Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971) -Mel Stuart

The late Gene Wilder stars in this iconic adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s tale, that is the next recommendation from the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book for my return to the Family genre.

The film stands out in minds around the globe for its musical numbers and the terrifying tunnel trip – and it is still a hallucinogenic frightening sequence.

Chocolate meister Willy Wonka (Wilder) invites the winners of a contest, with their prize golden tickets (of which there are only 5) in hand to tour his amazing candy factory. Young Charlie (Peter Ostrum) and his grandfather, Joe (Jack Albertson) are among the winners, but as the journey through the factory continues children are removed from the group for inappropriate, rude and greedy behaviour – there’s a message there younger viewers.

Filled with brilliant, brightly technicolor images and music and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, the film remains endearing, and one can’t help but be caught up in the tunes and sing along.

Young Charlie is honest, loyal, loves his family, and gives all he can for their betterment, treats are rare and special, and happily, young Charlie gets it, and begins his adventure.

Wilder, it goes without saying, is perfectly cast as Wonka, delivering witty lines and troubling lines and singing songs, surrounded by his odd little orange-skinned green-haired Oompa-Loompas.


I love how much pleasure Wonka takes in exacting justice when any of the children don’t listen or behave – again reminding younger viewers to mind their parents, and authority figures.

As much as I love Wilder in Young Frankenstein, I think this may be my favourite of his roles, there are layers to the character as you realise that he is in turns lonely, completely mad, thoughtful and fun-loving. He is so much fun to watch in this film.

This is a family movie, that actually fits the name family movie. There is something here for everyone, and it’s not afraid to be a little dark, and include humour for both children and adults. The songs are all cautionary tales, and also offer a barrage of parenting advice.

They really don’t make movies like this anymore, and the remake is decidedly less than. This one is honest in its joy, message and love, and now, 45 years on, it still entertains, captivates and its messages are just as important now as they were then.

The absolutely oddest thing about this movie isn’t the story, but is the revelation that I never saw this one as a child. Never. I didn’t get to see it until the 1990s when I was in my early 20s.

That doesn’t change my love for it however. This one is a classic, and remains brilliantly enjoyable.





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