Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory, the childhood fantasy that we all grew up watching, is not without its darkness.
And let's be clear that I'm speaking of the original and not the hack-work that is Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, the remake by Tim Burton.
Mr. Slugworth is a deep dark character that lurks in places light doesn't reach. He quickly comes out to whisper a deal in the ear of an unknowing child and then just as quickly retreats into nowheresville.
The Wonka Factory is a dark place, unknown and unexplored for years and years. Who knows what things come out of that place, other than the best Scrumdidilyumptious bars one's ever tasted.
The Oompa Loompas are dark little creatures that go about their everyday business, but are they peaceful? If I were to pet one would I pull back a stump? And why so glum with their music?
And Willy Wonka himself might be the darkest figure of them all, with his little asides to no one but himself and his quick and blase dismissal of every child. And what of his soliloquy on the WonkaTania.
There's no earthly way of knowing. Which direction we are going. There's no knowing where we're rowing. Or which way the river's flowing. Is it raining. Is it snowing. Is a hurricane-a-blowing. 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? Yes! The danger must be growing. For the rowers keep on rowing. And they're certainly not showing. Any signs that they are slowing!
But he's not. None of these things can hold a candle to the darkness that is Grandpa Joe. Contrary to what everyone has come to believe, Grandpa Joe is not the sweet, lovable old-man everyone thought he was.
Case in point. How many years does Grandpa Joe lay in bed with Grandpa Georgina and Grandma Josephine while Charlie and his Mom toil, washing clothes and delivering papers so that they can survive? 10 years? 15? And when Grandpa Joe does have money what does he spend it on? Tobacco for himself. Does he need tobacco to survive? Absolutely not and it's quite obvious that the family has no disposable income to speak of. But I'm just scratching the surface here.
So Charlie loses his head and buys himself a Wonka bar after the hype of the contest has passed because it is thought that everyone has won. But he finds a Golden Ticket because the last winner was an impostor. Charlie quickly runs home to tell everyone about the great news and in passing says that he would love to invite Grandpa Joe, but he knows that would be impossible because Grandpa Joe has been bed-ridden for years. Or has he?
Suddenly, Grandpa Joe can walk. Sure he stumbles here and there, but sure as anything Grandpa Joe can walk. When things are all gloom and doom, Grandpa can't move to save his life. But when there's fame and fortune to be had, Grandpa's kicking up his heels. When he sings "I've got the golden ticket" is not in reference to the Wonka ticket, but to the gravy train he has been riding for years.
So what does Grandpa do with his new found vigor? Does he fold some clothes for Mom, change a bed-pan or push a broom? No, he gets dressed and goes with Charlie to the rave to end all raves.
For years I have buried this harsh truth, unable and unwilling to confront what was right in front of me the entire time. Grandpa Joe, while probably a very friendly man with a quick handshake and how-do-ya-do, is one of the most manipulative, deceptive movie characters to grace the big screen. Hats off to Jack Albertson for pulling off a role that makes Keyser Soze look like a girl scout.