movies, I always got a sense of almost transcendent sincerity from him, and an otherworldly serenity beneath the antics.
posted by myfavoriteband at 10:46 AM on June 16 [5 favorites]

Wondering if there is a Wilder-only supercut of the original someplace... closest thing I could find.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 11:14 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]

I'm so glad this is still up: Say No to Grandpa Joe: Exposing the Truth

Be sure to check out the sidebar links, they're full of supporting materials. This isn't just a one-page rant.
posted by rhizome at 11:19 AM on June 16 [10 favorites]

There are two great entries on Letters of Note about the movie: one from Gene Wilder to the director; another from the director to the producer.
posted by Sibrax at 11:33 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]

I think I watched this edition for the first time when I was in 1st grade and aside from being terrified of the boat scene I vividly remember running screaming from my classroom when the blueberry sequence came up. For some horrible reason my teacher had us watch the movie multiple times, and every viewing made me more and more distressed. It's genuinely terrifying on so many levels.
posted by Kitchen Witch at 11:48 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]

If you think about it, it's just kind of a less gory Saw movie.
posted by octothorpe at 12:52 PM on June 16 [8 favorites]

Once I realized that the 70s movie is preachy, moralistic Christian allegory, it lost a lot of its appeal for me.
The book is a bit more self-conscious about avoiding that and hinting at Wonka's hypocrisy. There's a funny bit of dialogue in the scene where Violet Beauregarde turns into a blueberry and Willy Wonka is preaching about the evils of chewing gum where Mike Teevee says "but Mr Wonka, don't you make chewing gum in your factory?" and Wonka says "will you stop mumbling, I can't hear a word you're saying!" (or words to that effect).
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 2:46 PM on June 16 [2 favorites]

Friends, mefites, filmgoers, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Burton, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Burton. The noble Mike and Jay
Hath told you Burton was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Burton answer’d it.
Here, under leave of Mike, Jay, and the rest–
For Mike is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men–
Come I to speak of Burton’s Wonka film.

I thought about trying to fit Oompa Loompas into John of Gaunt’s speech and decided to quit while marginally ahead.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 4:12 PM on June 16 [3 favorites]

The one good thing to come of the Burton film was that it permitted the creation of the West End musical.

The musical is flawed in a lot of ways (mostly inherited from the Burton film), but it added the one plot twist that helped sort out the last-minute-ism of the '71 film. In the musical, Charlie's one transgression is that he's left alone with Wonka's notebook full of inventions and told not to touch it: not only does he read it, but he can't resist riffing on Wonka's ideas and adding creations of his own.

The reason he becomes heir to the factory wasn't that he survived the gauntlet by being dull and uninquisitive (Dahl actually hated children, and test-ran several drafts of the story past family), or proved his honesty (in a scene added at almost the very last minute), but because he showed that he couldn't resist imagining weird and wonderful things. That is how Wonka knows he's the right person to leave the factory to.

In addition, the Wonka in the musical is a bit more of a troubled character, struggling with an inability to fit in outside his own imagination. There are hints in the song Simply Second Nature that he's struggling with this in a way that could suggest a serious fight with his own mental health.
It's simply second nature
to see what isn't there.
The mind is such a wonder to explore.

And though some nights I dread
all the voices in my head,
I'd rather be this way than a bore.
Incidentally, the reason the Great Glass Elevator was never made into a film was because Dahl forbade anyone from doing so. He wanted Spike Milligan to play Wonka, and was resentful about the casting of Wilder ever since.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 4:19 PM on June 16 [5 favorites]

I enjoy the musical, but it seems to be in two halves — one too much for children and one too much for adults. For one thing, it’s unclear whether any of the other four kids actually survive, except for Mike Teevee, whose mom wants him to be tiny forever and puts him in her purse. When I saw the musical, the kids in front of me were visibly unnerved, and there was crying elsewhere.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:03 PM on June 16

I actually have a Charlie And The Chocolate Factory game (based on the book, it's a bookshelf game).

Gameplay basically involves players swapping their "ownership" of the different kids back and forth with the winner being the person holding Charlie once the TeeVee room is reached and Mike is taken out of play. You can read more about it here.
posted by hippybear at 6:27 PM on June 16

Once I realized that the 70s movie is preachy, moralistic Christian allegory, it lost a lot of its appeal for me.

I've heard this idea thrown out several times over the decades, and just I never saw it. It seems you either have to do some real contortions to draw Christian allegory, or interpret extremely simply. Though I do like the idea of the movie being Christian allegory according to interpretation that's pretty hostile to Christianity.

I loved it as a kid precisely because it was dark, nasty, and nonsensical, and it took little twists that are not expected. I love it as an adult for exactly the same reasons. Charlie is a character you can cheer for, but he lives in a dreary world of absurd authority figures, from his ineffective teacher, to his oddly sweet, yet hopeless and overworked mother, and burdensome grandparents. The vignettes about the quest for the golden tickets are dryly wacky. It came out at a time when children's cinema was mostly populated by mostly forgotten dreck.

The Burton movie was an eyeful, but struck me as a prestige vehicle for Burton and Depp. It falls into the category of "movies that really didn't need to be made".
posted by 2N2222 at 6:34 PM on June 16 [6 favorites]

rum-soaked space hobo: "Incidentally, the reason the Great Glass Elevator was never made into a film was because Dahl forbade anyone from doing so."

The first book is delightful. Great Glass Elevator is an unpleasant slog.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:43 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]

I read Chocolate Factory aloud, and then was induced to read Glass Elevator because hey, elevator doors opening on Vermicious Knids? I immediately and deeply regretted every scene with the President and bargained to skip over reading him.
posted by away for regrooving at 11:36 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]

The Vermicious Knids in the Great Glass Elevator are pretty cool. But the whole aging/de-aging pills plot is so crazy is broke my young brain. You spray a woman with chemicals that makes her 358 years old, and the way it does this is by changing 358 years of past history so that now she's alive when the Mary Rose was launched?
posted by leibniz at 11:58 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]

There are many reasons to love this movie, but top of my list (even above Wilder's terrific performance) is the song "Pure Imagination." A perfect and singable song that has given deep solace to me many times in life. The West End musical was largely forgettable, but they were smart to secure the rights to that song.
posted by rikschell at 6:01 AM on June 17 [1 favorite]

I have always filed the 70s film under "shit for kids who don't read and have Oz nostalgia;" I suppose maybe I'll try it again at some point. I did love the book, and was fine with the sequel. I have never had the slightest temptation to watch the Burton version.
posted by aspersioncast at 7:47 AM on June 17

"WRONG, sir, WRONG!" [Remix]

God, please let me be able to post this to some folks after the next US presidential election. Please. Oh please. I need that.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:56 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]

posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 12:51 AM on June 18

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