Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: still truly scrumptious all these years later 


Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is the greatest musical ever made. Fight me. In all seriousness though it stands as a nostalgic beacon of my childhood in a genre that I just never took to, save for a few others in the same boat (The Sound Of Music is class, but that’s a another story). I grew up with Chitty, watched it from a very young age when I was still impressionable, and since then I’ve probably seen the thing over a hundred times as the years passed, with new eyes each time I revisited it at a later age. It’s a miraculous marvel of visual storytelling, a film that truly employs the sentiment “they don’t make em’ like they used to.” They really don’t though, films with this much hands-on imagination, passion for storytelling and ear for music just aren’t a common thing in our newfound age of computer dominated franchise giants. This is a film that is fuelled by wonder and whimsy, a monumental undertaking when you consider it’s length and scope, a pure oasis of childlike escapism, and a thoroughbred bona fide classic. Based on a short, slight storybook by Ian “James Bond 007” Fleming, this is one of the extremely rare occurrences in which a film adaptation surpasses it’s literary source material in every way. How does it achieve this you ask? Two words: Roald Dahl. Dahl, a beloved novelist himself, concocted a scrumdiddlyumptious screenplay that let what was conserved and clipped in the book run positively wild for the film, not to mention dreamed up some achingly beautiful, endlessly catchy songs that have since become timeless. The titular machine is a souped up jalopy that has a few gizmos under it’s hood including the ability to fly and float on water, lovingly built up by master inventor and father of the year for the next ten centuries, Characticus Potts, played by Dick Van Dyke in the performance I’ll always remember him for. After a sincerely charming opening act set in rural England, it’s off to fairytale land as he, his two darling children Jeremy and Jemima (Heather Ridley and Adrian Hall) and lovely Truly Scrumptious (Sally Ann Howes) embark on a dazzling adventure to Germanic country ‘Vulgaria’ to rescue eccentric Grandpa Potts (Lionel Jeffries) and get into all sorts of mischief. Vulgaria is ruled by buffoonish tyrant Baron Bomburst (Gert ‘Goldfinger’ Frobe) and his leggy wife (Anna Quayle), but the real threat is the single scariest villain in cinematic history (don’t even dare argue with me on this one), Robert Helpmann’s Childcatcher, a demonic willy wonka who is pure unbridled nightmare fuel whenever he shows up. The mind boggles at the sheer ambition on display in terms of set pieces here, from the Pott’s gorgeously rickety, unfathomably cozy windmill castle of a home to the Baron’s ornate palace and everything in between, it’s a visual triumph in every way. Better still are the songs, which, excluding one dud from Howes, are all instant classics. Me ol’ bamboo, Toot Sweet, The Roses Of Success, the titular tune that heralds Chitty herself, and particularly a demented little number called Posh sung by Grandpa as his peculiar outhouse of a man-cave dangles on a tow rope below Bomburst’s mini Hindenburg, they’re all fuckin beauties that I’ve been singing along to since I was a wee lad. Added is the giddy presence of people like James Robertson Justice, Desmond ‘Q’ Llewelyn and Benny Hill (as a German, no less) to gild the lining of an already nutty good cast. This film is immortal for me, a jewel in my DVD collection, a nostalgic gift wrapped delicacy to come back to time and time. No matter where I am in my life, the Potts will always be hurtling through the English countryside and soaring over those white cliffs of Dover singing to high heavens about their phantasmagorical machine, and I can sit down and rejoin them any time I like, which I will do over and again as long as time permits. 

-Nate Hill

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