The Daily Stream: Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory Is Delightful Nightmare Fuel

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Movie: "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory"

Where You Can Stream It: Netflix

The Pitch: I have a weird love/lasting fear of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" from my childhood. I wasn't around when it came out, but it did play on television. It did two things to me. First, it made me question advertising, since the Everlasting Gobstoppers they sell are not everlasting like they are in the film. Second, it gave me nightmares that I still have to this day. 

It's the story of Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum), a very poor kid who discovers a golden ticket in his Wonka-brand chocolate bar, meaning he gets to go with a few other kids and their guardians to tour Willy Wonka's famous chocolate factory with none other than the reclusive and extremely weird Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder) himself. One by one, the kids do stupid things and get removed from the tour is delightfully awful ways. 

One caveat; there are some very problematic things in here (like the Oompa-Loompas). I am therefore recommending this as a stream if you're an adult, and if you're old enough to understand what those problematic things are or explain them to your kid. 

Why it's essential viewing

It sounds like I'm telling you to avoid "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," but I'm not. This 1971 film features one of the best performances from the legendary Gene Wilder. That man had the uncanny ability to look haunted and sweet and menacing at the same time. It's perfect for Willy Wonka, who doesn't seem to have a problem messing up children, but is still somehow loveable.

I guess in a way that's part of the appeal and wait, I didn't mean to sound psychotic. Children are great! I just love the fact that there are consequences to the choices they make. Augustus Gloop (Michael Böllner) drinks out of the chocolate river, making my inner germaphobe shudder, and he gets punished for it. Veruca Salt (Julie Dawn Cole) thinks she should get anything she wants, and ends up being put down a shoot reserved for "bad eggs." Violet Beauregarde (Denise Nickerson) won't stop chewing her gum and turns into a giant blueberry that has to be squeezed out.

It's scrumdiddlyumptious!

"Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" is the very definition of poetic justice. No one is really a good guy other than Charlie. Wonka would be up on child endangerment charges today. Grandpa Joe (Jack Albertson) is a complete jerk, letting Charlie's mom cook and clean as he sits in bed for years, and only gets up at the prospect of free chocolate and a factory tour. I like the not-so-perfect versions of kids and the wildly irresponsible adults. I like consequences.

What I also like — now — is the sequence as Wonka takes the kids on a boat through a tunnel and scares the crap out of them. There are horrifying pictures on the wall, and Wonka sort of sing/speaks a macabre poem. It's just absurd and creepy, and the delight Wonka takes in messing with everyone appeals to my darker side. I do still have nightmares, but I just watched it again and found myself laughing at how weird the studio allowed this children's film to be. I mean, you could not do this now. We keep trying, of course, but Johnny Depp's version is just uncomfortable to watch.

When you get to the end and the "surviving" child is left, you know that kid earned that place. It's not through the power of love and friendship like rewards usually are in kid films and animated shows these days. It's that he was less awful than the rest of them. It's sort of refreshing.

I apologize in advance for your non-stop humming of "The Candy Man."