Retro Review: ‘Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory’: The Candy Man’s 45th Anniversary

“Who can take a sunrise and wrap it in a bow?” Why, Willy Wonka can and has for the last 45 years. Now, it’s time to take a look back at this whimsical cult classic and see if it’s as scrumdiddlyumptious as many remember.


Thought it was dismissed by its creator, Roald Dahl, the story of the film still reflects the plot of the original novel very closely. Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder), a reclusive candy maker known throughout the world holds a contest to allow people into his factory. He distributes five golden tickets and those who find them will be allowed into his factory. A young boy named Charlie (Peter Ostrum) dreams of winning one of the tickets, but is impoverished and unable to buy enough truly participate in the contest. Until he buys one candy bar and finds the last golden ticket inside.

The story is solid and has a lot of themes which serve as great lessons to not only children but parents as well. The plot focuses on the importance of imagination, honesty, and doing what is right. Values which are still integral today. It’s light, yet powerful storytelling is part of what has made this film a favorite of many.


The director’s changes to the book are what led to this movie being disowned the first place. Changes such as making Slugworth into a spy and the infamous boat scene were his call to make. Thought the first could be forgiven the scene with the boat is unnecessary nightmare fuel in an otherwise pleasant and whimsical film. The director needs to be held accountable for scarring many children for life. Yet at the same time he introduced the scene where Wonka makes Charlie think he doesn’t get the lifetime supply of chocolate, which featured one of the best rants ever by an actor in a film. This one is kind of a toss up.


The music of this film is iconic in many ways. Even songs like “Golden Ticket,” sung by Grandpa Joe (Jack Albertson) thought he doesn’t have the best voice ever truly has found its place in history. Just staying the line, “Who can take a sunrise,” will get easily cause a majority of those nearby to immediately recall the song “The Candyman” in an instant. This movie has some of the most memorable songs ever and are so essential, owning the soundtrack is a necessity for fans of not only the film but of musicals as well.

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The acting in this film is spot on. Ostrum’s performance as Charlie makes him feel like a real kid instead of an actor pretending they know how a child acts. The other four Golden Ticket winners act as obnoxious as possible to the point when their unique punishments occur, the audience is glad to see them leave.

The person who really steals the show is Wilder’s performance as Willy Wonka. He comes off as a mixture between an artist, a con man, and a genius all at the same time. When he starts to act odd his behavior models a supervillain, yet everyone is put at ease moments later as he shows off a new invention or concoction to them. It’s a shame he was never nominated for an Academy Award for the performance he gives.


The production of this film perfectly contracts the difference between the imaginative world of Willy Wonka’s factory and the drab world of the mundane. It offers a feeling of being in a dreamworld, much like the scene in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy opens the door and finds the world filled with color and life. Entering into Wonka’s factory feels like something out of a storybook, complete with candy growing on trees, chocolate rives, and tiny magical creatures to help make it all possible.

The film is cult classic for a good reason. It possesses just as much fun and joy as it did when it debuted back in 1971. It is a film which is truly integral viewing for all who enjoy a heartfelt story filled with candy, catchy songs, and a feeling of a golden ticket being right around the corner waiting for them.

Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory was presented by Fathom Events as part of their TCM Big Screen Classics event.

Anthony Wendel
Anthony Wendel
Anthony is a geek through and through who still looks forward to new releases, sneak peeks, Giant Monsters, and robots of all shapes and sizes. He loves animation of all shapes and sizes. He has a distinct apprehension for trolling and clips shows. His books, The Handbook for Surviving A Giant Monster Attack and Santa Claus Conquers Manos: The Hands of Fate are available on Amazon.