Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

 

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Based loosely on the novel by Ian Fleming

Screenplay by Roald Dahl & Ken Hughes

Music & Lyrics by Richard M. & Robert B. Sherman

Directed by Ken Hughes

1968


Cast:

Dick Van Dyke

Sally Ann Howes

Lionel Jeffries

Gert Frobe

Benny Hill

Anna Quayle

James Robertson Justice


Studio:

Theatrical: Warfield/Dramatic Pictures

Video: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment


Video:

Aspect Ratio: 2.20:1

Codec: AVC

Disc Size: 43.83 GB

Feature Size: 38.39 GB

Bit Rate: 20.74 Mbps

Runtime: 145 minutes

Chapters: 32

Region: All


Audio:

English DTS-HD MA 7.1

English Dolby Digital 2.0

Spanish, Portuguese & Polish Dolby Digital 5.1

Czech and Thai Dolby Digital 2.0

French, German, Italian, Russian & Spanish DTS 5.1


Subtitles:

English SDH, Chinese (traditional and simplified), Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Thai and Turkish


Extras:

Sing-Along version of the movie

Chitty Chitty Bong Bong’s Driving Game

Toto Sweet Toot’s Musical Maestro (44:22)

Remembering Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - with Dick Van Dyke - in HD (26.00)

A Fantasmagorical Motorcar - in HD (9:45)

Sherman Brothers’ Demos-m HD (30:20)

3 Vintage Featurettes (approx 22 minutes)

Photo & Vintage Advertising


Presentation:

Amaray Blu-ray case:

BRD x 1 + DVD x1

Release Date: November 2, 2010



Introduction:

Even at two and a half hours plus an Intermission, youngsters really get caught up in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. It’s so unabashedly sweet and jolly, singable and sinister by turns.  It’s like getting lost and then stuck in an oversized vat of cotton candy.  The characters are the stuff of fairy tales: two-dimensional, predictable and comforting – even the bad guys.  The songs are mostly sappy and forgettable.  The magical car couldn’t fool anyone past the age of six these days, but in 1968, it could take in a whole family at one gulp. . .  which doesn’t mean it can’t work today, only that it’s got glossier competition.  The scenery, on the other hand, is beautiful: it’s like a gigantic theme park of virgin English countrysides and a stunning Bavarian castle with only the occasional cow, or villager to interrupt the view and remind us that this is real.  The Vulgarian village is so well blended into movie it’s hard to tell if it’s a set. (In case you’re wondering, it’s Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Bavaria.)  Don’t give the fact that this film is over forty years old a second thought: picture quality is awesome and audio is better than most musicals of the day.  The movie is another matter.


     


The Movie: 5

Youngsters Jemima (Heather Ripley) and Jeremy (Adrian Hall) have just learned that the derelict automobile they love playing in – decades earlier a world class racing car – is about to be sold for junk.  They implore their father, Caractacus Potts (Dick Van Dyke, an overcooked Bert from Mary Poppins) to pay the 30 shillings for the car to save it and the children from a fate worse than death.  He’d love to help – the problem is that he’s barely able to make ends meet trying to sell his futuristic inventions – grotesque versions of what today are taken for granted.  What’s more, they don’t work.


   

 

The three Potts meet – or, rather, they run off the road - separately and together, the lovely – make that the delicious - Truly Scrumptious (Sally Ann Howes), and a more white bread representative of her sex could not be found.  The two scenes have great “meet cute” potential twice over but director Hughes plays it mostly as low comedy with inexplicable dollops of rudeness, though thankfully avoiding falling fully clothed into the creek.  It turns out that Miss Scrumptious’ father, Lord Scrumptious (James Robertson Justice, with a voice to match his name), owns a candy factory, and Caractacus would just love to have him produce his whistling candy sticks, but, alas, they seem to better at signaling dogs.


