How is it then, that even though we are better advanced to create amazing effects as we've seen in Avatar and The Lord of the Rings, that we can't do better than the original Wonka of 1971?
I believe the main answer, is that computer effects can only go so far. To see a room, filled with truly edible flowers, and trees- all of which are sweets or chocolate- seeing the actors eat them for real, knowing that not one part of that room is fake- that's the secret. When we watch a room knowing that none of the chocolate in it is real, no one cares.
The songs in the latest adaptation all appear in the book written by Dahl himself, however, they don't seem to work with the arrangement in the Burton film. Is this why the makers of the 1971 version didn't use the original songs? Did they know they wouldn't work in the film? Did they know that they worked whilst you read the book and thought of a tune in your head? If that is the reason they did not use Dahl's songs, then they didn't undercut us. They gave us some beautifully memorable classics like all the Oompa Loompa songs, Pure Imagination, I've Got a Golden Ticket, The Candyman Can, and all the rest! Nor wonder the songs and score were Academy Award nominated, all credit to both Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley.
But of course, the real gem in this beloved musical is Gene Wilder who gives a legendary performance. Not even Johnny Depp, with his great talent and huge fan base, won over many people with his portrayal. Wilder plays Wonka as a comedian, but with a dark edge, not only joking at the children but to their much-to-blame parents. Every line he delivers will have you laughing hysterically, and at times you can't quite believe his reaction and answers to the parents of the children. He was Golden-Globe nominated, and will forever be remembered and adored for his performance here.
Charlie is played by Peter Ostrum is a remarkably beautiful performance by someone so young. You really feel for him, as all his school friends are buying hundreds of Wonka bars and yet he can barely buy one, yet he wants the golden ticket the most! The poverty of his family is pretty moving, and handled well so that we recognise and understand Charlie's situation, but so that it doesn't dampen the uplifting mood of the film.
If you have only seen the Burton remake and been put off, I implore you to not give up! Watch the original, you'll love all the songs and all the performances, not just from Wilder, but from all the child actors too (all are brilliant)- a superb cast. A hilarious adaptation of the Dahl novel that is full of magic. You'll feel like a child all over again with this fantastic film that is definitely a timeless classic.