Films with London in the title aren’t the only films about London – there are also loads of films that feature London, almost as a co-star. In this series, we’ll take a look at those films – both the good and the very, very bad.
Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)
Director: Robert Stevenson
Starring: Angela Landsbury, David Tomlinson, Roddy McDowall
We have such fond childhood memories of this film. In our memories though, the film is pretty much all set in London. It turns out that we’d basically just remembered the Portobello Road scene and forgotten the whole rest of the film. Childhood memories are funny like that.
Bedknobs and Broomsticks is the story of three London orphans, Charlie, Carrie and Paul, who are sent to the countryside during WWII. They end up with a woman named Miss Price, who just happens to be a witch. She’s taking a correspondence course in witchcraft, as you do, and the children catch her one night on her broomstick in the garden. Being clever kids, they blackmail her in order to keep her secret. She magics up the brass bed in their room, and turns it into a travelling bed by bewitching the bedknob.
Miss Price’s correspondence course has been cancelled, seemingly due to the war, and she’s missing her last lesson. Apparently, this is the lesson that will allow her to stop the war, so it’s super important that she get ahold of it. So, she decides that she and the children will take the bed to London to track down her professor. Despite the fact that London is so dangerous that the children have just been evacuated, they hop on the bed and Paul, being the owner of the bedknob and the only one that can work the bed, takes them to meet Professor Emilius Browne.
Browne turns out to be a not very good street magician, who happens to be in possession of half of a magic book which he based his correspondence course. After being quite surprised that Miss Price actually learned to be a witch on his course, he agrees to help them. He brings the kids and Miss Price to his house on Winchfield Road, which Google maps tells us is in Lewisham. Browne is a squatter in an abandoned house (although the film doesn’t use that exact word. But that’s what he is.) which has our dream library, with floor to ceiling bookshelves and a ladder that slides across the wall. The kids get to do a bit of exploring, where Paul finds a comic book which he steals. Sorry, but he does. While the kids are checking thing out, Browne shows Miss Price the book of spells he was using, and reveals that he didn’t cancel the course due to the war – it’s missing the ending and the final spell is incomplete. Oh no!
And where can they find the missing half? Portobello Road, of course. This is our favourite part of the film, and has our favourite song in the film. They wander through Portobello Road, look at some stalls, do a little singing, do a little dancing. And set up some serious expectations for Portobello Road that were really not lived up to on our first visit. The dance sequence goes on a bit too much for our liking, but we applaud Disney’s attempt to be multicultural with the inclusion of Jamaican and Indian soldiers in the dances.
Luckily for them, the man they’re looking for finds them, and they find the second half of the book. It doesn’t reveal the words to the spell, but does reveal where they can be found. The Isle of Naboombu isn’t real, but it is in the comic book Paul stole, so he sends the bed there so they can find the magic words. And then they’re out of London.
Then there’s some stuff with an animated island, a football game, magic spells that make shoes come to life, Nazis and the attack of stuff from a museum that sends the Nazis away. But none of that’s in London, so we won’t concern ourselves with that.
Favourite childhood films can often be a letdown on rewatching, but we did enjoy this one. And it has one of the best character names ever – Miss Price’s first name is Eglantine, which we love. Should we ever need to change our name for any reason, that’ll be top of the list.
Time Spent In London: Only 27 minutes! We were surprised by that.
London Icons Spotted: Only just Portobello Road. It’s not very icon friendly.
Glaring London Errors: Not really any, considering it was filmed on a sound stage.
Things They Got Right: It’s on a sound stage – there’s not much to get right, really.
Overall Rating: 6/10
Previously on Co-Starring London: