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Film / Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

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Our fine four-fendered friend!

Having noted the success of Disney's 1964 Edwardian Era musical film Mary Poppins, four years later United Artists sought 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.

Sometime in the 1910s, the widowed English inventor Caractacus Potts (portrayed, with an American accent, by Dick Van Dyke) rebuilds an old wreck of a racecar—which he names "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang", for the noise its engine makes—and adds a few slight improvements, such as giving it the ability to sail and to fly. During an excursion in the car with his two children, Jeremy and Jemima, and an attractive woman named Truly Scrumptious (Sally Ann Howes), whose father is the wealthy owner of the local candy factory, Caractacus entertains them with a story.

It seems that Baron Bomburst, the tyrannical ruler of the vaguely mitteleuropäisch land of Vulgaria, has seen Chitty and covets the car for himself. After his father is kidnapped by the Baron's forces, Caractacus, his kids, and Miss Scrumptious all travel to Vulgaria,note  where they get into various 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 R. Broccoli, of the same fame (though not produced by Eon Productions this time around). Additionally, Gert Fröbe (who'd played Auric Goldfinger) appeared as Baron Bumburst, while Desmond Llewelyn (aka Q) played Coggins. The screenwriter was Roald Dahl (who, to continue the Bond Production Posse, also wrote the screenplay to You Only Live Twice). And Benny Hill was the Toymaker.

Barbara Broccoli produced a Screen-to-Stage Adaptation in 2002.

The titular car was owned by one of the film's drivers, Peter Picton (aka Pierre the Clown), who died in November 2016. The vehicle is now owned by Peter Jackson.

