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. However, they are being threatened by Baron Bomburst of the vaguely mitteleuropäisch land of Vulgaria, who covets the car for himself. After his father is kidnapped by the Baron's forces, Caractacus, his two kids, and the beautiful daughter of a candy mogul all travel to the land of Vulgaria note  and get into more misadventures. Hilarity Ensues.

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 (who, to continue the Bond allusions, wrote the screenplay to You Only Live Twice). Seriously, you can't make this stuff up.

Received a Screen-to-Stage Adaptation in 2002.

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 Vulgarian admiral 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.
  • Big "WHAT?!": After Truly crashed her car into the lake for the second time, the following exchange happened between Mr. Potts and her:
    Potts: "I think you'll find a slight squeeze on the hooter an excellent safety precaution, Ms. Scrumptious."
    Truly: "Well never mind about that! How am I supposed to get out of here?"
    Potts: "Well, it looks as though you'll have to walk. Or, uh, swim."
    Truly: "WHAT? In THIS dress? Oh, don't be ridiculous, Mr. Potts."
    • In fairness to Truly, she was wearing a very fancy, white, ankle-length dress, and Mr. Potts was suggesting she swim to shore. The pond her car was partially submerged in was also pretty dirty. Even if she were willing to soil her very expensive dress, swimming in an ankle-length dress is probably very difficult.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Subverted. Toot Sweets is a take on tout de suite, French for "Right now," (the de is silent) but it isn't related to candy. Unless it's to imply that the sweets themselves are "in" and hip.
    • Fridge Brilliance: A successful marketing campaign requires your product/service to be "in" and hip.
  • 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 (Ludwig II of Bavaria, who built the castle, mysteriously drowned in a 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 Airship: Bomburst has a dirigible.
  • Cool Boat: Chitty can float as well as fly.
    • Incidentally, the inflated raft version of Chitty is movie-specific. In the book she's an even cooler boat. Chitty folds her wheels down and spins them to create a hovercraft-like effect. And Fleming thought this up decades before Back to the Future "hover conversions" were invented!
  • Cool Car: Guess...
  • Counterpoint Duet: "Doll on a Music Box" and "Truly Scrumptious (reprise)" at Baron Bomburst's birthday party.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The Vulgarian Army is very easily taken down by the escaped children.
  • 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 through a painted backdrop and up into the back of a truck.
  • Eagle Land: From the musical.
    Spy 1: But I can speak English and still be Vulgar(ian).
    Spy 2: That would make you an American!
  • The Edwardian Era
  • 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.)
  • Emergency Cargo Dump: Vulgarian thieves steal Grandpa's hut (with Grandpa in it) by towing it away on a dirigible, 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.
  • Fat and Skinny: Those Two Spies.
  • Flying Car: Chitty, obviously.
  • Gadgeteer's House: The Potts family house is littered with the Homemade Inventions of father Caractus Potts, including the automated breakfast maker in the kitchen and the music box in the children's room.
  • Gentleman Adventurer: Played with. Grandpa Potts thinks he's this trope, but he's really just insane.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: Much of Truly's wardrobe.
  • 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.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: Similar to the James Bond movies, the title card reads, "Ian Fleming's Chitty Chitty Bang Bang".
  • 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: Also counts as a Death by Adaptation for Mrs. Potts.
  • Mood Whiplash: The beginning. Six minutes of jaunty, comedic old-timey racing... and then a sudden fiery crash.
  • Mugged for Disguise: Happens to Lord Scrumptious and his chauffeur, courtesy of Those Two Bad Guys.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: C'mon now? Bomburst? (Not to mention "Vulgaria"?)
  • Names to Trust Immediately: Truly Scrumptious. A Meaningful Name too, seeing as her father runs a candy factory.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: The German-accented Bombursts with their anti-child policies. And incidentally, Vulgaria is set in what is really Castle Neuschwanstein.
  • 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.
    Child Catcher: 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. He actually signed on to the film on the condition that he not have to use an English accent, having learned his lesson from last time.
  • Not Hyperbole: When Baron Bomburst tells Grandpa to build him a flying car, he says "I will stuff your head wiz sauerkraut and feed it to the dogs." Grandpa thinks he's joking until one scientist says "The Baron never makes jokes.", describing different ways in which they've been tortured. One used to be a midget until he got stretched on the rack.
  • Of Corsets Sexy: The Baroness while singing "You're My Little Chu-Chi Face".
  • 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 children 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.
  • Punk Punk: the film, at least, seems to straddle the line between Steam Punk and Diesel Punk
  • 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.
    • "Toot Sweet" sounds like the French phrase "tout de suite".
  • 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.
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder: The first spy's villainous Monologuing includes the odd rhetorical question. The second spy is prone to attempting to answer them. In fact, it's the first thing he does when they are introduced: "Now then, where are?" "I have here a map!" "I know where we are, stupid!"
  • Robot Girl: Invoked as part of the plot to rescue the children. Trudy disguises herself as a Doll-on-a-Music-Box, a present for the villain ruler.
  • 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. It happens three times.
  • 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 '60s: 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?
    • The entire Vulgarian Army seems to run on this, blindly charging into battle and never once firing their rifles as they are swiftly routed by the children and villagers.
  • Trap Door: Baron Bomburst tries to dispose of his wife through one.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: The Bombursts.
  • Vanilla Edition: The 30th Anniversary DVD boasted no bonus features except for a trailer and sing-along subtitles, and presented the main feature in Pan and Scan to boot.note  MGM released a Special Edition DVD five years later, with both the widescreen and pan-and-scan versions, a bonus features disc, and digibook packaging. However, the 30th Anniversary DVD strangely remained in print, and even received a number of repackaged re-releases. The most recent DVD release just consists of disc one of the Special Edition DVD in an ordinary case, with the pan-and-scan version removed.
  • 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 M. 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.
  • Women Drivers: Commented on by Caractacus when he sees Truly trying to start her car.
    Caractacus: If women want to drive motor cars, they should learn to operate one.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The Baron, the Vulgarian Army and most notoriously, the Child Catcher. Why? Because of the Baroness, who is petrified of them.
    • The Junk Man also counts, threatening the two kids to their face when they protest his decision to buy Chitty. Whether he meant it or not though is another story.