When I was little, Bedknobs and Broomsticks was my comfort film. It’s the one I would put on when I wasn’t feeling well to cheer myself up. It has everything a good film should: inexplicably named characters played by Angela Lansbury and Mr. Banks, live action mixed with animation and even Bruce Forsyth popping up. No, really.
It’s always bothered me that Bedknobs and Broomsticks isn’t more widely appreciated nowadays, even though it was critically acclaimed when it was released all the way back in 1971 and was the last Disney film to win an Oscar until The Little Mermaid in 1989.
Yes, everyone likes a bit of Disney trivia, but what does any of this have to do with museums?
Hang on, I’m getting there.
Recently, I was feeling rather under the weather and so I decided to watch my old comfort film. I was really struck by how important the local museum was to the action that unfolded. No, really.
Bedknobs and Broomsticks is set during the early years of World War II, when children were being evacuated to the countryside for their own protection. Three London oiks have been evacuated to the fictional Pepperigne Eye. The local museum, which is full of military artefacts – clearly reminding everyone that a WAR IS GOING ON – is being used as the place to sort out who is staying with whom.
It’s not long before they get into the kind of mischief that has people yelling for kids to be banned from museums (but I can’t say that the adults behave any better…). It’s also the kind of mischief that shows that these old suits of armour still have a bit of fight in them…
These cockney urchins go on to meet Ms Eglantine Price (Lansbury) and discover that she’s a[n apprentice] witch who is planning on using her magic to help with the war-effort. Has there been a better story line in all of cinematic history?
I think not.
After a bit of singing and dancing and bobbing along on the bottom of the beautiful briny sea, we get to the main action. Hidden under the layers of magic is the threat of invasion: the credits are told using Bayeux Tapestry imagery, country-folk are painting over signs, and a creepy curate is trying to steal Ms. Price’s house.
All of this subtly points to an inevitable Nazi invasion.
This is where Ms. Price’s magic (and that convenient museum full of military gear) comes in handy. With a little Treguna Mekoides Tracorum Satis Dee, Angela Lansbury saves the day using her substitutiary locomotion spell.
She basically brings all the armour to life to save England from the Nazis.
It makes me happy that there is a resounding message that our heritage was enough to see off the threat of invasion, even if it did need a little supernatural boost. I also like the strong feminist message of one woman being able to defeat the Nazis quite literally single-handedly.