Celebrating its 50th anniversary June 30th of 2021, “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” is a movie that hasn’t aged since 1971 and shows no sign of aging any time soon. Even with the Tim Burton second adaptation and the upcoming prequel, Mel Stuart’s cinematic version of the Roald Dahl fantasy book still remains on the top of the heap. Even looking at it without nostalgia lens, the Gene Wilder fantasy is excellent in every sense of the word, while Wilder’s titular performance is unrivaled.
Charlie Bucket, a sweet boy from a poor family dreams of finding one of five golden tickets hidden inside chocolate bar wrappers which will admit him to the eccentric and reclusive Willy Wonka’s magical factory. One after another, tickets are discovered and Charlie finds the last ticket which allows him a chance to tour the mysterious, magical factory. He and his grandpa come face to face with the other children, all of whom are rotten in every way, all while exploring with the eccentric Wonka.
“Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” is a childhood favorite that most definitely holds up to repeated viewings. Even after fifty years, Stuart’s direction is still brisk and fresh while he takes us from the impoverished life of Charlie Buckets in to the magical candy land that is Wonka’s factory. In many ways Charlie’s descent in to the factory feels reminiscent of Dorothy entering Oz, and the factory is as beautiful and dangerous as the aforementioned. The movie is purely Gene Wilder’s show, as he presents Willy Wonka with a charming madness that makes him absolutely entertaining to watch on screen. Wilder’s comic timing and improvisational skills are injected in to the titular Wonka’s character making him not so much a hero, but not a villain, either.
Director Mel Stuart only adds to Roald Dahl’s legacy with a funny, bizarre, creative film for all ages that is an absolute masterpiece, even if never quite the live action vision Dahl probably desired when all is said and done.
Labeled as a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix (much like the previous Blu-rays) the 4K’s default audio is an improved surround presence and than the earlier version. The contents for this release are all transported from the 40th Anniversary Blu-Ray edition, which may or may not be a good thing if you’ve never actually owned the former. But this new re-release/re-packaging does come with a Blu-Ray copy and a Digital Copy for folks that don’t collect physical media anymore.
The extras featured include an Audio Commentary from most of the cast as adults, but specifically from Julie Dawn Cole who played Veruca Salt. “Pure Imagination: The Story of Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory” is a fairly standard EPK with some archived footage and some behind the scenes stills as well as the jump from book to screen. It’s a bit over 30 minutes. There are some classic Sing-Along Songs titled “Scrumptious Sing-Along” featuring “Pure Imagination,” “I Want It Now!,” “I’ve Got A Golden Ticket,” and “Oompa-Loompa-Doompa-De-Do.” Finally there’s the classic Theatrical Trailer for the movie.