CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG. (1968) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

chitty childcatcher

IAN FLEMING’S (Yes, THAT Ian Fleming…!) CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG. (1968) DIRECTED BY KEN HUGHES. MUSIC AND LYRICS BY RICHARD M. SHERMAN AND ROBERT B. SHERMAN. SCREENPLAY BY ROALD DAHL AND KEN HUGHES.

STARRING DICK VAN DYKE, SALLY ANN HOWES, ADRIAN HALL, HEATHER RIPLEY, GERT FROBE, ANNA QUAYLE, LIONEL JEFFRIES, JAMES ROBERTSON JUSTICE, ROBERT HELPMANN, BARBARA WINDSOR AND BENNY HILL.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Aw, this family musical is a real Christmas cracker, or a cracker for any other time of the year you care to name as well. I remember watching this during childhood Christmases and being terrified by the evil Child-Catcher, enchanted by the real-life ‘dolls’ performing at the awful Baron Bomburst’s birthday and mildly annoyed by the repetitive nature of the theme song, lol. Here’s the deal, anyway.

The oddly-named Caractacus Potts (we’ll call him Pottsy here!) is a crackpot English inventor in either the late Victorian era or the early Whatever-Came-After-That era. He’s tolerably good-looking- not hideous, at any rate- and he’s a widow with two perfect little pre-teen Aryan youths for children. Well, excuse me but could they be any blonder?

Jemima and Jeremy are allowed to skip school and run wild around the English countryside dressed in rags, while their inventor father spends hours closeted in his laboratory tinkering about with the mechanics of yet another Truly hare-brained scheme. See what I did there? Their cut-glass accents can be a tad irritating (Oh Deddy Deddy, we DO love you so and all that type of thing) but they’re basically good kids, just badly in need of a mother. And a bath and a square meal.

A potential mother hoves into view in the form of the beautiful and divinely-dressed Truly Scrumptious, a wealthy young local lady who almost runs the young’uns down in her splendiferous motorised vehicle. She’s horrified to see the children dressed like ragged urchins and endangering themselves and the public on the good decent English highways and byways.

She comes home with the children to give Pottsy a piece of her mind. Why aren’t these children at school and so on and so forth. Pottsy sends her away with a flea in her ear. Mind your own business, young lady, these are my children and I’ll sorely neglect their moral and educational upbringing as I see fit or words to that effect. Now be off with you at once, young woman, or I’ll turn you into, erm, marzipan. That’s it, marzipan. Harrumph!

The gorgeous young lady turns out to be Truly Scrumptious of the wildly successful Scrumptious Family Sweetie Emporium, however, and the daughter of its wildly eccentric owner. (Not as wildly eccentric as Pottsy’s father, however, who can’t forget the time he was a soldier- and a brigadier’s batman- in India.)

This is awkward for Pottsy as he’s just invented a new sweet he wants to flog to Poppa Scrumptious, a stick of whistling candy that has the family dog’s seal of approval. Woof woof! Truly generously gives Pottsy tips on how to handle her brusquely-mannered father and, from then on, a beautiful friendship is born and Truly and the Potts family are as thick as thieves together.

Truly and Pottsy are deeply, truly attracted to each other. The attraction on Pottsy’s part is simple to understand, as Truly is a stunning bit of stuff who wears fabulous dresses and likes to be independent and speak her mind, which quality makes men thinks that chicks are feisty, see? Men love feisty women, or so I’m told. They never seem to like it when I get feisty…

The attraction that Pottsy holds for Truly is obvious too. There isn’t a woman alive who wouldn’t be drawn to a lonely widower with two lovely motherless children. Her desire to be a mother to the sproglets and a comfort and a helpmeet to their poor dear father is simply overwhelming. It over-rides all other desires.

Let’s just hope that Pottsy makes a better husband than he does an inventor. His Automatic Hair-Cutting Machine that leaves the user looking like that guy out of The Three Stooges is worse than Homer Simpson’s make-up gun that shoots women in the face with their daily requirement of cosmetics. CARRY ON star Barbara Windsor features in the hair-cutting section as the little blonde bombshell girlfriend of the poor bastard being so brutally barbered.

Danger strikes the little quartet, anyway, Pottsy and Truly and the kiddiewinks, when the awful Baron Bomburst of the little European monarchy of Vulgaria decides he wants to get his royal mitts on Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. This is the old vintage car lovingly restored by Pottsy at the kids’ behest. Oh Deddy Deddy please, you’ve got to save our precious automobile from the knackers’ yard and all that jazz.

Two nutty emissaries of the Baron’s kidnap Pottsy’s Dad and spirit him away in a hot-air balloon. They mistakenly believe him to be his son Caractacus, the eccentric British inventor whose magical car, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, is able to float and fly.

Pottsy, Truly and the kids duly hop into Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and fly to Vulgaria to save Grandpa Potts from a grisly fate at the hands of the Baron. Vulgaria is a very strange Kingdom indeed where no children are allowed because the Baron’s wife, the Baroness, is afraid of the sticky-fingered little blighters.