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.
  • Adaptational Distillation: The film takes the book's basic premise of "an inventor and his two children go on a fantastical adventure in a magical motercar" and proceeds to do its own thing much like Dahl's screenplay for You Only Live Twice.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: The Baron genuinely loves his wife in the stage version, and never tries to kill her during "Chu-Chi Face".
  • Adaptational Ugliness: Just when you thought he couldn't get any scarier, both the West End and Broadway productions of the stage musical portray the Child Catcher as a much more ghoulish-looking character with a pointier nose, large goblin-like ears, and pale skin.
  • Adaptation Expansion: While the original film relegates the Vulgarian subplot to a story Potts tells his children while they're at the seaside, it gets expanded in the stage version; Vulgaria and all its denizens (evil or otherwise) are real, and they're introduced at the beginning of the show, as opposed to roughly halfway through.
  • Adapted Out: Joe the Monster, his goons, Monsieur Bon-Bon, and the French setting of the later half of the book are cut altogether.
  • Advertising by Association: From the original trailer:
    "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is an Ian Fleming story, born as Bond was making screen history."
  • All Just a Dream: Subverted, as the second half of the film is set up as a story being told by Caractacus; however, the film ends with Truly and Caractacus flying away in Chitty. Whether this all really happened or not is left up to the viewer's imagination.
  • Alto Villainess: Baroness Bomburst has an impressive alto vocal range but she's the wife of the nefarious Baron.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Baron and Baroness Bomburst, the leaders of Vulgaria. Though averted with Truly Scrumptious, who is, well...
  • Ascended Extra: Lord Scrumptious in the book was a very minor character. Here he plays a larger supporting role as the father of the Love Interest
  • Ash Face: Happens to the Vulgarian agents where their dynamite stunt backfires.
  • 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 crashes her car into the lake for the second time, the following exchange happens between her and Mr. Potts:
    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:
    • Chitty's license plate reads GEN 11. "Genii" is Latin for "magical being."
    • Subverted with Toot Sweets. It's a pun on tout de suite, French for "Right now," (the de is silent) but it isn't related to candy, rather it's to imply that it's new and exciting.
  • Black Comedy:
    • 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.
  • Bumbling Henchmen Duo: The two Vulgarian spies are the bumbling henchmen sent by the Baron to steal the car and kidnap its inventor. They keep messing up their mission, accidentally kidnapping Lord Scrumptious and Grandpa Potts instead of Caractacus Potts.
  • Canon Foreigner: Most notably, Truly Scrumptious and everybody to do with Vulgaria were invented by Dahl for this film.
  • Child Hater: Having been invented by Roald Dahl, Vulgaria naturally has its whole culture built (very illogically) around this.
  • Childless Dystopia: Vulgaria has no children running around the streets thanks to a heartless Baron and his Child Catcher helping him get rid of those kids.
  • 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...
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: Gold Key Comics adapted it in 1969.
  • 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/Truly Scrumptious (reprise)" at Baron Bomburst's birthday party.
    • Exclusive to the stage version, "Act English".
  • Creator Thumbprint: Roald Dahl's hand in adapting the story is rather clear, with such aspects as not one, but two new Child Hater antagonists, one of whom is directly involved in harming them, and conversely, two adults who really care about children, and dark comedy like a couple singing a loving duet while one tries to kill the other. There's also the fact that Truly's father is a confectionery manufacturer, owing to Dahl's love of sweets.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The Vulgarian Army is very easily taken down by the escaped children, including the infamous Child Catcher.
  • Dark Reprise: "Hushabye Mountain", the gentle lullaby sung by Potts to his children early in the film, is reprised later as he tries to reassure the captive Vulgarian children, only to remind himself in doing so that his own children are still missing. Potts is so overcome with emotion that he stops, only for Truly to take up the song in his place.
  • Death by Adaptation: Minsie Potts is deceased here. Truly takes up her role as the female lead.
  • Decadent Court: The Baron's noble courtiers spend all of their time milling around and cavorting with their wives in the throne room while no work seems to get done, and two are introduced playing a game that suggests they're a bit cracked in the head (snooker, with a tiny table only wide enough for a single ball, and no balls).
  • Disastrous Demonstration: The Toot Sweets pitch is going great... until all of the whistling attracts a horde of dogs that overrun the factory. Subverted at the end when Lord Scrumptious decides to buy them anyway... and market the way dogs love them as a feature.
  • Disney Villain Death: The Child Catcher's ultimate fate in the 2002 stage version. After getting netted up and carried into the sky, he appears in front of the airborne Chitty during the finale and vows to capture the children again. This prompts Truly to whip out a shotgun and shoot the net, sending the Catcher on a one-way trip to the ground.
  • 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.
  • Eagleland: 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: The entire setting of the musical is in the early 1900s with the car design and fashion also set on.
  • Evil Is Petty: Children are outlawed in Vulgaria and captured by the Child Catcher to be given an unknown (but probably better off not known) sentence because the Baroness is afraid of them. Baron Bomburst also sees how cool Chitty is and wishes to have it for himself... and instead of trying to buy it from Caractacus, he immediately goes for trying to blow the whole Potts family away with cannons and send spies to kidnap Caractacus (although they get Grandpa instead).
