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Bedknobs and Broomsticks
SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.66:1 Widescreen
  • English DTS-HD 5.1 Surround
  • English subtitles
  • French subtitles
  • Spanish subtitles
  • 2 Discs
FEATURES
  • Music Magic: The Sherman Brothers
  • Deleted and Extended Songs
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes
  • David Tomlinson Recording Session
  • Disney Song Selection
  • The Wizards of Special Effects
  • 4 Theatrical Trailers

Bedknobs and Broomsticks

Special Edition
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Robert Stevenson
Starring: Angela Lansbury, David Tomlinson, Roddy McDowall, Sam Jaffe
1971 | 117 Minutes

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $29.99 | Series: Disney
Buena Vista Home Entertainment

Release Date: August 12, 2014
Review Date: August 11, 2014

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SYNOPSIS

Disney legends Angela Lansbury and David Tomlinson star in this beloved film about an apprentice witch who reluctantly takes in three orphan children. Though her first spells create more laughs than magic, Miss Price and the children soon find themselves swept away aboard a fantastic flying bed-their ticket to a fun-filled excitement and adventure.


PICTURE

Bedknobs and Broomsticks makes its Blu-ray debut in this dual-format edition, presenting the film in its original aspect ratio of about 1.66:1 on a dual-layer disc with a new 1080p/24hz high-definition transfer.

I haven’t seen the film since VHS admittedly, skipping all DVD releases entirely. I’m aware that Disney actually spent a considerable amount of time recreating an extended version of the film to closely match the original “Roadshow” version, which ran 139-minutes, before it was trimmed down for a more “friendly” 117-minute theatrical release. Despite the fact they did all this, put all that time and effort into it, and released it on two DVD editions, they haven’t included that version on this Blu-ray. As to why I couldn’t say. I had an initial suspicion that maybe it was put together in standard-definition and they just didn’t want to bother redoing it in high-definition, though going through the deleted scenes included in the supplements this was obviously not the case since they’re all presented in high-definition. So whatever the reason it is beyond me.

Despite this omission I will commend Disney on doing an incredible job on this transfer, far exceeding my expectations. I was expecting some heavy filtering and an over-zealous clean-up job, or just a simple port of an old DVD transfer, but it really looks like they went the extra mile here (short of providing the extended version) delivering a nice looking high-definition transfer and actually going a fairly hands-off approach in terms of digital manipulation, but gone all out in restoration. They’ve cleaned up the print nicely and there’s only a few minor issues remaining, primarily in effects scenes with some minor marks and debris present, along with some noticeable colour separation, but again this is all minor.

Where I was most surprised was in the obvious reluctance in using noise reduction. Grain remains and is even present during the midway animated sequence. It looks clean and natural and doesn’t lead to any unwanted noise or artifacts. And because they decided to go this route detail levels are excellent and we get an excellent representation of the various textures in the film, from some of the stonework in the buildings to the various costumes. The film has a dirtier colour scheme as a whole, though has pops of colour throughout in things like red capes or bright green apples, while the animated sequence and various effect sequences have the most vibrant use of colour. But whether the sequences are drab or colourful colour saturation looks exceptional, with only a few of the effects scenes maybe looking a little under or over saturated, probably something that couldn’t be easily fixed.

Overall I found it a big surprise, figuring Disney would really just slap on some older master, but this looks to be a fairly recent one. Unfortunately the fact they actually put in the effort to deliver a strong transfer makes it all the more mysterious as to why they didn’t bother including the extended cut.

8/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The film comes with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track. It’s still very much monaural in nature, but music and some sound effects spread decently to the rear speakers, but I didn’t notice anything overly fancy. Dialogue and singing is crystal clear and dynamic range is fairly impressive. It’s not overly active but it’s effective and clean.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

We get a fairly modest special edition here with only a few supplements, starting with the shorts 24-minute Music Magic: The Sherman Brothers leading the pack, which was also included on previous DVD versions. The inclusion of this one on this edition is somewhat questionable as a good chunk of it—despite the title suggesting it’s entirely about the Sherman brothers, Roger and Richard—is actually about the reconstruction of the extended version of the film. The first bit of it focuses solely on the Shermans and their contributions, while also going over the production (which sounds to have been considered as a project before Mary Poppins.) Then it goes over the songs that didn’t make the final cut or weren’t recorded, and this is where the feature gets into the reconstruction of the longer version, which is always referred to as “being available here” which is certainly not the case. The featurette skims over some subjects but I did find it an interesting piece, more for the history of the various versions of the film.

We then get a number of deleted and extended songs and deleted and extended scenes. The deleted/extended songs sequences runs 24-minutes total as the extended songs are presented in full, meaing you get the full 11-minute “Portobello Road” number. It also presents the missing “A Step in the Right Direction” though in a reconstructed version: since the footage is missing we get audio played over stills taken during filming, animated to give an idea as to how it played out.

The deleted/extended scenes run about 10-minutes and are made up of a few short sequences, though for me (I have never seen these scenes or the extended version before so they were new) the biggest surprise was an excised subplot involving Roddy McDowall’s priest. I always found it odd that McDowall was cast in such small part with as high a billing as he did, though now it makes sense: almost all of his scenes were cut out.

I’m happy they’re here, though after seeing them and seeing they’re presented in high-definition (fully restored, too!) I really question why Disney didn’t see the point in including the extended version, at least through seamless branching. Really, really odd.

Before we get to the 4 theatrical trailers Disney then includes one of their standard Disney Song Selection features, which allows you to jump to certain songs within the film with optional subtitles for the lyrics, along with footage of a David Tomlinson recording session, which is basically a minute of footage of Tomlinson singing.

We then get what I would easily call the most useless feature I’ve seen in recent memory, The Wizards of Special Effects, an 8-minute piece aimed at kids (I guess) explaining those “old” optical special effects techniques used in this “old” film hosted by someone from the show Wizards of Waverly Place. And then for some odd reason they go over how computer effects are applied to that show that has nothing to do with this movie. The 2-minutes we get of actual explanation on the screen vapor process is about all that’s worthwhile while the rest of it is a waste of time and actually somewhat offensive in its “oh, this movie is so old but cool” placating. I mean, if a child isn’t going to watch the film because the film is old did someone honestly think they would also watch this feature? Utterly useless.

So forgetting that last feature there the first few, the deleted material and featurette on the film’s music and the extended version are both worthwhile additions, but overall the release, labeled a “Special Edition” is a real disappointment, especially since Disney didn’t see any reason to include the extended version here.

5/10

CLOSING

The features are limited and only a few of them are any good but the presentation is at least strong. Unfortunately the lack of the extended version, which was made available on at least two previous DVD editions, will make this edition a bust for fans.




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