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Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Incredible to think Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is 50 years old. So obviously its time for its candidacy for the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray format to come to present itself. Warner Brothers is giving us a brand new edition, though its mainly for the new 4K transfer of the film. It looks as if they’ll just be carrying over the previous edition’s standard Blu-ray which is where you’ll find the extras. All well enough, what more can folks say about it on the bonus materials (Aside from wondering who the hell wants this Timothee Chalamet prequel thing they are dumping money into). The Gene Wilder classic arrives on the format June 29th. It’s available for ordering now and you can do so by using the paid Amazon Associates link following the review.

Film

Directed by Mel Stuart and starring Gene Wilder as the legendary Candy Man Willy Wonka, this splendiferous movie brings to the screen the endlessly appetizing delights of Roald Dahl’s cherished book. Coated with flavorful tunes and production designs that are a visual treat for the eyes, this effervescent musical never fails to enchant young and old. On a whirlwind tour of Willy’s incredible, edible realm of chocolate waterfalls, elfish Oompa-Loompas and industrial-sized confections, a boy named Charlie (Peter Ostrum) will discover the sweetest secret of all: a generous, loving heart. And viewers will rediscover all the timeless magic as it was meant to be seen.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, 50 years later, is a film so engrained in the pop culture lexicon that it may get overlooked how special it still remains. I’ve seen it many times in my childhood and found myself revisiting it here and there in the decades since, having shown it to my children and such. Everyone knows all the big moments, the songs, the lines, the memes. Then there’s the people complaining about the psychotic boat ride (Which kinda rules, you big babies). But, there are a lot of odds and ends that really get overlooked, but populate the film to a degree of enjoyment upon return.

One of the more bold choices in the film is how long they wait until the revelation of Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka. He first peeps out of the doorway of the factory at exactly the 44 minute mark of the film. A movie that is only 100 minutes long. From there, he takes over, but even from 1971 that’s a long wait. What the script does well is pace and jump around through building a mystery of him, establishing the lore of his factory, introducing our cartoonish cast and building your hope for Charlie. Somehow this works and moves to a degree where you’d think Wonka showed up much earlier than he does.

During much of this first act, we are treated to a rather clever and humorous script. Yes, the bits with the kid introductions and their parents is pretty good surface level stuff. However, there are some quick wits and fast paced lines and jokes that can easily get lost in that momentum. The news anchors are also pretty darn humorous themselves. The great part about it is that they all play it 100% straight to a point where you may not even realize just how funny what it is they are reporting about or saying is. Things about built to ridiculous heights in such grounded ways, I myself have been oblivious to it for many years. I found myself nodding and giggling during this “boring” opening quite a bit this time around. I’ve always wondered if Gene Wilder had a hand in a pass at this film’s script as the humor does feel very much in his wheelhouse.

Yes, I just wrote my piece only discussing the first act of the film. However, its the chunk of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory that gets overlooked the most. Its overlong, not too sexy in terms of visual splendor and doesn’t even include Willy Wonka. Yet, I found myself enjoying it more than the other 2/3 of the film for this viewing. Those play just as they always have. And you don’t need me to tell you about the fun, the psychedelia, the dreaminess of it or how Gene Wilder’s Wonka is something of magic. But, the film, even when its not at its most fantastic, is still plenty terrific and a pretty stealthy contributor to the film’s overall success.

Video

Disclaimer: Screen captures used in the review are taken from the standard Blu-ray disc, not the 4K UHD Blu-ray disc.

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: Warner Bros debuts Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with a gorgeous 4K restoration. The image is a quite a big leap from the standard Blu-ray (Which you can compare because it comes combo packed in this release). The image is well defined, sharp, boldly colored and features a nice layer of grain. Details and textures come through almost to the touch.

Depth:  There is a great improvement here from the Blu-ray and this movie just lends itself to a multidimensional display of depth of field. Great airy spaciousness, pushback and scale come to full capabilities in this image. Movements are natural and cinematic with no issues from motion distortions.

Black Levels:  Blacks are natural and quite deep. They really help to define, shade and effectively darken many scenes. This improvement give the image a real film stock quality kind of look. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are very strong, especially once entering the factory. Primary colors litter the screen and pop beautifully. There is a great saturation coming to fruition before your eyes. Wonka himself is a treat for the eyes. HDR is applied quite well and give the film an extra sizzle.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish. Facial features and texture, to go along with candy residue, show up quite clearly from any given distance in the frame.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.

Audio

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French 1.0 Mono Dolby Digital, Italian 1.0 Dolby Digital, Spanish (Castilian) 1.0 Mono Dolby Digital, Spanish (Latin America) 1.0 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Italian SDH, Spanish (Castilian), Dutch, Spanish (Latin America), Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish

Dynamics: As wonderful as the 4K restoration is for the film, the audio still winds up being the 5.1 track from the original Blu-ray release. No, its not awful, but it does leave plenty to go desired. There are some problems, primarily some peaking issues from singing vocals (Right away starting with “The Candy Man”. Overall its a decent enough mix and in no way a deal breaker for upgrading or buying the film for the first time.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  There is a decent contribution from the subwoofer. It helps with lower frequencies in the orchestra mainly, but also some machine noises, boops and bops along the way as well.

Surround Sound Presentation: The sounds movies decently around the room while a lot does happen up front. The boat ride is a pretty decent treat. There’s a good sense of accompaniment between channels when it comes to the songs.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are pretty good for the most part. However, there are frequent moments of some peaking/buzzing that occur.

Summary

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory comes with the standard Blu-ray and a redeemable digital code of the film.

4K Ultra-HD

Audio Commentary

  • with the Wonka Kids

Blu-ray

Pure Imagination: The Story of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (SD, 30:25)

Vintage 1971 Featurette (SD, 4:02)

Sing-Along Songs – “I’ve Got a Golden Ticket”, “Pure Imagination”, “I Want It Now”, “Oompa-Loompa-Doompa-De-Do”

Theatrical Trailer (SD, 3:11)

Summary

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory continues to be a delight for viewers young and old 50 years after its release. Its first step into the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray world proves worthy on the video transfer alone. Unfortunately, the audio and extras are all the same from the last go around. However, I argue the video presentation alone is marvelous and a significant jump from what was available, that it can hold its own as the reason to upgrade.

This is a paid Amazon Associates link

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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