All the Kingdom’s children have to live in a gloomy underground cavern and the Child-Catcher, the terrifying but brilliant star of the whole shebang, is the guy who’ll catch any new kiddy-winks who turn up in town and sling ’em int’ chokey.

He captures Jeremy and Jemima neatly in his net with his blood-chilling cries of ‘Lollipops! Get your free lollipops and ice-cream here, and all free today, and not a penny to pay…!’ Kids are such dopes, lol. Imagine falling for that line. Oldest trick in the book, that is.

One good shove and they’re in the van, off to some place grim and grey from which they’ll never escape and, more importantly, from where their precious Deddy Deddy can’t spring ’em. (We hope, snigger. Serves ’em right, the headstrong, wilful brats. Maybe a spell in the Child-Catcher’s van will teach ’em that the world’s not their own personal bloody playground. Humph.)

So now Pottsy and Truly have a mammoth task on their hands. They have to rescue both Grandpa, who by now is gloriously immersed in growing ‘the roses of success,’ and the nippers from the Baron’s Guards, and then get themselves and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang the hell out of Vulgaria before ze wicked Baron has them killed and made into cushion-covers.

And some would say that they now have a moral obligation to help the captured children and the oppressed downtrodden inhabitants of Vulgaria as well, now that they’ve seen what goes on there.

And especially as Pottsy has already crooned his Hushabye Mountain ditty to the kids in the underground cavern and given ’em a semblance of hope. You can’t sing that at ’em and then just bugger off with a ta-ra then, chuck. It wouldn’t be right.

Benny Hill the comedian is excellent as the Toymaker who can only make toys for the spoiled-brat Baron now that all the children of Vulgaria are imprisoned. My favourite bit of the film, next to the scary Child-Catcher scenes, is when Truly and Pottsy perform for ze Baron on his birthday as real-life, life-sized dolls. I always loved Truly’s song the best. ‘What do you see, you people gazing at me? You see a doll on a music box that’s wound by a key.’ She makes a Truly Beautiful Doll.

When Pottsy reacts the wrong way near the end of the film to the kids’ suggestion that he marry Truly, I always want to bonk him on the head with one of his stupid inventions. What a wuss.

The woman’s been to hell and back for him and his rugrats and he’s balking at the idea of marriage. You dope, Caractacus. She’s gagging for a ring. Give the lady what she wants. It’s simpler in the long run to just surrender now. You know she’ll get you in the end…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

 

MOBY DICK. (1956) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

moby dick bones

MOBY DICK. BASED ON THE NOVEL BY HERMAN MELVILLE. DIRECTED BY JOHN HUSTON. STARRING GREGORY PECK, RICHARD BASEHART, LEO GENN, HARRY ANDREWS, NOEL PURCELL, JOSEPH TOMELTY, FRIEDRICH VON LEDEBUR, IRIS TREE AND ORSON WELLES.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘From Hell’s heart I stab at thee…’

Written sometime in 1850 and including factual details picked up by the author whilst on a whaling voyage he undertook in 1841, MOBY DICK or THE WHALE is considered to be one of the greatest novels of all time, never mind just the greatest American one.

I have the book here beside me as I write this, although I must confess that I haven’t yet read it. This, despite the fact that the inscription on the fly-leaf reminds me that I bought it in 2009, lol. The problem is that the technical detail on the physical practice of whaling takes up a large part of the book and it’s probably that alone which has prevented me from reading it thus far.

I’d find such endless detail tiresome and even gruesome, given that it deals with the slaughter of the beautiful whales themselves. It’s upsetting even in the film to see the sailors harpooning these majestic beasts of the sea, but back then, I suppose they had no other way of acquiring the lamp oil to light up their homes and businesses. Where do they get it from nowadays? I haven’t got a Blue’s Clues…

The film, a cracking adventure movie the quality of which you’d be hard pushed to find the likes of today, tells the story of a personable young seafaring man called Ishmael. Ishmael has a longing to go on another sea voyage but, not only that, this time around he wants to learn the trade of whaling as well.

He fetches up in an American sea-port called New Bedford, where he asks Peter Coffin, the landlord of the local tavern, to put him up for the night. Oh sure, says the landlord genially, it’s no problem so long as you don’t mind sharing a bed. No bother, says Ishmael. Clearly this kind of thing wasn’t unusual back then. Nowadays, you’d be a bit put out, I daresay.

His bed-fellow is the most unusual person Ishmael has ever met. A so-called ‘cannibal’ from one of the islands where ‘savages’ live, Quee-queg, a chief in his own tribe, is six foot seven inches in height and tattooed all over his stern face and manly chest, kind of like the way a Maori might be but not exactly. Quee-queg has only limited English but it’s enough to get by, and he enjoys looking at sea-faring pictures in books.

After initially being scared half to death by the gigantic ‘cannibal’ with the harpoon and the shrunken heads in his luggage, Ishmael takes an immediate liking to the pipe-smoking, heathenish Quee-queg. ‘Better a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian.’ The liking is mutual and the pair resolve to go whaling together on the same ship. Off they go down to the docks together for a look-see to suss out what’s on offer in the whaling line.

