The great Bedknobs and Broomstick vs Mary Poppins debate

Actually there’s not much of a debate. Of the three (Pete’s Dragon was the third, but it’s too pathetic to mention except by way of dismissal: “Razzle Dazzle Day”? Please) major live action/animated mix movies that Disney did between 1960-1980, only one is a truly spectacular film in all respects.

Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

In every way (except arguably one) it’s better than Mary Poppins. (And anything was better than Pete’s Dragon. And I’m including the Black Hole when I say that)

For one thing, B&B has a plot. An actual plot where there’s rising action, climax, falling action, character development, excitement menace, etc. whereas Mary Poppins is twee. Nauseateingly treacley. Icky. And NOTHING happens.

In B&B, there’s the menace of the Nazis, the menace of the King from the island of Naboomboo(sp), the menace of Roddy McDowell who plays a subtley creepy minister. In Mary Poppins? There’s penguins who soft shoe. Wheee.

The big climax of B&B features a kick-ass battle of revanants and spectral minions versus Nazis. The big climax of Mary Poppins features…um…David Tomilson telling a joke to a badly made up Dick Van Dyke. And he doesn’t even die!

Granted, Julie Andrews is a better singer than Angela Langsbury but Angela’s damned good nonetheless (she’s good enough to sing Sondheim scores) and Angela is able to get a range of emotions both acted and sung far beyond anything Julie’s ever portrayed on the screen.

The songs are better too: In Mary Poppins, each song is an excuse to do a song. The songs are fully integrated into B&B, from “Age of Not Believing” to “With a Flair” to the obvious attempt to rip off the success of “Supercalifragilisticepialidocious”) “Substitutionary Locomotion”. But in a rare turn of events, the rip-off is better than the original. “Super…etc.” doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t move the plot forward. It’s just there. “Sub…etc” summons the forces of darkness to torment Roddy McDowell and kick Nazi ass.

Bedknobs and Broomsticks hasn’t gotten the respect it’s deserved for two reasons: One, it was seen as an obvious attempt to cash in on the phenominal success of Mary Poppins (and, let’s be honest, it probably was) but Two, it’s been butchered all these years. If you haven’t seen the new DVD release of it, you haven’t really seen the movie.

Three(?) dance numbers and huge chunks of dialogue (about 40 minutes total, IIRC) were dropped (and one number was lost forever) because some asshole at Radio City Music Hall wanted to get in an extra show or two a day. This led to some bizarre plot holes. (For one, the scene it’s revealed that Paul, Carrie and Charles’s guardian was killed and their parents are long dead is gone. This is pretty important to a later scene. It also adds some depth to them that Jane and Michael never have. Paul and Carrie coulda kicked Jane and Michael’s spoiled rotten asses to Trafalgar Square and back. :wink: )

If you haven’t seen the newly restored version with everything but the one lost number restored (and that one number is recreated with photographs that give a pretty good idea of what it must have looked like) you must.

Mary Poppins is fun, it was well done, but ultimately, it was fluff. Cotton Candy. It looks pretty, but when you bite into it, there’s nothing there except icky sweetness. It’s all style and no substance whereas (the restored) Bedknobs and Broomsticks from the moment it opens to the moment it ends is simply a much better movie.



No, I’ll take your word for it.

I can’t argue with you one bit. I’ve always like B&B more than Mary Poppins. In fact, I think I saw it first too. I always loved the fight against the Nazis (even though I didn’t fully understand who they were at the time). I can almost remember those magical words, too…

Man, now I gotta go watch it again, and I don’t have access to a decent video store.

Traguna, mecoities, trecorum, saties, dee…

“Substutiary Locomotion
Mystic powers that’s far
Beyond our wildest notion
it’s so weird
so feared
yet wonderful to see
Substitutiary Locomotion come to me!”

And trust me: DON’T rent the video, unless the restored version is available on Video (I don’t know if it is). It’s so much better with the restored scenes!


I re-read my copy of the book not too long ago, but I haven’t seen the movie in ages. I’ll have to keep an eye out for it.

Always loved B&B. Maybe this explains my compulsion to rub large round things.

I find your views intriguing, Fenris, and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

All kidding aside, you make some excellent points, and based on what I’ve seen, I can’t really imagine anyone championing Mary Poppins over Bedknobs and Broomsticks. I don’t entirely rule out the possibility, of course, but while we wait for someone to come along, I’d like to pick your brain about that newly restored version. Do the returned scenes do anything to give Roddy McDowell’s character an excuse to even be in the picture? 'Cos I didn’t see any need for him at all, and if I were making a list of things I especially liked and disliked about the movie, he would be on the disliked side.

JFTR, I never saw the movie at all until about two years ago when a friend gave the VHS to Michaela. And I can’t think about huge mushrooms without wanting to break into a huge song and dance number about the swap meet district. :slight_smile:

Well, both of the title-named movies blew away the entirely forgettable books that they were based on, which is a pretty rare occurrence.

Yes, I read Mary Norton’s Bed-knob and Broom-stick long before it became a movie, and tossed it aside with an annoyed shrug. Most of what you see in the movie beginning with the initial discovery of what the bedknob does is strictly Disney, and the book version is entirely forgettable. No Nazis as far as I can recall.

Mary Poppins (the book) was pretty dismal too IIRC. I wanted to smack the uptight schoolmarm governess with something heavy.

Between the two movies? Yeah, B&B beats MP w/o contest.

Fenris, I agree with you completly.

That’s it. Have no more to add.

Not a single thing.


I’m not kidding, not one single worthy thing to say.

Not one.

You have no idea of how frustrating that is.

