Where It All Began 'Pour Moi'

No, this isn't where the seed of my cinephilia first found purchase, it was merely the first movie I'd ever seen; Mel Stuart's "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory".

I was a mere lad of six when I was taken to see this by my parents, so I knew nothing of performances and cinematography, none of that. The only thing I remember about my reaction when I first saw it was that I liked it, but it was a little bit scary; those still creepy (and annoying) Oompa-Loompas, the weird looking Wonka Factory, plus (though I could hardly have given it words) the overall atmosphere of . . . moral squalor that pervades a lot of the film. Still, I liked it (now I think it's damn near a masterpiece, though a considerably flawed one). I probably saw a lot of other movies as a tyke, but this is the only one that stayed with me, mostly because it was so friggin' nasty in places; like some echoes of the less savory parts of the adult world that nobody asked for creeping into a Children's entertainment.

I have no doubt I wondered if all movies were gonna be like this. If i'd resolved then to stop seeing them . . . ah, how so much would have been different.


swac said...

I saw Wonka early on as well, and I recall liking it, but also being creeped out by it. Come to think of it, most of my entertainment at the time was either unnerving or disturbing. Grimm's Fairy Tales, H.R. Pufnstuf, Lidsville, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, that f@#$ed-up Mexican Santa Claus movie, Pinocchio, those badly dubbed Euro-kids films hosted by Kukla, Fran and Olly. I think I got much better preparation for life from those than today's kids get from cartoons that teach about the importance of sharing. You think Bill Gates got where he is by sharing?

Rob said...

Hmm. You young-uns may have been the last generation whose children's movies were like mine - a little quirky, and very individualistic. Hated Wonka, tho, sorry - it was to manipulated fer me. They would ban most of this stuff nowadays, and send us to a shrink to get the stuff outta our heads. My brothers and I went out of our way to watch weird kid stuff, and it wasn't hard to find back then. Ah, the bad old good old days.


swac said...

You couldn't even get a piece of crap like Hong Kong Phooey on the air these days...too violent.

Another thing I forgot to mention is the British stop-motion show The Magic Roundabout. I don't know if this ever showed up on U.S. TV (do a Google search to see what I mean) but this show was a freakin' head trip. I have a fabric wall hanging with the characters on my office door at home (memorabilia is hard to come by on these shores), and it probably explains why I never did acid. I'd already seen strange enough things for one lifetime on kids' TV.

Tom Sutpen said...

Rob wrote:

Hmm. You young-uns may have been the last generation whose children's movies were like mine - a little quirky, and very individualistic. Hated Wonka, tho, sorry - it was to manipulated fer me.

Well, I think Stephen will agree with me that Children's entertainment went into the toilet sometime in the 1970s and never reemerged (just follow the KiddieRecods link on the sidebar for a measure of just how far that entertainment has fallen).

I'd like to think a lot of the people putting out stuff for the chilluns when I was a tyke were under the influence of controlled substances (I mean, the Sid & Marty Krofft aggregate practically screamed "bad acid") that kept their minds off of what we now call Political Correctness.

As for "Wonka" being 'manipulated'. Perhaps. But i think it has so many anomalous elements to it (Gene Wilder's ferocious performance . . . his best . . . the overall atmosphere of ethical twilight, etc) that sets it apart from even the more superior kid stuff of those days, that it's a genuinely memorable piece of work. I look at it observing the outward forms of Children's entertainment as a necessary evil; like the melodramatic elements in a film like Wellman's "Other Men's Women". It was something the creators had to pay heed to.