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:

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