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Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968). Yet another movie I get mugged by. . . .


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Is it a great movie?  Well, I dunno.  The Brits cherish it.  All I know is whenever I chance across it, even only intending it as a temporary bridge to something else, I end up watching to the end.  The songs and dance numbers are entertaining.  And the rousing title theme is terrific.  And there is one truly fine song toward the end ("Doll on a Music Box") that I can't understand why hasn't become a standard.  You can't knock the principals, especially Sally Ann Howes, whose voice is a ray of sunlight in a despairing world.  There is capable support from a list of familiar faces, who each get a moment or two to grab center stage:  Lionel Jeffries, James Robertson Justice, Robert Helpmann, Anna Quayle, and Gert Frobe.  The last playing with wonderful bombast the role of Baron Bomburst.  They exaggerate their performances just the right amount to create a whimsical tone that keeps the movie from being crushed by its scale.  And it is one of the handful of movies featuring adorable children you do not feel an overpowering urge to reach out and strangle.  Credit director Ken Hughes and cinematographer Christopher Challis for the visual charm and wit.  The pace is energetic and never drags even in the quieter interludes, and there are real thrilling shots, like when Chitty is first rolled out into the sunlight, and the aerial shots of the Great Western Railway train and Chitty.  Rowland Emett designed the car, and Caractacus Potts' fantastical machines which are a delight and hilarious to see (mal)function. 

Great or not, I get hooked.

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Although (eww)...you might want to rephrase that headline.

Years growing up, I used to be driven up the wall by people during the 70's Ron-Miller Disney who were convinced that this was "a Disney musical", just because the producers had gone all out to shanghai anyone who had ever worked on Mary Poppins, in an attempt to genetically replicate it.  Thing is, though, it WORKED:  It's not the stiff-upper-lip London of Mary Poppins, it's the English countryside, and then into the wild over-the-top world of Roald Dahl's story-scripting...It ends up being halfway between the original Mary Poppins and the '71 Willy Wonka, with all the good points of each.

But it's NOT Disney--It was produced by Albert Broccoli, who owned Ian Fleming's only children's book along with the 007 novels, and thought Poppins was coin of the realm for "how you do" a children's story--So now we have the best of Mary Poppins, the '71 Wonka, and the Sean Connery 007's in one movie.  😁  (There's no "Truly Scrumptious", or even a Baron, in Fleming's original novel.  Dahl just had to slip a Bond Girl name in there, and a kid-acceptable Goldfinger as well.)

The Sherman Brothers had left Disney after Walt was gone, and had only middling luck on their own--quick, anybody know a few songs from "Tom Sawyer", "Snoopy Come Home" or "The Slipper & the Rose"?--but their attempt to create English music-hall songs for Dick Van Dyke and Lionel Jeffries is some of their best work since Disney.  (Yes, the producers even brought over music arranger Irwin Kostal from Poppins, and Kostal could turn the otherwise chirpy-annoying title song into a brass-band Intermission overture.)  And yes, the two children are absolute naturals, and surprisingly un-annoying for a late-60's G-musical.

How, I ask you, can you hate:

 

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I have mixed feelings about this movie.  As a kid I found many aspects of the movie (Dick Van Dyke, the flying car, Toot Sweet factory, Grandpa's flying outhouse) to be quite charming.  Once they get to Vulgaria, though,  they lost me. The Child Catcher was terrifying.  

Trich Diary on Twitter: "The child catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang ...         Child Catcher | Villains Wiki | Fandom

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As a side note, I read the book years later and it's very different from the movie.  I wonder if anyone considered making a new movie that would be closer to the original plot.  

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Magical Car: Fleming, Ian, Berger ...

 

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15 hours ago, slaytonf said:

Is it a great movie?  Well, I dunno.  The Brits cherish it.  All I know is whenever I chance across it, even only intending it as a temporary bridge to something else, I end up watching to the end.  The songs and dance numbers are entertaining.  And the rousing title theme is terrific.  And there is one truly fine song toward the end ("Doll on a Music Box") that I can't understand why hasn't become a standard.  You can't knock the principals, especially Sally Ann Howes, whose voice is a ray of sunlight in a despairing world.  There is capable support from a list of familiar faces, who each get a moment or two to grab center stage:  Lionel Jeffries, James Robertson Justice, Robert Helpmann, Anna Quayle, and Gert Frobe.  The last playing with wonderful bombast the role of Baron Bomburst.  They exaggerate their performances just the right amount to create a whimsical tone that keeps the movie from being crushed by its scale.  And it is one of the handful of movies featuring adorable children you do not feel an overpowering urge to reach out and strangle.  Credit director Ken Hughes and cinematographer Christopher Challis for the visual charm and wit.  The pace is energetic and never drags even in the quieter interludes, and there are real thrilling shots, like when Chitty is first rolled out into the sunlight, and the aerial shots of the Great Western Railway train and Chitty.  Rowland Emett designed the car, and Caractacus Potts' fantastical machines which are a delight and hilarious to see (mal)function. 

Great or not, I get hooked.

was taken to see it as a little kid, but haven't seen it for many years since

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12 hours ago, Peebs said:

As a side note, I read the book years later and it's very different from the movie.  I wonder if anyone considered making a new movie that would be closer to the original plot.  

Well, there's not MUCH of a book:  Potts is married, builds the car, takes the kids on a beach picnic, the kids discover a bank robber's cave, and Chitty's floating, flying and sentience comes to the rescue.  That pretty much covers everything before the Intermission.

