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Johnny Depp was a decent Willy Wonka in Tim Burton’s fanciful 2005 “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” remake, but let’s face it, he’s no Gene Wilder. The original Willy Wonka, along with the original Chocolate Factory is getting a makeover just in time for its 40th anniversary courtesy of Warner Home Video. “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition is currently available in an impressive Ultimate Collector’s pack that comes with a DVD and Blu-ray copy of the movie, along with some, ahem, sweet bonus goodies.
Join the expedition visiting legendary Candy Man Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder) in a splendiferous movie that wondrously brings to the screen the endlessly appetizing delights of Roald Dahl’s classic book. Coated with flavorful tunes and production design that constantly dazzles the eye, this effervescent musical never fails to enchant young and old. On a whirlwind tour of Willy’s incredible, edible realm of chocolate waterfalls, elfish Oompa-Loompas and industrial-sized confections, a boy named Charlie (Peter Ostrum) will discover the sweetest secret of all: a generous, loving heart. And you’ll rediscover the timeless magic of a delicious family classic.
What’s the timeless appeal of Mel Stuart’s “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory”? Well if you have to ask that question, then you were probably never a child, and you must be some kind of monster and thus must be destroyed! But in case you’re not (a monster, I mean), and just never “got” it, well, it’s pretty easy to get: adapted by Roald Dahl from his own book, “Willy Wonka” appeals to the kid in all of us. You remember the tyke that loved chocolate? Junk food? Sure, your parents told you they were no good and would rot your teeth, but what did they know? Now imagine an entire world made of nothing but the sweetest of sweets. For Charlie (Peter Ostrum), a poor boy from the poor part of town, the chance to enter Willy Wonka’s wonderful world is more than he could possibly imagined. Can good things really happen to good boys? One hopes so.
But what makes “Willy Wonka” so good wasn’t just the colorful set designs, the dangerously catchy musicals, or even the oddball Oompah-Loompahs (who were oddballs before Tim Burton started doing oddballs), was that the film wasn’t afraid to take chances. For all its sugary designs, “Willy Wonka” had a certain dark streak about it, embodied brilliantly in Gene Wilder’s performance as the overly eccentric title character. Young Peter Ostrum is perfect as the good-hearted Charlie, and the film boasts an impressive cast of misfits and troublemakers that include Julie Dawn Cole as spoiled rich girl Varuca Salt and Denise Nickerson as bubblegum chewing Violet. The two actresses, now all grown up, are included in a full-length commentary track on the Blu-ray.
The Collector’s Edition comes in a gift box slightly wider than a shoe box (pictures below), and holds a book called “Pure Imagination: The Story of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” that dives into the making of the film. It’s over 100 pages long, so fans should have plenty to devour. Additional goodies come in the form of a golden “ticket” (for those of you who have always fantasized about, well, winning one, I guess), a Wonka tin box with school supplies inside (scented eraser included), and curiously, copies of in-studio memos that took place behind-the-scenes during the making of the film. I’m sure you old timey film school fans will get a kick out of that. And of course, the DVD and Blu-ray copy of the movie in a nice chocolate bar themed box. Disappointingly, no actual chocolates inside, though.
The Blu-ray quality of the 40th Anniversary edition is outstanding, with vibrant colors and terrific sound that blows away every version of the film I’ve seen so far, including on TV in HD. Even if you don’t want/care for all the physical bonuses that the collector’s edition comes with, the Blu-ray itself should be a must-buy if you’re a fan of the 1971 version. Special features include your usual assortment of items like original trailer, sing-along songs, a 1971 documentary, and full-length commentary with the kids from the movie (now all grown up, of course).