Well, it doesn’t appear you have a very good handle on either the book or the movie, as the enchantment of the bedknob is one of the few scenes where the movie and the book match. There’s no “initial discovery of what the bedknob does;” Miss Price enchants the bedknob as payment for the children’s silence regarding her avocation.

My keyboard has a tendency to go belly up at times, so I’ve cut-and-pasted this notice from a special word processing document I created for just such an emergency. I’ll contribute again after I feel like cycling power and waiting for a reset. :slight_smile:

Time for a little history lesson. The movie Mary Poppins has far more plot than the book, which is an assortment of unconnected interludes. The author, P.L. Travers, fought against the movie having a plot. She fought against a whole lot of stuff, and the Disney people despaired of ever buying the rights. The rights to the two novels Bedknobs and Broomsticks was based on were purchased as a wedge against Travers, with the implication that Disney was going to do a magical nanny movie with or without her.

Once Travers finally broke (she had demanded that nothing colored red appear in the movie, and Disney used this silly demand against her), Disney owned the rights to two books it didn’t want. So after Mary Poppins was completed, certain unused ideas were, shall we say, recycled? The song “Beautiful Briny Deep” was definitely intended for a world tour sequence for Poppins, as was the idea of having a “cartoons interact with people” sequence. In short, B&B was Disney doing a knockoff of their own movie.

That said, the two movies are roughly equal in terms of enjoyment. While B&B has the more coherent plot, Poppins has the wonderful story of Mr. Banks’ redemption. (Tomlinson does a fantastic job making you like such a disagreeable character.) And, yes, you do want the restored version of B&B. It explains little things better, like what McDowell is up to - dodging the draft and trying to marry Angela Lansbury for money.

Fie on you and your Pete’s Dragon-downplaying! When I was six years old, Pete’s Dragon was the best movie ever. My brother was trying to get the folks to take us to see Star Wars, but I pitched a fit until we saw Pete’s Dragon again instead. I wanted to be Pete and I wanted Helen Reddy to be my second mom.

Now, in retrospect, Pete’s Dragon is really not all that good. But these are cherished childhood memories you’re messing with.

As for Mary Poppins vs. Bedknobs & Broomsticks – eh. I’ll agree that there’s not much point to Mary Poppins, but it’s all in the production values. Bedknobs & Broomsticks always seemed the slightly creepier, low-rent version – the Hydrox to MP’s Oreos; the Dolly Madison pies to MP’s Hostess. MP is full of images like the penguin waiters, jumping into the chalk drawings, riding carousel horses, having a tea party in mid-air, and the chimney-sweep dance with all the silhouettes. B&B has a cheap knock-off of King John from Robin Hood.

There’s an awful lot of awful in MP, not the least of which is Dick Van Dyke’s “accent.” And except for the chimney-sweep songs (“Step in Time” and “Chim-chim chiree”) I’ve never been a big fan of the music in it, either. But I can’t remember a single song from B&B, for better or worse. I don’t think the problem is that Bedknobs and Broomsticks was a worse movie, just that except for the title, it was completely forgettable.

I’ve only ever watched the semi-restored DVD version with only the one missing song.

I’ll have to say Mary Poppins partly because watching Angela Lansbury being jerked about by fishing line was quite traumatising to watch. I actually had to squint and focus on the corner of the screen until that was over. It was just so … undignified and B-movieish.

And the whole scene in the street market was just intollerably long and boring. I mean you keep thinking “Ok, there going to stop dancing now.” but no, on they go. As was most of the animated parts. Whereas in MP the most boring scene when the kids are running away.

Also recognize that I choose Mary Poppins despite having been tormented by a sister with the line “Though we adore men individually we agree that as a group they’re rather stupid.”

This isn’t to say that I think either film is a great film, I don’t have MP on DVD and only have B&B out of curiosity, it’s just that MP is a whole lot more fun to watch.

Note that David Tomlinson, the very archetype of “Englishman,” was in both movies.

I happen to enjoy Bedknobs and Broomsticks a whole lot more then Mary Poppins. Though I do like Mary Poppins.


And the books are f*cking creepy. The Mary Poppins of the book is NOT the Mary Poppins of the movie. She’s a lot less…sweet…in the book.

Redemption? He goes from a bit cranky to a bit less cranky (Joke!) as opposed to his character in B&B who goes from sleezy con-man to hero.


I love Mary Poppins, and I’ve always had a soft spot for it. It was the first movie my parents ever took me to.

I’ve seen them both, and I think Mary Poppins has some sort of a warmth to it that B&B lacks. Also, Julie Andrews really does a very good job (whether her performance was actually worthy of an Oscar is another thing, but at least she was a lot better than in that awful “Sound of Music” excuse for a film). Having said that, B&B is slightly more fun, and the fight with the living armours at the end is amazing in all respects. I say it when I was a kid, and I was blown away by it, and still am. I’d have to say, too, that Mary Poppins is more of a ‘whole’, whereas B&B sort of breaks down into three parts (the introduction, the soccer match, and the whole Nazi-thing) which makes it hard for kids to consider it as one film. Then again, given the short attention span of the average kid today, that might be a plus.

As for the OP: “Pete’s Dragon” is certainly not a masterpiece, but I believe it has it’s merits.

I meant “saw” there somewhere, and not “say”.

Actually, this is one of the reasons that I like B&B better myself. There’s a darker edge. The best bits in Marry Poppins are when they get away from the sweetness and light (“Feed the Birds” as an example). The worst bits in B&B are when they try to be a bit Poppins-esque (most of the animated sequences, actually).

But if I had to choose a mysterious care-taker to look after me, I’d have to pass them both up and go with Ms. Phoebe Figalilly. She could tuck me in any time. Booh-ya.