The 1971 musical film, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, is a magical tale that follows a witch’s adventures during World War II. The witch, Eglantine Price (Angela Lansbury), has enjoyed an idyllic life in a quaint English seaside town. There, she has been studying her witchcraft through a mail correspondence course offered by the mysterious Professor Emelius Browne (David Tomlinson).
Eglantine has almost completed her training when she receives two unexpected pieces of news. The first, Eglantine has three children, Charlie, Carrie and Paul, placed into her care due to the unsafe conditions of London. Second, she receives a message from Emelius Browne that he is shutting down his mail correspondence school of witchcraft. Eglantine is only one spell away from mastering witchcraft and plans on seeking out Mr. Browne for answers.
Meanwhile, the children are apprehensive of their new guardian, especially Charlie. Eglantine convinces them to travel with her to London via an enchanted brass bed that only Paul can summon locations through an enchanted bedknob. The bed takes them to Portobello Road. A sketchy place where international and exotic goods are bought and sold. Here, they find Emelius Browne who turns out to be charlatan. He’s surprised to find out that any of his spells worked for Eglantine since he copied most of them from an old book. She insists upon receiving the final “Substitutiary Locomotion” spell, but Mr. Browne no longer has it. This sends the gang on an adventure to the animated anthropomorphic land of Naboombu and a showdown with invading Nazis.
Bedknobs and Broomsticks is a charming film that has not experienced the same popularity as the similarly themed Mary Poppins. When I was a growing up, I loved this movie more than Marry Poppins. My grandparents had a brass bed almost identical to the one in the film. I would load up my stuffed animals onto the bed and we would go on adventures all day long to Naboombu, Portobello Road, and any new place that I’d create in my mind. When I was a teenager, my grandparents gave me that bed and the worn down brass bedknob served as a symbol of my childhood imagination.
What I loved about this film was the exploration of exotic places. This extended beyond just the animated sequence of Naboombu. Perhaps, my favorite part of the film is the Sherman Brothers’ musical number, “Portobello Road.” I love that the scene begins in a seedy place that holds interesting secrets if you only know where to look…think international Diagon Alley. The music number’s instrumental choice changes slightly depending upon the culture of the group dancing. The costumes are beautiful too. Portobello Road made me want to travel to far off places and meet people who were different from myself.