Film: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Our fine four-fendered friend!
Having noted the success of Disney
's Mary Poppins
, its 1964 Edwardian Era musical
, United Artists
sought three years later to generate similar success for themselves by hiring The Sherman Brothers
, the same song-writing team that had scored Poppins
, to adapt another period piece into a big-budget musical extravaganza. The result was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Caractacus Potts (an English inventor with an American accent
played by Dick Van Dyke) rebuilds an old wreck of a race-car and makes a few slight improvements, such as giving it the ability to sail
and to fly
. With his kids, grandfather and the beautiful daughter of a candy mogul, Caractacus travels to the distant, vaguely mitteleuropäisch
land of Vulgaria
(location shooting for the film version was done around the Bavarian
castle of Neuschwanstein and in the medieval town of Rothenburg-ob-der-Tauber), where they get in trouble with the country's Evil Aristocrat
leaders who hate children
, but like their car (hey, it's better than a Lada
). Naturally, they steal both.
The book it's based on was written by Ian Fleming
. Yes, THAT Ian Fleming
. The movie itself was produced by Albert Broccoli of the same fame
. Gert Fröbe, who played the Baron, also played Auric Goldfinger
. Desmond Llewellyn of "Q" fame played Coggins. Benny Hill
was the Toymaker. Oh, and the screenwriter was Roald Dahl
. Seriously, you can't make this stuff up.
Received a Screen-to-Stage Adaptation
Provides examples of:
- Accidental Aiming Skills: The Baron tries to shoot his own wife when she gets launched into the air and held up with a Parachute Petticoat under the pretense he's trying to help her down. But he does succeed in popping her dress and having her land safely, much to his disappointment.
Bomburst: Ah, well, I'll get her next time.
- Aluminum Christmas Trees: To an extent, the Baron's birthday presents which are actually Caractacus and Truly in disguise. You'd think that this is an example of an egregiously Paper-Thin Disguise... unless you already knew about 18th century clockwork automatons. Of course, they were never able to imitate humans singing, but at the time it seemed like anything was possible with them. There was one that could play the flute, a mechanical duck that could eat and digest food, several that could write, and a chess-playing hoax so ingenious and masterfully crafted that it is still worth mentioning. This last example also demonstrates how it wouldn't have seemed so far-fetched that there might be clockwork creations that could sing and dance (although it was achieved in largely the same way).
- Aristocrats Are Evil: Baron and Baroness Bomburst, the leaders of Vulgaria. Though averted with Truly Scrumptious, who is, well...
- Attack! Attack... Retreat! Retreat!: The lone Vulgarian foot soldier following behind the cavalry, when the gates close behind him.
- The Baroness: The Baroness. Unlike most examples, this Baroness is in fact an actual baroness. She is married to a baron and lives in the capital of a barony.
- Black Humor: Toward the end of the film, several characters are thrown into the lake near Neuschwanstein Castle. If you know the history of Neuschwanstein (there were several tragic drownings in that lake), this is a lot darker.
- Earlier on, the Baron repeatedly tries to kill his own wife with no success.
- Brick Joke: On the way back to Vulgaria, the two spies are thrown off the zeppelin when Baron Bomburst tries to lighten it. Later, we see the spies having swum all the way back, but because the Vulgarian people are fighting at the castle, they head back into the water to swim away.
- Child Hater: Having been invented by Roald Dahl, Vulgaria naturally has its whole culture built (very illogically) around this.
- Childless Dystopia: Vulgaria.
- Chroma Key: Used to make Chitty fly. You can see blue matte lines in some shots, especially around Jeremy and Jemima's hair and inside the see-through trim on Truly's hat.
- Cliffhanger: Chitty and its occupants go over the cliff, seemingly headed to certain doom — cue the Intermission! After the break, the final moments of the first half are rerun, and then the wings sprout from the car...
- Cool Boat: Chitty can float as well as fly.
- Cool Car: Guess...
- Counterpoint Duet: "Doll on a Music Box" and "Truly Scrumptious (reprise)" at Baron Bomburst's birthday party.
- Cut Song: "Lovely, Lonely Man" is omitted in some TV airings and the stage musical since it stands out so much on its own among all the songs.
- Disproportionate Retribution: All children are banned in Vulgaria because one child called the Baroness ugly.
- Driving Into A Truck: Lord Scrumptious is captured by being tricked, Looney Tunes-style, into driving up into the back of a truck.
