Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory - 40th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition

Roald Dahl's classic story tells the tale of five kids who find a golden ticket that entitles them to visit the secretive Wonka Chocolate factory, where one worthy child will win a lifetime supply of chocolate. Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum), a poor kid who lives with his mother and two sets of grandparents in the shadow of the factory, is one of the lucky five. The others—well, let's just say they are the result of bad parenting and poor choices.

As a child, I never really connected with this film, but I've have grown to enjoy it as a parent. The behavior of the four "bad" kids provides extreme examples of what we often see in children today, and watching the film with my kids was a great way to teach them how not to behave. Charlie is a model child, and his virtuous behavior is a parent's dream. I think we all wish our children could be so respectful.

This is the third HD release of the title, and all sport the same VC-1 encode of an older print. There are some instances of damage and water spots, and some flesh tones are on the waxy side. Other nits to pick include some out-of-focus scenes, particularly when Charlie's mother is singing at work. On the plus side are well-saturated colors, which really shine inside the Wonka factory, and an increase in fine detail.

When the film was released on HD DVD, I lamented the exclusion of a lossless soundtrack. Fortunately Warner improved things with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track when it hit Blu-ray back in 2009 and the same audio is found on this release. True to its mono roots, the sound is collapsed toward the center speaker with limited frequency response. In fact, the LFE channel is virtually nonexistent, and the surround channels are silent for the majority of the film. Dialog is intelligible but has a canned quality to it, while the musical numbers sound pretty good for an older film.

The 40th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition includes three discs, a Blu-ray and DVD of the feature film with the third DVD disc containing additional supplements. All of the disc-based supplements from the 2009 release are on the Blu-ray along with two new 2011 featurettes that find their home on the third DVD. The oversized collector's box is loaded with swag highlighted by a 144-page behind-the-scenes book, a Wonka Golden Ticket for an online contest, and an old-school tin collectable housing scratch-n-sniff pencils and scented eraser.

This is arguably one of Gene Wilder's finest roles as the legendary candy man Willy Wonka, and I much prefer his characterization over that of Johnny Depp in Tim Burton's remake. Fans of the film will probably flock to purchase one of the limited edition sets (only 100,000 are available) and will proudly display the swanky box in their home theater. Recommended for fans.


Picture: 3.5/5
3D-Ness: N/A
Sound: 3/5
Extras: 4/5
Interactivity: N/A

Disc Specs

Studio: Warner (1971)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio Format: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Length: 100 Min
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Mel Stuart
Starring: Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson, Julie Dawn Cole

kelsci's picture

I agree that this was a great role for Gene Wilder. It too is much better than the Johnny Depp remake. You got to love the Umpa Lumpas in this film. Really well done.