Causing childhood trauma since 1971…
I just returned from a week in Portland. Last night as I was packing for my 6:30 AM flight out of PDX to Long Beach. I had to ride the first light rail train to the airport at 4:15 AM, so it was a short night for me. While I was packing, I flipped around the TV to see what was on this late Saturday (or early Sunday). ABC Family was showing the original 1971 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, starring Gene Wilder (not Johnny Dep!).
My earliest time I can think watching this movie was merely in Kindergarten. Mrs. Everett had read the book to us. Because we behaved ourselves, we watched the movie once we finished the book. When we were kids, we probably didn’t care much for actual dialog in a movie unless it was a cartoon or something we loved. We saw a movie picture and heard sounds. We didn’t pay attention to the book anyways!
One part of the film where Willy Wonka took the lucky winners of the golden ticket on a boat ride in the Choco River was too traumatic for the typical child. The boat entered into a dark tunnel as Mr. Wonka’s umpalumpas cranked up the speed. I remember several devastating scenes of a millipede crawling over a dead person’s mouth to a chicken getting beheaded. Mr. Wonka started saying creepy things. I didn’t like watching that scene. I cried, never truly understanding what Mr. Wonka ever said besides, “Quite right, sir. Stop the Boat!”
I must have been five years old at the time. 19 years later, I’m in Portland, watching the movie after a long time. I probably saw it many times before, but still never paid close attention to actual dialog. It was time for the famous “boat ride from hell.” I was taking out some clothes hung up in the closet when I heard the word, “rowing…” I dropped the clothes, looked up, turned back, and stared at the TV to see if I heard it again. It’s too bad there wasn’t a TiVo or DVR in the room. I immediately searched for this scene on YouTube. To my belief, it was true. I was more attentive to the word because I was used to hearing it after being involved with the sport of rowing (crew as it’s called) in college for so many years. It’s too bad I didn’t come across this scene sooner because this could have been a good motivator for a race. Instead of a freaky Willy Wonka chasing the boat, my coach would have been the one freaking out.
One thing I noticed is that in the original 1971 film, the umpalumpas didn’t really row but rather turned a paddlewheel. In the 2007 remake, the boat actually had umpalumpas rowing the boat, but Johnny Dep wasn’t staring a freak show.
Watch the scene and read the script below. Those of you in the sport, did you ever spot this while watching the movie?
Wonka: There’s no earthly way of knowing.
Mr. Salt: He’s singing.
Wonka: Which direction we are going
There’s no knowing where we’re rowing
Mr. Salt: Rowing.
Wonka: Or which way the river’s flowing
Is it raining, is it snowing?
Is a hurricane a-blowing?
Bah! Not a speck of light is showing,
So the danger must be growing.
Are the fires of hell a-glowing?
Is the grisly reaper mowing?
The danger must be growing,
For the rowers keep on rowing,
And they’re certainly not showing
Any signs that they are slowing!
Veruca: Make him stop, daddy!
Mr. Salt: Wonka, this has gone far enough!
Wonka: Quite right, sir. Stop the boat!