Having noted the success of Disney's Mary Poppins, its 1964Edwardian Eramusical, 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 AuricGoldfinger. 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 in 2002.
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).
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.
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...
Counterpoint Duet: "Doll on a Music Box" and "Truly Scrumptious (reprise)" at Baron Bomburst's birthday party.
Creator Backlash: For many years, Heather Ripley, who played Jemima, never talked about the movie because her parents divorced during its making. However, her attitude towards this movie has become fonder now.
Dawson Casting: Truly Scrumptious was supposed to be in her twenties, though Sally Ann Howes was in her mid-thirties when she played her.
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. (SeeParachute Petticoat, below.)
Fatal Method Acting: Narrowly averted. Robert Helpmann's dancing reflexes saved him when he was riding the Child Catcher's carriage and it turned on its side too quickly. Helpmann leapt off in time, amazingly unharmed.
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.")
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.
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.
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.
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?)
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.
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.
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.