     

 

Caractacus finally gets the money together performing in a carnival and hauls the derelict auto to his garage.  After days of tinkering and polishing he reveals his masterpiece – and a gorgeous piece of work it is.  Together with his children and Truly they cruise the countryside until they are spotted by piratical Germans, led by the tyrannical Baron Bombast (Gert Frobe)  who tries every trick in the book – and some that aren’t – to steal the car away from Potts & Co.  It is from this point on, already almost halfway into the movie, that “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” as they call it, reveals its magical powers that include powerboating and flying, and the story really takes off. The second half of the movie is much the better for its having a plot: The pirates kidnap Grandpa under the mistaken belief that he is the inventor of the miraculous car.  They take him to the baron’s castle in Vulgaria (Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria).  Chitty Chitty flies Caractacus, Truly and the children to the castle in an attempt to rescue Grandpa, but take a smart detour to the village, which we soon is terrorized by the baron’s decree that children are forbidden.  The baron’s child catcher (Robert Helpmann) is dispatched to imprison the children.  Helpmann gave up his dancing slippers to do a turn as the one dramatically intriguing character in the movie - scary, too.


     


Singing and dancing punctuates the movie continually – some noisy (Toot Sweets), some reflective (Lovely Lonely Man), some ingenious (Doll on a Music Box), some poetic (Hushabye Mountain). The movie doesn’t exactly come to a standstill because of them, while at other times it’s a relief that it does.  I particularly liked “The Roses of Success” sung by Grandpa (Lionel Jeffries) and the Vulgarians - which blends traditional strophic forms with the feel of Gilbert & Sullivan and the look of “Greased Lightnin.’”


     


“Hamfisted” pretty well describes my feeling about Hughes‘ direction.  A few examples: The entire prologue fails to focus our attention - it doesn’t distinguish one car from another, and so it comes as something of a surprise that one of them has a future as the title character in our story.  When our heroes arrive in Vulgaria, it isn’t the slightest bit believable that Potts would just stand there with his family and not take cover as the village disperses at the arrival of the baron’s police - it’s a simple human reflex.  Later, when Caractacus and Truly discover what is hidden under the baron’s castle Hughes fails to take full advantage of the one touching moment in the movie (relying only on a reprise of the endearing “Hushabye Mountain” to punctuate the scene.)  And where’s the “goodbye” scene as Caractacus leaves the baron’s castle with his family?  He just leaves the castle and villagers in utter chaos.  All this to say nothing of how little we feel about the present or future of Caractacus and Truly as a couple.


     


Image: 9/9

The picture quality is superb: colors are rich yet natural, sharpness and detail across the frame are outstanding.  There’s a slight tendency to crush in the prologue, but those shots are peculiar for other reasons and can be considered separate from the movie proper.  The transfer is without apparent defect and the source print dirt- and scratch-free.


     


Audio & Music: 8/6

Clear, clean and dynamic in either the uncompressed 7.1 mix or the original stereo, my only complaint is that the original audio is not presented as a lossless track - a common failing with major studios.  The English dubbing sync is done quite well, however there is a consistency that defies reality as the soundstage hardly demonstrates the effects of changes in actual space - so regardless of where the actors are, they tend to sound the same.  Van Dyke seems bigger and flatter than the others in a way that is not flattering, but these criticisms are likely inherent in the source.  Even so, I have heard far more studiofied singing in other movies of the era.  The 7.1 surround mix is still very much a stereo-forward affair, with  music and smatterings of effects lending spatial texture.


     


Extras: 8

Of the delightful list of extra features, only the Sing-Along exists on the accompanying DVD, despite that most appeared on the 2003 Special Edition.

Recommendation: 7

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is proof that kids don’t require sense, rhyme or reason to find a movie enjoyable - which is hardly a good reason not to make movies for children that have sense, rhyme and reason.  Consider any movie from Pixar - a studio that gives their films all of these, and plenty of heart at no extra charge.  For those who must have their Chitty, Fox’s Blu-ray is a remarkable adventure in the medium, especially considering that the original movie had no surround track.


     


Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

October 30, 2010


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