Upon revisiting Bedknobs and Broomsticks anew, and for the first time in a long time, it occurred to me that some of the more unusual aspects of the film and story should be examined some. The first thing that occurred to me that bared some investigation were the books the film is based on.
The feature-length film is actually based upon two books The Magic Bed Knob; or, How to Become a Witch in Ten Easy Lessons (1943) and Bonfires and Broomsticks (1945). While that fact is not unusual by itself, it was a bit more rare for Disney. Song of the South combine many Br’er Rabbit Tales, but typically while Disney optioned many films in a series they tended not to conglomerate.
Having not read the books I cannot tell you what impact this had on the film. It does bear noting that with its whimsical structure, and flights of fancy, there aren’t too many places where this may show. Furthermore, the link between the mundane and the magical is well-established and broached properly.
Even with no more source material to fall back on it did surprise me that Disney didn’t try to franchise this idea. Granted that notion has only gained clout, but was not unheard of in the 70s. It is a prime candidate for a remake.
In some ways I think that this film has become a fairly overlooked oddity, and it should not be. It should not be, if for no other reason than the fact that “Portobello Road” is one of the Sherman Brothers’ greatest creations. Another interesting footnote is that two of the three young leads (Ian Weighill and Roy Snart) claim this film as their only screen credit. While usually this can be either a very notable or dubious distinction, the results here are somewhere in between with both boys bringing a bit of humor to the film.
Another thing that I think should be mentioned is that Angela Lansbury’s Miss Price and David Tomlinson’s Emelius are not exactly angels, but not antiheroes either and do eventually warm to one another and the wartime-displaced children.
Lastly, while it is another World War II set tale about children ripped from London into the English countryside, but it folds nicely into the rear-view of the proceedings until is necessarily molds the finale. There’s simple magic and tropes that make this tale memorable even when omitting to mention that it’s another live action/animation hybrid.