Directed by: Mel Stuart | 98 minutes | comedy, family, fantasy, musical | Actors: Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson, Peter Ostrum, Ursula Reit, Roy Kinnear, Julie Dawn Cole, Leonard Stone, Denise Nickerson, Nora Denney, Paris Themmen, Michael Bollner, Aubrey Woods, David Battley, Peter Capell, Werner Heyking
This is the first film adaptation of the classic children’s book by Roald Dahl (1916-1990). The story about Charlie aka Charlie who finds a chocolate bar wrapped in a golden wrapper and is allowed to take a look at the gigantic chocolate factory of candy magnate Willy Wonka, is well known. The film is childhood sentiment for many. The film takes place for the most part in the Wonka factory where fantasy plays the leading role. It is a true children’s paradise with beautiful scenery and strange workers called Oompa Loompas. Chances are they burst into singing, but mysterious things also happen to the other lucky ones who, like Charlie, found a golden wrapper. These kids are generally spoiled brats, and Wonka visibly enjoys making them disappear. Gene Wilder from “Young Frankenstein” (1974) is on a roll here as the mysterious and eccentric Wonka, especially his entrance is controversial. This specific entrance was a condition of Wilder for his participation in the film. Child star Peter Ostrum plays the sympathetic Charlie, after this he made no more films and became a vet. Jack Albertson (1907-1981) from “The Subject Was Roses” (1968) plays his friendly grandfather Joe.
There is now a remake of this film called “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (2005) by Tim Burton with Johnny Depp as Wonka in the post-production phase. The film is being produced by Plan B founded by Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston. Freddie Highmore of “Finding Neverland (2004)” and “Two Brothers” (2004) has the honor of playing Charlie Bucket. Depp was so impressed with Highmore’s performance in “Finding Neverland” that he convinced Burton to cast him. Dahl’s descendants weren’t really eager for a remake because Roald Dahl wasn’t a fan of the first film adaptation. This was due to David Seltzer’s rigorous rewriting of the story. Dahl therefore refused to grant permission for the sequel to the book Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator to be filmed. By hiring Tim Burton director of, among others, “Beetlejuice” (1988) and “Edward Scissorhands” (1990), the Dahl family turned to the remake.
Although everyone is looking forward to the latest film adaptation, Mel Stuart’s original from the early 1970s remains a delightful, timeless (children’s) film that is well worth watching. As expected, children have a lot of fun watching this movie in which anything they can imagine seems to be possible. But the film is, as is the case with many fairytales, for both young and old to enjoy. Sometimes the film tends to be a bit scary, especially during the boat trip through a tunnel. However, the film also contains quotes from poems and plays by, among others, Shakespeare and Wilde and under the chocolate layer of this film there is also a deeper, moralistic meaning to be found.