Back in the 80s when I was in elementary school, we were shown various popular movies at the time and even a few classics. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is one of the few I remember thanks to its catchy songs, insane humor, and most importantly the dark elements it touches on such as overindulgence and what it costs you in the end. Fifty years later, this sweet treat of a classic comes to 4K with HDR color and Dolby HD audio to look and sound its best for everyone to enjoy.
Based on the beloved classic book from author Roald Dahl who also adapted the screenplay, the film follows the bittersweet life of a young boy named Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum). He comes from a very poor family where he, his mother and his grandparents from both of his parents live in a single room home. This doesn’t keep Charlie down as he’s always kind and giving while he works hard delivering newspapers to make money for his family while occasionally stopping by the candy store for a treat.
One day, the great candy maker Willy Wonka decides to announce a contest for five lucky kids and an adult of their choosing to be granted a tour of his never-before-seen famous chocolate factory for those who find a golden ticket in one of his candy bar wrappers. Naturally this leads to people all over the world to buy all of the bars they can in hopes of getting their children into the sacred factory.
The first kid to find one is an American girl named Violet Beauregarde (Denise Nickerson), with the next being a German boy named Augustus Gloop (Michael Bollner) that eats anything that’s not bolted down to the floor. Next is the spoiled-rotten rich girl from England named Veruca Salt (Julie Dawn Cole) who has her rich father buy all of the bars there and forces people to open all of them until they find her ticket. Then there’s Mike Teevee (Paris Themmen), a kid back in the U.S. that loves watching TV, especially westerns, who just so happened to find a ticket in his bar.
Meanwhile Charlie and the neighborhood kids all dream about getting the final ticket, and by some sweet miracle, Charlie gets the final golden ticket from a bar his family bought for him. Charlie chooses his Grandpa Joe (Jack Albertson) to go with the factory with him, and we’re finally introduced to the mysterious and eccentric Willy Wonka (played to perfection by Gene Wilder) and off we go to his magical wonderland of a factory. For those who haven’t seen this classic, I won’t dare spoil anything, but let’s just say nothing is as it seems with Mr. Wonka, his factory, and his true motives to opening it to these children and their guardians.
It goes without saying that this film is a true classic and still amazes me just as it did all those years ago. The last time I viewed this movie was on VHS, so you can already imagine the jump from that to glorious 4K with HDR. The visuals are crisp, clean and detailed, and the dazzling array of colors that already looked amazing before are now even more so thanks to the power of HDR. The Dolby HD audio is just as grand and makes sure every silly song, as well as the comedic and dramatic lines are heard perfectly.
With this release celebrating the film’s 50th anniversary, you’d think there would be a ton of special features to go along with it. Sadly there’s only a few and they’re not in high-definition, but they are a lot of fun to experience. First there’s the audio commentary featuring Michael Bollner (Augustus), Peter Ostrum (Charlie), Paris Themmen (Mike), Julie Dawn Cole (Veruca), and Denise Nickerson (Violet) as they share all sorts of informative and fun anecdotes that happened on and off the camera, how they all quickly became good friends, and more that’s an awesome treat to listen to.
“Pure Imagination: The Story of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory“ features interviews with director Mel Stuart, producer David L. Wolper, Gene Wilder, co-screenwriter David Seltzer, Rusty Goffe (one of the Oompa Loompas), and of course the Wonka kids as they share all kinds of memories on the film, production and such that makes for another golden extra for sure.
“Vintage 1971 Featurette” is the original extra made during the film’s release that contains audio interviews with art director Harper Goff and the author/screenwriter himself, Roald Dahl. There’s also some nice behind the scenes footage taken on set with special moments such as Dahl talking to Gene Wilder, as well as the Wonka kids and other actors being shown while on set. This is a short extra, but like the others it’s very fun and memorable.
Lastly there’s “Fun and Games: Sing Along Songs” that’s a small collection of four of the catchy songs from the film that you can watch and sing along with family and friends thanks to the lyrics appearing on the screen ala karaoke style.
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is one of those magical classics right up there with The Wizard of Oz that never grows old and stays fun and exciting for anyone that watches. It’s a must-own for anyone’s movie collection and even more so thanks the delicious 4K HDR and Dolby HD treatment that ensures this treat will stay sweet forever.