The childlike innocence of Toyland, coupled with the ferocious violence of Bogeyland and the many sexual innuendoes, some ambiguous and some blatant, earned the film condemnation from the Parent-Teacher Association of America. Critics, however, loved it, even though it missed the advent of Technicolor by six months (with its windmills, spider webs, clocks, costumes, and sets, it would have rivaled the Munchkinland scenes from The Wizard of Oz for color and imagery). As Barnaby, Henry Kleinbach is one of the nastiest screen villains ever. The look on his face when he lifts Bo Peep's veil to "kiss the bride" is priceless.
For a children's film, Babes in Toyland sure has a lot of grown-up themes, but the only part that gave me a hard time was the singing. When Tom Tom breaks out in song in Bogeyland, it seems a little inappropriate. Victor Herbert's musical score may have worked on the stage but is somewhat out of place in the film. I wish Roach had not felt the need to produce it as an abbreviated operetta.
Nonetheless, this is an extremely enjoyable film. It's at the Michigan Theater on Sunday, April 7.
[Originally published in April, 2002.]