Roald Dahl was hired as scriptwriter, not just as children's writer, but also as Bond/mystery screenwriter who had just scripted "You Only Live Twice".  Since Broccoli was selling it as "Ian Fleming's only children's story", Dahl had the idea of turning Chitty into a kiddy James Bond movie, with Double-0-Potts, his fortuitously-named girl sidekick, and their gadget-tricked car, saving the world from Baron Goldfinger and his child-catching Oddjob.  The movie is more of a Roald Dahl creation as a Fleming one--with the wacky repellent belching adult baddies who hate good, sweet, smart innocent children--and you could watch it alongside Willy Wonka or "Matilda" and not even realize anyone else had ever written the source.

12 hours ago, Peebs said:

Once they get to Vulgaria, though,  they lost me. The Child Catcher was terrifying.  

Until he prances about the streets, you'd never realize that was ballet star Robert Helpmann from The Red Shoes, would you?

(And no mention of Benny Hill playing straight-actor, as the helpful Toymaker?)

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1 hour ago, EricJ said:

Well, there's not MUCH of a book:  Potts is married, builds the car, takes the kids on a beach picnic, the kids discover a bank robber's cave, and Chitty's floating, flying and sentience comes to the rescue.  That pretty much covers everything before the Intermission.

Well, there's a little more to the book than that.   There's the whole plot with the gangsters including the kids getting kidnapped.  I understand why the movie is different.  However, I'm just pointing out that there would be an opportunity to make another version closer to the book .  

 

1 hour ago, EricJ said:

Until he prances about the streets, you'd never realize that was ballet star Robert Helpmann from The Red Shoes, would you?

The prancing doesn't make him any less creepy.  

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I had to play this movie for a middle school choir class maybe five or six years ago in one of my substitute teaching assignments. I also hadn't seen it since childhood. I got to watch the first hour seven times in one day. I was surprised to see it appears like the bulk of the movie is a fantasy, just a fairy tale Dick Van Dyke relates to the kids inserting all of them into the story. I mean, if you're gonna have the flying car element, I don't know why the rest of it has to be imaginary (or maybe I'm remembering it wrong).

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You will notice that when Potts starts telling of Baron Bomburst and his quest for the famous auto there is a shot of a ship just offshore.  There descend the traditional wavy lines across the screen and it transforms into the Baron's ship belching foreboding black smoke with him and his minions aboard.  That is when the fantasy begins and all the magical transformations of Chitty happen.  It continues until the triumph over the Baron by the child-commandos and the return of the Potts and Miss Scrumptious to JOE (jolly old England) and the return to reality.  That is, until the very end when there is a delightful fantastical coda.

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2 hours ago, EricJ said:

(And no mention of Benny Hill playing straight-actor, as the helpful Toymaker?)

I knew someone else would.

 

40 minutes ago, Peebs said:

The prancing doesn't make him any less creepy.  

But. . .but, he's supposed to be creepy.

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On 4/11/2020 at 9:41 PM, slaytonf said:

But. . .but, he's supposed to be creepy.

I know, I know... Hey, again, I enjoy parts of this movie but that guy was truly terrifying to me as a kid.   The Child Catcher is certainly in line with the darker creations of Roald Dahl.

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My brother and sisters and I saw this at a drive-in theater with our parents.  The child catcher is even creepier now than 50 years ago.  My older sister was particularly spooked by the child catcher.  The movie is still fun.  We might've had a record of the soundtrack...

2 hours ago, EricJ said:

(And no mention of Benny Hill playing straight-actor, as the helpful Toymaker?)

It was on ...yesterday?  One thing I noticed for sure was BENNY HILL

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Heh, I saw CHITTY BANG BANG in the theater as a child too and it left zero impression on me. I revisited it when TCM showed it years ago and again, zero impression. That's not good for a kids fantasy movie.

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Yeah, TIKI, I put off seeing it for years due to most kids I knew who saw it back when it came out, kept pronouncing the "CH"  like "SH".  ;)  And after finally seeing it, I discovered why.  ;)

Sepiatone

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It was originally planned to star Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke to cash in on the success they had with MARY POPPINS, but she turned it down because she was afraid she'd end up being type casted and only offered similar type films.   I always thought of it as a solidly made British film that simply did not click with audiences on this side of the Atlantic.

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14 hours ago, TikiSoo said:

Heh, I saw CHITTY BANG BANG in the theater as a child too and it left zero impression on me. I revisited it when TCM showed it years ago and again, zero impression. That's not good for a kids fantasy movie.

 

9 hours ago, Sepiatone said:

Yeah, TIKI, I put off seeing it for years due to most kids I knew who saw it back when it came out, kept pronouncing the "CH"  like "SH".  ;)  And after finally seeing it, I discovered why.  ;)

Sepiatone

My mommie told me if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.  Nyah.

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Until I played it for that class, I just assumed it was a Disney film and was quite surprised to see it opening with a United Artists logo. Also quite surprised to see Ian Fleming and Roald Dahl's names in the credits. I think I saw it on TCM not too long after that.

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I just love this movie.  I could watch it over and over again.  The cast is great.  Dick Van Dyke.  Sally Ann Howe’s.  Sorry if I spelled her last name wrong and everybody and did you know the guy who was the Child Catcher was actually the same guy who was Goldfinger in James Bond’s Goldfinger?  Neat and you’ve got the musical score by The Sherman Brothers.  Richard M Sherman and Robert B Sherman.  The Disney Duo.  The greatest song writing team of all time.  It’s really amazing and really fantastic.  So when Dick Van Dyke aka Mr Potts invented Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?  Was that actually Jeremy and Jamima’s car he used?  I think so.

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6 hours ago, David Guercio said:

So when Dick Van Dyke aka Mr Potts invented Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?  Was that actually Jeremy and Jamima’s car he used?  I think so.

Yes it was their car that you see them playing in the first scene of the movie.  The car that was featured in the credit sequence winning all those Grand Prixs.

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