Based on the book by based on the book by Mary Norton (also the author of The Borrowers,” Bedknobs and Broomsticks is the story of three Cockney children evacuated from London during WWII, who are placed with Miss Eglantine Price (Angela Lansbury), though she is reluctant to take them and insists it can only be temporary.
Miss Price is completing a correspondence course in witchcraft and has reached the level of “apprentice witch,” permitting her to fly on a broomstick. When she takes it out for a spin, the children see her, and, threatening to expose her, persuade her to let them into the magic. She then enchants the bedknob so that when it is twisted, it will take them wherever they want to go. When she receives word that the correspondence course has been canceled, she and the children go off together in search of the teacher, Professor Brown (David Tomlinson). He joins them, as they travel on the bed, first undersea and then to an island in another dimension, where the inhabitants are talking animals. On the island, they find the necklace containing the secret magic words they need for a spell to make intimate objects behave as though they were alive. Home again, they use that spell to fight off Nazi invaders. Afterward, Miss Price retires from witchcraft and Professor Brown joins the army, but it is clear they have become a family.
Many of the people behind “Mary Poppins” worked on this movie. While it does not have the same magic as “Mary Poppins,” there are some delightful moments, especially as Miss Price struggles to master basic witchcraft skills. The animated scenes on the island are done with a great deal of verve and imagination, especially the fast-moving slapstick of a soccer game featuring animal athletes, including an ostrich who sticks his head into the field whenever trouble approaches. The movie is long and episodic, and so lends itself well to viewing in shorter segments for restless younger children.
Many thanks to my childhood pal Bob Elisberg for this charming profile of my “bizarre” life in the Huffington Post.
Last year, I made lists of great movie college professors, and high school and grade school teachers. In honor of the first week of school, here are some of my other favorite and family-friendly classroom classics:
1. The Magic School Bus Oh, if only every school field trip could be as exciting and informative as the ones the indefatigable Miss Frizzle goes on with her students. From the farthest reaches of the solar system to the smallest cells of the human body, Miss Frizzle and her students take us with them.
2. Miss Nelson Has a Field Day Miss Nelson is a sweet-tempered soul, but when students do not behave, watch out! Miss Viola Swamp is the substitute teacher. Between them, they teach their students many very important lessons.
3. High School Musical Go Wildcats! Jocks and brainiacs find common ground in singing and dancing in these tuneful, irresistibly disarming instant classics from Disney.
4. Lucas Everyone — yes everyone — feels like an insecure outsider at some point in school. I like the way this film shows us from the beginning that while its main character may still be a caterpillar, we know he will be a butterfly long before he does. Great performances by all, including a young Charlie Sheen, and props to the film-makers for staying far away from easy stereotypes.
5. Mad Hot Ballroom A program to teach ballroom dancing to New York City 5th graders in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens sounds like the last thing in the world that would be interesting or relevant to today’s 5th graders. But the beauty of this movie is the way that it shows that grace, dignity, elegance, and pride in mastering a skill are important, thrilling, and transformational.
Q: A reader at a Intelligence hide out is sent out for lunch. When he returns everybody has been killed. Now the killers are after him. He carjacks a lady and hides out at her place…Movie title?
Answer: That is “Three Days of the Condor” with Robert Redford.
Q: In the movie Big, with Tom Hanks, before he get’s “big,” he is playing a computer game in his room. It is interactive, and he types in things like, “brake glass with hammer.” I have heard that this game is real, so do you know what it is called?
Answer: Some people believe that it is Colossal Cave Adventure, but others think that it was just inspired by that game but made up for the movie.
Q: The plot entails a kid who is plagued by 3 bullies – 2 boys and a girl. He enlists the help of a retired magician. In one scene, it is Halloween and the bullies are dressed up as a mummy, vampire etc and are chasing the kids. The magician’s dog steps on the “mummy”s bandage and he trips down some stairs. At the end, the bullies are arrested along with an old lady who was controlling them.
Answer: I think that’s “Spooky House” with Ben Kingsley. I hope that’s it!
