The Curator of Schlock #153 by Jeff Shuster
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
The greatest children’s movie of all time? Yes.
As I’ve stated on this blog before, I had access to cable TV and a VCR when I was four years-old. I routinely watched Star Wars, Oliver, Fiddler on the Roof, and Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. With the recent passing of Gene Wilder, I’ve decided to revisit that last one for this week’s blog. It’s been a long time since I gave this film my full attention, so let’s sees how it holds up. Better than Howard the Duck I hope.
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory was directed by Mel Stuart and was released in 1971 with tepid box office results. As a child, I never thought about when a movie was made while watching a movie. Here I was watching a ten year-old film crafted during the Nixon administration while I was living during the Reagan administration. It’s amazing how much the country had changed during those ten years (not that I knew anything about it at age four). Movies were just movies to me back then. I think I was just grateful to watch anything that wouldn’t give me nightmares like Creepshow or Raiders of the Lost Ark
Of course, there are many of my generation who will cite Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory as good old-fashioned nightmare fuel in the same vein as other movies such as The Never Ending Story or Labyrinth. I don’t know. I remember being slightly disconcerted over the tunnel scene with Mr. Wonka’s eerie, nonsensical singing coupled with those flying images of bugs, snakes, and chickens getting decapitated. And then there’s the fizzy lifting scene where Charlie and Grandpa Joe nearly get chopped to pieces by a ceiling fan. Other than those two scenes, I could never figure out what everyone was making so much of a fuss over.
Maybe it’s the fates of the other four children.
You know what?
They got what was coming to them. If getting stuck in a pipe or turning into a blueberry or shrinking terrifies you, you’re a rotten child. Sorry. If you follow the rules and listen to Mr. Wonka, you’ll be fine. If you act like a spoiled brat, you’ll be classified as a bad egg and sent to the furnace. I didn’t write the rules. They were written long ago.
In some ways, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is not so different from the movies of the Saw series.
I mean you have a mad genius who designs a series of traps meant to test individuals with severe character flaws. Of course, Mr. Wonka’s tests aren’t lethal. Or are they? We never find out what happens to the bad egg kids in the film. I guess we just have to take Mr. Wonka’s word that they’re okay. I did discover something disturbing upon my re-watch. Willy Wonka knew that one child and family member were not going to make it out of the garden of sweet delights. The river boat only had eight seats on it! He knew one of the children wouldn’t survive.
June 11, 1933 to August 29, 2016
Gosh, I don’t what to say. I think you were the first actor I saw as a child playing multiple roles. It wasn’t long after Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory that I watched Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles. Your performances in the movies delighted me then, and will delight generations to come. Not a bad legacy if you ask me. Rest in peace, Gene.