Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

US movie (1971). Warner Bros/Wolper. Pr Stan Margulies, David L Wolper. Dir Mel Stuart. Spfx Logan R Frazee. Screenplay Roald Dahl. Based on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964) by Dahl. Starring Jack Albertson (Grandpa Joe), Michael Bollner (Augustus), Julie Dawn Cole (Veruca), Dodo Denney (Mrs Teevee), Roy Kinnear (Mr Salt), Gunter Meibner (Slugworth/Wilkinson), Denise Nickerson (Violet), Peter Ostrum (Charlie Bucket), Ursula Reit (Mrs Gloop), Leonard Stone (Mr Beauregarde), Paris Themmen (Mike), Gene Wilder (Mr Wonka). 98 mins. Colour.

Years ago the Wonka chocolate factory closed its doors to outsiders. Now there is a grand competition: five gold tickets will be contained in Wonka bars, bringing the winners a tour round the factory (with the relative of their choice) and a lifetime supply of chocolate. Young Charlie, living in abject poverty with his mother and four bedridden grandparents, is the last of the five, and his Grandpa Joe is elected to go with him. Charlie refuses money from Wonka's industrial rival Slugworth to bring away the secret of the Wonka Everlasting Gobstopper. Mr Wonka himself, though human, proves a sinister Trickster character, and during the tour allows the four other children to be punished (possibly fatally) by their various vices. Even Charlie is not flawless in behaviour, but he honestly returns the Everlasting Gobstopper he has been given rather than sell it to Slugworth; all proves to have been a trial (and "Slugworth" a Wonka agent provocateur) to determine which child would be virtuous enough to inherit the factory.

WWATCF has been much disliked as a family comedy musical: the songs are weak, there are few jokes, and the morals are trite and clumsy. But sitting amid all the tacky trappings is an interestingly chilly fantasy: it is effectively a Fairytale, with Wonka, as the guide to Faerie, neither benevolent nor actively malevolent, merely nonhuman and whimsically disinterested in the fates of those humans who refuse to treat with Magic on its own terms. Distrust me, he seems to be saying, when I seem to offer you Paradise for free and tell you there is no need to read the Contract carefully: no one is entitled to a place here unless they have earned it, and Paradise deals severely with trespassers. [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.