They end up on the PEQUOD, a whaling ship that has as its crew the same jolly lads with whom Ishmael danced and drank on his first night at Peter Coffin’s inn. Ishmael and Quee-queg sign up and go aboard, but not before an odd-looking fellow loitering on the docks tells them that their ship, in fact their entire voyage, is doomed. Just what you want to hear when you’re about to set sail, right? Right.

One day while they’re at sea, he tells the pair, they’ll smell land where there is no land. On that day, he continues ominously, the ship’s captain, Captain Ahab, will go to his watery grave but then he’ll rise again and beckon, and the entire crew, save one only, will follow him unto death. It’s enough to give you the shivers.

Cheerio then, he says, or as good as, and saunters off, leaving the two lads flummoxed. They don’t know what to make of this mad fella and his zany predictions at all at all. And what was the fella’s name, anyway? You might well ask. Elijah ring any bells with you guys…?

The mysterious Captain Ahab, who doesn’t show himself to his curious crew until the PEQUOD is well out to sea, is brilliantly played by Gregory Peck (TO KILL A MOCKING-BIRD, etc.). A huge white whale- Moby Dick- once upon a time tore off his left leg, for which he now has an ivory substitute, and scarred his face for life.

A normal person would just thank their lucky stars that they’re still alive, and try to adjust to their prosthetic limb as best they could. Captain Ahab is not a normal person, however. He’s as mad as a box of frogs. He’s on the hunt for the white whale, so that he can kill it and avenge himself for the lost leg and ruined face.

He’ll give a Spanish gold doubloon to the man who first spots Moby Dick. What’s more, he gets the crew all hyped up on grog and menacing threats of ‘Death to Moby Dick! Death to Moby Dick!’ He’s determined to infect the crew with his own afflictions. The very thought of Moby Dick is like a cancer in his soul. He’s really got it bad, this guy.

Out there on the ocean, in the blazing heat of the noonday sun, the men get all caught up in the Captain’s madness, much to the alarm of Mr. Starbuck. This is Captain Ahab’s second-in-command and the only sane person on board the PEQUOD. I don’t know what he’s so worried about. He can always fall back on the money from his family’s legendary chain of coffee shops if he loses his job on the ship.

Some of the scenes that follow are really gripping. There’s the lookout falling into the sea and the men not being able to find a trace of him. ‘It’s as if the sea just swallowed him up,’ says Laughing Stubb, Carefree Stubb, but Stubb (played by Harry Andrews from ICE COLD IN ALEX) ain’t laughing nor carefree no more. Not over this. It’s too eerie, too disturbing.

There’s Quee-queg seeing his own death in the bones that he throws, then giving away to Ishmael all his worldly possessions- ‘Money yours, harpoon yours.’- and commissioning the ship’s carpenter, played by Irish actor Noel Purcell, to build him a durable coffin. ‘No water get in.’ Little Pip chanting ‘Quee-queg gon’ away,’ little knowing who’s going to be accompanying Quee-queg on his journey into the unknown.

There’s Captain Ahab ‘catching St. Elmo’s Fire by the tail’ and Mr. Starbuck trying to interest some of the crew in a mutiny, as the ship is no longer being used for its original purpose of whaling, but solely to pursue Ahab’s crazy vendetta against Moby Dick. Sorry mate, that’s the Bounty you’ll be wanting, is what they should have answered Mr. Starbuck with…!

Have you ever seen that episode of THE SIMPSONS where Homer tries to avenge himself against the bear that humiliated him in front of the whole town and got him featured on the KENT’S COWARDS slot of the local Channel 6 News?

‘Dad,’ Lisa Simpson sagely comments, ‘if MOBY DICK has taught us anything, it’s that you can’t get revenge against an animal!’ Does Homer listen to his know-it-all daughter? Not so much. Well, on his own head be it, then, if he goes ahead with his bonkers scheme to bring Tubby Bear to a grisly/grizzly end. See what I did there?

The scenes of Moby Dick himself are simply magnificent. The white whale is enormous, the kind of thing you might see in your nightmares, a veritable ‘mountain of snow.’ (Good news for cocaine users, lol, a mountain of ‘snow’ that no-one can legally lay claim to and which is therefore there for the taking!) 

The film’s ending is one of the most memorable in cinema history, so I won’t spoil it for you. I think Elijah the Big Fat Blabbermouth so-called Prophet might have taken care of that already, lol. Nice one, Lije…

Orson Welles has an important four-minute cameo- yes, I timed it!- in the film as Father Mapple, the minister who gives a sermon  from the pulpit of his little church to all those heading out to sea. It’s a handy way of calling down God’s blessing on your little nautical endeavours. The pulpit is composed of the front bit of a ship, the bit where you have the masthead, and the minister has a rope ladder to get up and down by, just like in a ship. It’s beyond cool.

All over the church are memorials to the local men who lost their lives whaling. So many memorials. So many lost men. You’d wonder at Ishmael and his pals, rushing blithely off to do a job that’s so damned dangerous. They can’t all be trying to evade paying their child support. Or can they? You know what, 1850 or 2050, I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor