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Disney Blu-ray blitz begins with the bewitching Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

Angela and David
Angela and David
Author's collection

Disney daze goes into full speed Tuesday, April 12.
Die-hard Disneyites, Blu-ray buffs and movie mavens will be the first in line to nab the set of five animated classics, all on Blu-ray for the first time.
How do you praise such gems?
We decided to offer our favorite first.

Bedknobs and Broomsticks
There's much convoluted history behind this film, released in theaters December 13, 1971. The film was based on two books---The Magic Bed Knob; or, How to Become a Witch in Ten Easy Lessons (1943) and Bonfires and Broomsticks (1945) by English children's author Mary Norton. The female star: Angela Lansbury; the male star: David Tomlinson.
And David's casting may be one of the reason the film was too often compared with Mary Poppins, released seven years earlier. (More confusion: Supporting actor Reginald Owen,in his last film role, was also in Mary Poppins, as was Arthur Malet. And one guess who did the score.) Both combined live action and animation and some scenes took place in the streets of London, even though Filming took place at Burbank's Disney Studios. The castle scenes were shot on location at Corfe Castle, Dorset, England.
Leslie Caron, Lynn Redgrave, Judy Carne and, of course, Julie Andrews were all considered for the female lead, but Disney honchos decided on Lansbury. Interestinly, Tomlinson replaced Ron Moody because Moody's schedule would not allow him to work on the film.
The film was cut and reedited and cut and redited again and again; still most critics (and audiences) liked it and the team of Alan Maley, Eustace Lycett, Danny Leewon Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects. A sad note: This was the last film released prior to the death of Walt Disney's surviving brother, Roy O. Disney, who died one week later.
other minutiae to be shared; After its premiere, Bedknobs and Broomsticks was shortened from (depending on who you believe) its two and a half-hour length or three hours length to two hours. Alas, snitched away was the minor subplot involving Roddy McDowall's character, three songs and the central dance number "Portobello Road" was shortened by more than six minutes.
The movie was reissued theatrically in 1979, with a running time of 96 minutes, with all songs, excluding "Portobello Road" and "Beautiful Briny Sea," cut.
The running times were: 119 minutes (1971 original version); 96 minutes (1979 reissue version) and 139 minutes (1996 reconstruction version).
The armor used for the climactic battle against the Nazis had been made in Spain for the movie El Cid and was later shipped to California for use in the Warner Bros. movie Camelot before being rented for this film.
The Blu-ray version does not contain the reconstruction version. Too much of Bedknobs and Broomsticks has been lost of destroyed, accents have been changed, voices redubbed; this version runs 117 minutes. It's worth every second, but oh! what might have been . . .
So what's Bedknobs and Broomsticks about? No way. We will not spoil it, but we'll toss out one word: "bewitching."

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