Q: About 6-8 months ago I rented a movie with the description of a man who goes on the rampage after his entire family is killed at a waterfront family gathering. I didn’t know the actor playing the lead role, but loved the movie….it wasn’t until I took the movie back that I realized that the movie I had seen was in the wrong “rental envelope”. Does anyone out there recognize this scenario….I also remember that his wife and son died last, being run down on a pier/deck leading out into the water. Thanks.
Answer: That’s “The Punisher” with Thomas Jane.
Q: I watched a movie about 20 years ago about a sea creature that turned out to be an old rock quarry shovel/excavator. The excavator was sitting at the bottom of a water filled quarry. It was attached to a windmill on shore by chains and when the wind would blow the sea weed covered excavator would lift out of the water. In the movie the lake was drained and the true identity of the “monster” was discovered. Any help locating this movie would be greatly appreciated!
Answer: That movie is called “The Quest” (sometimes called “Frog Dreaming”) and stars Henry Thomas of “E.T.”
Q: The movie deals with a couple whose next door neighbor (a black policeman) harasses them.
Answer: That movie is “Lakeview Terrace” with Samuel L. Jackson.
Q: There is a movie that I cannot for the life of me remember the title to. I only remember bits and pieces about it. There is a house by a lake that the former owners are able to converse with the current owners only through the mailbox. They live in different times so they are unable to meet. I believe that it is a love story. I hope you can help me!
Answer: Hi, Kimberly! That is “The Lake House” with Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock.
Q: Hi I’m looking for a movie based at a high school and this guy who raced for money and at the end he had to race against time in a 57 Chevy as a bet to get the money to save his school. Can you help me?
Answer: That movie is “Catch Me if You Can” with Matt Lattanzi. Thanks for writing!
Q: I’m looking for a movie that came out I think in the past 15 years or so. The scene I remember best was a group of people in a restaurant, and when the girl realized they were going to EAT the lobsters, she “liberated” them and it was hilarious. She asked someone later, “Why would you want to eat someone’s pet?” I think she was mentally challenged or had some social adjustment issue, and she had been in a school, but the school closed and she was sent to live with her (reluctant) brother. She learned to get along in society, got a crush on her brother, found out that wasn’t appropriate, and starting liking another man, if I remember rightly. I think she had an obsession with things being in a particular order.
Answer: You are thinking of “Molly” with Elisabeth Shue. Thanks for writing!
Q: I saw a movie in this time frame of a gal that was a stewardess, she was dating 3 guys and they all happened to be named Mike. That is all I remember. thanks
Answer: You remembered the important part! That movie is called “Three Guys Named Mike,” with Jane Wyman and Van Johnson.
Q: Does anyone know the name of a film (70’s-80′) Its about two super powers USA v Russia. Where they no longer fight normal battles, they fight each other in 2 giant mech type robots. With super fit guys controlling them.
Answer: That movie is “Robot Jox.”
Q: There is this children’s movie that I absolutely LOVED when I was little, but I can’t for the life of me remember the name of it. It was about this little boy who finds this big present with a red bow has floated into his living room. He opens it and it’s a car of some sort, I think? He gets in and is transported to a cartoon-like setting….There is a dog with a giant clock in his chest and two kings (one of numbers and one of letters) who can never agree with one another. Thanks a million!
Answer: A great movie based on one of my favorite books! “The Phantom Tollbooth.” Enjoy!
Q: What is the name of the movie that was produced 15 or so years ago about a woman music professor who goes to Appalachia in the early 1900’s to record the folk music of the locals before it became lost forever? Thank you.
Answer: I love that film. It is “Songcatcher” with Emmy Rossum and Janet McTeer.
Q: Looking for movie title about several French nuns visiting and raising funds in(New York State I think) for a hospital (maybe a children’s hosp.) Post WWI or WWII, nuns are hosted by a man who does a little singing, may play a singer in the movie or composes jingles but doesn’t play a big part, may be a singer in real life. I think this movie was made in the 40’s. Saw it on TCM.
Answer: That lovely movie is “Come to the Stable” with Loretta Young and Celeste Holm.