Wonkatania

“The famous English scientist, Professor Foulbody, invented a machine which would tell you at once, without opening the wrapper of a bar of chocolate, whether or not there was a Golden Ticket hidden underneath it. The machine had a mechanical arm that shot out with tremendous force and grabbed hold of anything that had the slightest bit of gold inside it, and for a moment, it looked like the answer to everything. But unfortunately, while the Professor was showing off the machine to the public at the sweet counter of a large department store, the mechanical arm shot out and made a grab for the gold filling in the back tooth of a duchess who was standing near by. There was an ugly scene, and the machine was smashed by the crowd.”

I bought and read “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” today.

I haven’t read it since, oh, probably over 20 years ago (Eek!). The first time I read it (I was probably about seven or eight) I ploughed through it so fast that my mother accused me of not having read it properly and quizzed me on it. It was my favourite Roald Dahl book until I discovered his “Tales of the Unexpected” series, but those are for grown-ups.

Compared to the original film, which I can’t help but do, the book is superbly paced, especially compared to the pre-chocolate factory scenes in the films that take far too long to set up.

I was a little alarmed to be reminded that in the book, Charlie is starving and malnourished when he gets his lucky break. There are descriptive passages about boniness and constant hunger, but not to worry – Willy Wonka gives him a cup of chocolate river on the riverboat.

I think the original film had a better ending. Wonka was more of a bastard who had his faith in human nature restored by the good deeds of the boy. In the book he’s a nutty old man who picks Charlie as his heir because he’s the last one standing. There’s no evil Slugworth to tempt Charlie with the dark side.

I’m looking forward to the remake. It’s released here sometime in early September. I hear it’s better paced and – yes! – Willy Wonka has daddy issues. Excellent.

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