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What I like most about WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY ($35) is the fact that it isn’t the typical Disney-esque children’s film. Sure, there are songs, family values and a good deal comedy. However, just beneath the surface of WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY there is something dark- and just a little bit twisted about the story and the title character. Based upon the book Charlie And The Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY tells the story of a poor boy named Charlie, who dreams of winning a contest that is causing a worldwide frenzy. It seems that reclusive candy maker Willy Wonka, has hidden five golden tickets inside of his candy bars. The finder of each golden ticket will be entitled to a year’s supply of chocolate, as well as a tour of Wonka’s top-secret candy making facilities.

One by one, the golden tickets are found by various children, with the final ticket going to young Charlie… but only after the boy suffers a few disappointments. The visit to the Chocolate Factory proves to be both magical and strange, with the other children having their tour brought to an abrupt halt, as they each succumb to their own foibles. Although made on a tight budget, WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY benefits from an imaginative production design, delightful songs from Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, and most of all, a brilliant performance by Gene Wilder as the slightly mad candy man. The cast of WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY also features Jack Albertson, Peter Ostrum, Roy Kinnear, Julie Dawn Cole, Leonard Stone, Denise Nickerson, Nora Denney, Paris Themmen, Ursula Reit, Michael Bollner, Diana Sowle, Aubrey Woods, David Battley and Günter Meisner.

Warner Home Video has made WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY looks significantly better in this 1080p presentation than it did in standard definition. There are definite improvements to the levels of image sharpness and fine detail, but high definition also reveals some of the films original budget limitations. Dimensionality and texturing are improved, but not to an astonishing level. Colors can be fairly vibrant, while the flesh tones usually appear attractive. Blacks are usually deep and inky, while the whites very crisp. Contrast is quite good, while shadow detail holds up to the needs of the material. The elements from which WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY has been mastered are free from significant flaws. Mild grain is ever present, but helps maintain an organic quality for the presentation.

WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. Other than the boost in fidelity, the sonics are quite similar what was heard in the previous DVD release. The multi-channel mix never pushes the material beyond its limitations and continues to be fairly front-loaded. Still, sound effects do make their way into the outlying channels, but for the most part, it is the music that makes the most of the wider soundstage. The lossless encode enhances the fidelity of the classic Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley's songs, which demonstrate a lot more presence than the rest of the soundtrack. The bass channel adds the most weight to the musical passages. Dialogue is crisp and easy to understand. An English Dolby Digital 5.1 channel track, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German and Italian language tracks are also encoded onto the disc. Subtitles are available in English, French, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese and Swedish.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as, as well as the supplemental materials, which have been ported over from the previous DVD release of the film. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary featuring the five "Wonka Kids" from the movie. This is a fun commentary, with the now adult "Wonka Kids" reflecting back on the movie they made thirty years before. Next up is the thirty-minute documentary, Pure Imagination: The Making of Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. Featuring interviews with cast and crew, this is an enjoyable program that also allows fans a "where are they now" look at the grown up "Wonka Kids." Also included is an original Featurette on the film’s production design. A Theatrical Trailer and Sing-Along of Wonka Songs close out the disc’s supplemental section.  WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY features book styled packaging that contains forty pages of photos, production notes and song lyrics.

I have been a fan of WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY since childhood and am delighted to have the film available on Blu-ray. The hi-def presentation offers a really nice upgrade over DVD. Recommended.



Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (Blu-ray Book) [Blu-ray] (1971)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2009 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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