- Eagle Land:
Spy 1: But I can speak English and still be Vulgar(ian).
Spy 2: That would make you an American.
- The Edwardian Era
- Emergency Cargo Dump: Vulgarian thieves steal Grandpa's hut (with Grandpa in it) by towing it away on a hot air balloon, but soon start losing altitude from the weight of the hut. They resort to throwing out cargo, and when that doesn't work throw out the two spies that caught Grandpa in the first place. Said spies are left to tread water in the middle of the ocean, and actually make it back to shore in the climax.
- English Rose: Truly Scrumptious. Adrian Hall, who played Jeremy, even described her actress Sally Ann Howes as such in a DVD featurette.
- Ejection Seat: When Baron Bomburst commands Grandpa to make the eponymous car fly, Grandpa presses a button at random that sends the Baroness shooting skyward out of her seat. (See Parachute Petticoat, below.)
- Fat and Skinny: Those Two Spies.
- Flying Car: Chitty, obviously.
- Genre Adultery: Based on a children's book written by a man famous for gritty spy novels.
- Gentleman Adventurer: Played with. Grandpa Potts thinks he's this trope, but he's really just insane.
- Gorgeous Period Dress
- Gratuitous German: The Vulgarians, particularly the Baron and the two spies.
- Have a Gay Old Time: "You'll find a slight squeeze on the hooter an excellent safety precaution, Miss Scrumptious."
- Homemade Inventions: Caractacus' works exhibit this, such as his automated breakfast maker.
- If It Swims, It Flies: The car itself.
- Intermission: See Cliffhanger above.
- It Will Never Catch On: Among Caractacus's not-quite-working inventions are a television antenna and a vacuum cleaner.
- Let X Be the Unknown: One of the spies wants to go by the Code Name "X", but his superiors misunderstand it as "Rex" or "Tex." It doesn't help when the other spy tries to clarify that it's X as in "X and Bacon."
- Mad Scientist: Not merely Caractacus himself (who, as his father says, is "Eccentric — definitely eccentric. Can't think where he gets it from!"), but also a collection of rather grotesque inventors (and one telephone repairman) forced by the Baron to work on a supercar for himself.
- Man Child: Baron Bomburst, ironically. To the point that he's singlehandedly keeping the toymakers in business.
- Mean Character, Nice Actor: Believe it or not, Robert Helpmann, who played the terrifying Child Catcher, was extremely kind, especially towards the children.
- Meaningful Name: Caractacus Potts. Dick Van Dyke himself once said it was just a long form for "crackpot". Lampshaded in the case of Truly Scrumptious with the song that bears her name. ("By coincidence, Truly Scrumptious, you're truly, truly scrumptious.")
- Miles Gloriosus: The Child Catcher; he can handle a couple at once (laughing evilly as he does), but a large group of them? That makes him scream in panic and give up without a fight.
- Missing Mom
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: C'mon now? Bomburst? (Not to mention "Vulgaria"?)
- Nested Story: The second half of the movie goes into Caractacus' beachside story.
- Never Heard That One Before: At the breakfast table, grandpa tries to tell the old joke about bagging an elephant in his pajamas (first used by Groucho Marx) but everyone's heard that one before.
- No OSHA Compliance: The Scrumptious candy factory doesn't have handrails and has some of the boiling vats of sugar sitting on the edges...
- The Nose Knows: The Child Catcher's huge nose lets him track people's scent.
Let me tell you, Toymaker, this nose of mine has never failed me, and if there are children here, my friend, you will die! Ha ha ha ha ha ha!
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Dick Van Dyke is in a movie set in England with English actors playing the other members of his family and he still uses his American accent. Of course, we all know what happened the last time he attempted a British accent.
- Of Corsets Sexy: The Baroness.
- Oh, Crap: At first, the children when they realize the Child Catcher has joined the battle. But it then reverses onto the Child Catcher himself when he realizes he's outnumbered.
- Caractacus when he encounters Truly at the Scrumptious sweets factory, and putting two and two together, realizes she's Truly Scrumptious, whose father is factory owner Lord Scrumptious. He tries to walk out before his child implore him to stay.
- Overly Stereotypical Disguise: The Baron's two spies attempt to blend in as Englishmen by putting on plaid coats, deerstalker caps, holding a pipe aloft, and calling each other "Basil". A nearby family sees them pass and looks at each other in confusion.
