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What's so good about Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?


slaytonf
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Well, Robert Helpman, for one. He is one of the most delightfully villainous villains in any movie. People will remember him from the Red Shoes as Ivan Boleslawsky.

 

There's a lot of great music, too. Wonderful tunes and clever lyrics. The main song is stirring, and there are lots of rousing ensemble pieces, the best of which is the Toot Sweets dance in the candy factory. The best is the song Leslie Ann Howe sings as a music box doll.

 

*Sally Ann Howes'* voice is gorgeous.

 

It has one of the best opening sequences of any film, even if it is not strictly historically accurate.

 

The acting is exaggerated enough to add comic effect, without being annoying.

 

Gert Frobe sings!

 

It is all in all a musical of the pedigree of the golden age of musicals. Maybe not the best. Maybe its songs have not become standards. But it's one of my favorites.

 

I set my DVD to record it. Naturally TimeWarner cable chose to reboot my cable box ten minutes into it.

 

Edited by: slaytonf on Sep 12, 2013 6:09 AM, bold text.

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As musical goes it's probably one of the most surreal ones ever made, especially the later scenes with the Child Catcher.

 

Benny Hill has a sizeable part in it. A local station in Detroit has been airing his show. It's pretty much the polar opposite of Monty Python, but both are funny.

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Saw this once in high school and didn't like it. I was raised on Disney & classic musicals, so I'm the perfect audience for it, but never saw what the big deal was. Dick Van Dyke is great, yes, and the Shermans wrote some great songs with some good dancing, and there's plenty of whimsy, but I couldn't get over the weird extended "dream sequence" (did it even "happen"?) where they go to a weird place where children are not allowed-- how do they expect their society to continue?! Then they come back out of it and everything kind of goes back to normal, so I thought "what was the point of that whole thing?" Weird. And it had nothing to do with the main story line-- it was like two movies in one (not unlike the MST3K classic "Riding with Death").

 

But I know many people love it, like it's their favorite movie, so maybe it's just me. I should probably watch it again to see if I still hate it-- maybe I'll like it better the 2nd time now that I know what to expect. We'll see.

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I went on the last TCM Cruise and Sally Ann Howes was one of the guest. This movie was one of hers they showed. She liked working on the film and loved Dick Van Dyke. She had been a child actor but at the point she made this film, she was mainly doing stage musicals. So she wasn't able to parlay this film into movie success.

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I believe that what is so good about the movie is that it is so unrepentantly silly.

 

The production values are all very high and the performances were excellent. It is as if the entire movie is saying: We could have made a serious and important movie but we would rather toot our sweets and fly around in our boat.

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> LonesomePolecat wrote:

> they go to a weird place where children are not allowed-- how do they expect their society to continue?

 

It is sad to say that I have not had an opportunity to watch this movie for many years so I must trust to my memory until I can cut out the time for watching our recording of this airing:

 

I believe it was only the current monarch who was obsessive re: children and he was not such a mental giant that he considered the consequences.

 

It is my experience also that children are akin to cockroaches in that you may be able to seemingly rid an area of them but there are at all times ones lurking to invade once the controls abate.

 

I remember reading of a village in Germany in which all of the children who were toddlers up to working age and more than half of the women were put to death during the witchhunting frenzy. It required less than thirty years before the population was restored to pre-hunt levels. Articles have been written concerning how the village prospered when relieved of the majority of child-rearing duties.

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>LonesomePolecat:

>I couldn't get over the weird extended "dream sequence"

 

Well, it wasn't a dream sequence. It was a story he was telling to his children, so naturally it was fairy-tale-ish; only we were not let in on it until the end of the movie, a not-uncommon trick played on movie audiences.

 

The assets the film has that you admit to are the very ones that make it so well liked. Is it one of the great musicals? No. But I enjoy watching it. It's a lot of fun.

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Personally I thought Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was better than the 1.5 star review Leonard Maltin gave it and which had colored my view of the movie for over thirty years. The art direction is very good. And the songs aren't bad, though they also aren't memorable. The script has some good lines, thanks to Roald Dahl. A contrast with Oliver! which came out the same year, and not only won best picture but which holds up much better, shows some of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang's weaknesses. For a start, the children in CCBB are less like real children than in any other movie I've seen in years, if ever. And the songs in Oliver! are much better. And the characters have more bite: by contrast the children are as sweet as saccharin, Truly Scrumptuous doesn't do much aside except look pretty, and Van Dyke is not an entirely convincing inventor.

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Sepiatone, it's true that Dickens is a better writer than Dahl, but not all literary adaptations are successful. Arguably most of them aren't. Dahl is probably better than Arthur C. Clarke and definitely better than Mario Puzo, but that doesn't alter the fact that 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Godfather are better movies.

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Well, p'raps Dahl is a better author than the others, but Dickens was one of the greatest authors who ever lived, and his characters reverberate through our collective cultural psyche, so, yes, we can attribute some of the qualities you see in Oliver! to the source. The filmmakers had more to work with than the makers of Chitty Chitty. But it's not worth debating the point too much. No one, I think would argue that Chitty is one of the great musicals. But given the choice, I'd watch it before many of them.

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Skim, it seems it all comes down to area of skill. I wouldn't say Dahl was a better writer than Puzo. At their levels, I would say the difference is the DIFFERENCE. Puzo writes the stuff he writes better than anyone else who attempts to write the same stuff. Same goes for Dahl. But Puzo wrote far different types of STORIES than Dahl, and might have failed miserably at writing the kinds of stories Dahl specialized in. Plus, writing a screenplay is a totally different animal than writing a book. Dahl might not have had sufficient experience in screenplays. Most novel writers probably aren't, or else the NOVELIST, if still living, would also be employed as the movies SCREENWRITER.

 

Sepiatone

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Yes, the Doll on a Music Box is definitely the best song of the movie. A charming, wistful tune that by rights should be an American standard. If you listen to the melody, you will realize it's the same the gathered birthday party-goers were dancing to (as a waltz?) just before the toymaker appeared with his two gifts.

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