Jul 1, 2016

Willie Wonka and the Torture Factory

Name a movie that about a lavender-coated, gay-vague monster who lures five children into his lair with the promise of candy, then tortures and terrorizes them, killing three, before inviting the one he deems "good" to become his apprentice.

No, it's not Nightmare on Elm Street.  But you were close.

It's Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, a early entry in the torture-porn genre that parents inflicted on Boomer kids in the summer of 1971, causing not a few of them to be traumatized for life.  I still can't hear the song "Candy Man" without cringing.

The plot: Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder), the ultimate capitalist, produces candy for the town.  He offers a free tour of his factory to five kids who win a "golden ticket." Once they arrive, he terrorizes them.

He pretends to be disabled, and once they become adequately solicitious, does a somersault: "See, you were all sympathetic for nothing!  I'm really not disabled!"

What a nasty thing to do!

Even a boat trip down a chocolate river provides an excuse for Willie to toy with their emotions.  He starts shrieking:

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?

Oh, please -- they're just going to another part of the factory!

But then, he is always extremely volatile, level-head one moment, screaming the next.

Willy arranges for the children to be killed or transformed into something monstrous in retribution for some minor fault, like Billy Mumy's godlike demon in "It's a Good Life."

1. The tv-obsessed Mike Teevee (Paris Themmen) is shrunk to the size of a tv image.
2. The bratty Veruca Salt (Julie Dawn Cole) falls down a garbage chute  into the furnace, where she is burned to death.
3.  The gum-chewing Violet Beauregarde (Denise Nickerson) is transformed into a giant blueberry, whereupon she explodes.
4. The gluttonous Augustus Gloop (Michael Bollner) drowns in a river of chocolate.

 After they are murdered, Willy's slaves, the Oompa-Loompas, sing moralizing songs: if you refrain from chewing gum, over eating, being bratty, and watching tv, you'll "go far," like survive to the end of the torture factory tour.


Charlie (Peter Ostrum) is one of the irrepressibly good, blond waifs who populate adult fantasies about childhood innocence (others include Mark Lester, Jeremy Sumpter, Macaulay Culkin, and Ricky Schroeder).  He has an extremely creepy home life, living with four grandparents who are all bedridden -- and share the same bed.  Gross!

Charlie's fault is larceny -- he and one of his grandfathers sneak into a secret lab and steal an experimental soft drink.  But Willy just yells at Charlie instead of torturing him -- maybe he has a thing for blonds -- and the end offers to make him his apprentice torturer.

I guess even Freddy Krueger needed an assistant.




This was supposed to be fun?  No wonder most of the child stars never acted on film again.
Peter Ostrum is now a veterinarian in New York.
Michael Bollner is a tax accountant in his native Germany.
Julie Dawn Cole limits herself to television.
Paris Themmen works in live theater and film. production.
Even Peter Stewart, who played one of Charlie's friends in town, never acted again.

Would you?

4 comments:

  1. Actually none of them were murdered or died. If your being serious and not sarcastic.

    In the books at least (I'm not too fond of the Gene Wilder version) Mike is stretched back to "normal" human length, the furnaces weren't on that day (it's random as to whether or no they would be) thus Veruca survives her fall, Violet (not Violet as you have it spelled) is dejuiced, and Augustus survives his trip down the river and is seen at the end of the book exiting the factory with everyone else.

    I can't imagine the movie version actually had them all killed instead.
    -Jeremy

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  2. I was being sarcastic, but the movie does leave it up in the air whether they live or die. Augustus might survive if the Oompa-Loopas get to him in time, and Veruca might survive if this happens to be a day that they're not using the furnace. I don't remember what happens to Violet.

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  3. I love this movie. Granted, I was 12 when I first saw it on television, so I was probably quite a bit older than many of the young children who originally saw it in the theatre, but I was a twisted kid, so I loved films that didn't provide condescending little "happy endings" for everybody to "feel good".. In fact, if you'd asked me when I was 12, I'm sure I would have said that I hoped they ALL died.. Ironically, I'm sure that being gay (and knowing it for as long as I can remember) was what shaped my sensibilities for this type of fare as a child.. I always identified with evil child characters such as Rhoda Penmark, Eddie Haskell, Nellie Oleson, and Derek Taylor ('Silver Spoons', Google it). In the way that this website points out how gay kids are made to feel like "outsiders" in the mainstream culture created for them, I viewed "straight" culture (and therefore, culture in general) as a "me versus the rest of the world" prism, which is probably why I loved films like this. Any story where the girl DOESN'T meet her "prince", where the "evil queen" DOES triumph, and everybody DOESN'T live "happily ever after" were always my favorites.

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  4. I know I had a bigger crush on Mike then I did on Charlie.

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