- Parachute Petticoat: Happens to the Baroness when she is launched from Chitty's Ejector Seat.
- Parenting the Husband: Baron and Baroness Bomburst.
- Percussive Maintenance: When the giant music box that is given to the Baron as a gift for his birthday doesn't start up correctly, a swift kick from Caractacus gets it started again.
- Pet's Homage Name: Inventor Caratacus Potts has a dog named Edison.
- Playing Gertrude: Lionel Jeffries, who plays Grandpa Potts, was actually six months younger than Dick Van Dyke.
- Plunger Detonator: Complete with the Looney Tunes gag of the detonator exploding instead of the dynamite.
- Punny Name: Truly Scrumptious. Ironically, despite Fleming's penchant for women with Punny Names in his Bond novels, Truly was invented by Roald Dahl. Lord "Skrumshus" didn't have a daughter in the novel.
- Also, Caractacus (say it really fast, and drop the "acus") Potts. Possibly lampshaded when Caractacus asks his children if they believe he's a crackpot.
- Pushed in Front of the Audience: Mr. Potts at the fair lets this happen when he realizes it will hide him from the angry customer to whom he just gave a horrible haircut.
- Rube Goldberg Device: Pretty much everything in the Potts household is set up this way, by Caractacus himself.
- Running Gag: Truly ends up in a boggy pond whenever she's driving by the Pottses.
- Ruritania: Vulgaria.
- Scarily Competent Tracker: There's a reason he's called the Child Catcher — his nose knows.
- Shipper on Deck: Jeremy and Jemima work very hard to get their dad Caractacus together with Truly.
- Shout-Out: During breakfast, Grandpa Potts tells everyone "I got up this morning, and I shot an elephant in my pajamas.", making everyone say in unison "How it ever got into my pajamas, I shall never know."
- Sickeningly Sweethearts: Played with. The lyrics and tempo of "Chu-Chi Face" make it sound like the Baron and Baroness are this trope. But throughout the song, the Baron makes repeated attempts to kill her while she seems to remain oblivious.
- Sinister Schnoz: The Child-Catcher.
- The Sixties: The original novel was set in early-60s Britain, with the eponymous car being a vintage barn-find Caractacus bought because neither he nor anyone else in the Potts family wanted to be the twelfth family on the block with a black Morris Minor.
- Spiritual Successor: To Mary Poppins, since it stars Dick Van Dyke with music by The Sherman Brothers, and is also set in Edwardian Era England.
- Steam Punk: The movie has a steampunk sensibility, but Chitty is a 20th century gasoline-powered vehicle, and the mood is the very opposite of "punk". The novel is set in the 1960s and is definitely not steampunk. (Diesel Punk, then?)
- Swing Low Sweet Harriet: Truly on her garden swing. Rrrrowrrr...
- Those Magnificent Flying Machines: Chitty and the Baron's blimp. Early in the film, Caractacus attempts to build a set of rocket wings, as well. Epic Fail.
- Too Dumb to Live: The children are told point blank about the Child Catcher, ordered to stay put, and not to go outside no matter what...and they still go running after him with the call of sweets in hand. The worst of it is that they had seen the Child Catcher before and yet they were fooled by his Paper-Thin Disguise.
- The Child Catcher himself exhibits this at the climax. I mean really, thinking he could handle a whole army of angry children by himself?
- Trap Door: Baron Bomburst tries to dispose of his wife through one.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: The Bombursts.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The episode of the two spies dressed as "English gentlemen" may be based on a World War II story in which two German spies were apprehended in the fen-country of Norfolk because (having been misled by P. G. Wodehouse and other similar English authors) they had attempted to pass as Englishmen by wearing spats and top-hats, both unsuitable to the terrain and hopelessly out of fashion by the 1940s. Caractacus is reputed to be partially based on Henry Leland.
- Villain Love Song: "You're my little chu-chi face!" Subverted since he spends the whole song trying to kill her.
- Walk This Way: When Grandpa arrives in Vulgaria.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Lord Scrumptious and his chauffeur are captured by the two Vulgarian spies, who steal their clothes and impersonate them, but they themselves are just sort of forgotten about. They reappear just fine at the end since it was All Just a Dream, but one wonders what became of them in the Story Within A Story.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Jeremy and Jemima object to having the future Chitty sold for scrap by saying they'd be guilty of murder.
- Women Are Wiser: At different points, Jemima comes off as slightly more sensible than her brother Jeremy.