UK movie (1968). United Artists/Warfield. Pr Albert R Broccoli. Dir Ken Hughes. Spfx John Stears. Matte fx Clive Culley. Screenplay Roald Dahl, Ken Hughes. Based on Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the Magical Car (1964) by Ian Fleming (1908-1964). Starring Gert Frobe (Baron Bomburst), Adrian Hall (Jeremy), Robert Helpmann (Child Catcher), Benny Hill (Toy Maker), Sally Ann Howes (Truly Scrumptious), Lionel Jeffries (Grandpa Potts), James Robertson Justice (Lord Scrumptious), Heather Ripley (Jemima), Professor Stanley Unwin (Chancellor), Dick Van Dyke (Caractacus Potts), Max Wall (1st inventor). 145 mins. Colour.
England, about 1910. Eccentric inventor Caractacus converts an old crock into Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the car of one's dreams. One day he tells children Jemima and Jeremy, plus to-be-girlfriend Truly Scrumptious, the Story that forms the basis of the movie. In fact, the car is Magic: it can go on land, over water and through the air. Wicked Baron Bomburst of Vulgaria covets it, and abducts old Grandpa Potts. The quartet fly the car in pursuit, finding Vulgaria, a land where Children are banned, a vile Child Catcher rounding up any that might be free. However, a Wainscot culture of feral children exists, and with its help our heroes overthrow the tyranny.
CCBB is derivative – influences include Mary Poppins (1964), in which Van Dyke also starred, and Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965) – and overlong, and the overabundant songs are ill placed. Dahl's influence shows most notably in the depiction of the delightfully nasty Child Catcher, although even that figure seems derivative – of the Coachman in Pinocchio (1940). The movie is normally dismissed as a stinker, but is better than that. [JG]