  • 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.)
  • Eleven O'Clock Number: "Doll On a Music Box", for the film.
    • "Teamwork", exclusive to the stage version, is a near-perfect example of this trope aside from the fact that it's followed up by another two numbers before the climax (including the aforementioned number from the film).
  • 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: The two spies are comprised of a fat guy and a lean guy.
  • Flying Car: Chitty, obviously.
  • Forced Transformation: Taken literally, "Doll on a Music Box" claims that the doll (actually Truly in disguise) was once human and cursed to become a mechanical object of amusement, and that only love's first kiss can break the spell. However, it can also refer to Truly feeling restricted by the position and expectations associated with her social stature.
  • For the Evulz: Baron and Baroness Bomburst fear and despise kids and they aren’t even given a Freudian Excuse.
  • Foreshadowing: When introduced to a flawed batch of sweets from Caractus's sweet making machine, Truly makes an offhand comment about the sugar's temperature. Turns out she's the daughter of a famous confectionary mogul.
  • 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.
  • Hooks and Crooks: The Child Catcher carries a hook, but we don't see him use it.
  • How the Mighty Have Fallen: Chitty's backstory; she was once a prestigious racing car but a rather unfortunate incident in her final race involving a young girl and her runaway dog led to the car's untimely destruction as it veered to avoid a collision. It would sit in Mister Coggins' shop until it was bought and fully restored by Caractacus.
  • 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, even though the electric-powered vacuum cleaner had already been invented.
  • Kaiserreich: The opening credits shows the car partaking in a race in Imperial Germany. Vulgaria also takes a number of visual cues from that era, from the castles to the uniforms.
  • Kids Play Matchmaker: Mr. Potts' kids try to match him up with Lady Truly, doing so pretty unsubtly by ending his story to them with "then Daddie and Truly got married! Yeah!"
  • Knight's Armor Hideout: During the climactic battle at Baron Bomburst's palace, Caractacus is seen putting a mace in the hands of a suit of armor and is surprised when it gladly takes it. Soon afterwards, the Vulgarian General is conked in the head with the same mace, and the knight pulls its visor open, showing that there was somebody inside the suit the whole time.
  • Lady Macbeth: The Baroness takes on this role in the stage adaptation (unlike in the film, where she comes across as more airheaded and is less actively antagonistic). It is she who orders the Vulgarian spies to bring the car to Vulgaria, albeit all to please her darling husband.
  • 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.
  • Manchild: Baron Bomburst, ironically. To the point that he's singlehandedly keeping the toymakers in business.
  • 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 little girl's puppy suddenly runs into the racetrack and causes a fiery crash.
  • Mugged for Disguise: Happens to Lord Scrumptious and his chauffeur, courtesy of the two spies.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: C'mon now? Bomburst? Vulgaria? Child Catcher?
  • 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 on its high catwalks (that many people are dancing on) 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 Distracted by the Sexy: The Baron is more disgusted than turned-on when the Baroness wears a sexy corset for his birthday. He proceeds to attempt murder.
  • 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 greatly 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.
  • One-Book Author: This was child actress Heather Ripley's only feature film.
  • 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.
  • Parental Love Song: "You Two".
  • Parenting the Husband: Baron and Baroness Bomburst.
  • Patter Song: "Me Ol' Bamboo"
  • 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.
  • 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 Steampunk 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. This is held over from the book.
    • "Toot Sweet" sounds like the French phrase "tout de suite".
    • "Vulgaria" sounds an awful lot like "Bulgaria".
  • Purple Is Powerful: The Baron, Baroness and royal court are all decked out in purple and complimentary black, the noble state colors of Vulgaria. It's only "powerful" in the political sense, as all of them prove exceedingly useless against an army of children.
  • 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 we?" "I have here a map!" "I know where we are, stupid!"
  • Roadrunner Vs Coyote: The agent's initial attempts to capture Chitty are straight out of Wile E. Coyote's handbook (and enjoy the same success).
  • Robot Girl: Invoked as part of the plot to rescue the children. Truly 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 is a completely fictional nation in Central Europe with references to Germany.
  • Same Language Dub: Like his previous role in Goldfinger, because of his thick German accent, Gert Fröbe's dialogue as the baron was looped in post, only this time by Roger C. Carmel.
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: There's a reason he's called the Child Catcher — his nose knows.
  • Set Switch Song: "Hushabye Mountain", in the stage version, which transitions almost immediately into the funfair.
  • 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." "You've heard it before!"
  • Show Within a Show: "Me ol' bam-boo". Caractacus ends up part of the song and dance after running away from a pissed-off customer. And the result is amazing.
  • 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.
    • It's played straight in the Screen-to-Stage Adaptation, where they Baron and Baroness's relationship is rewritten so that their love for one another is entirely mutual.
  • Sidekick Song: "Posh!" for Grandpa Potts.
  • 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.
  • Sky Heist: Baron Bomburst's spies kidnap Grandpa Potts after mistaking him for his son Caractacus by hooking his shed from their airship and flying off with the entire shed, with Grandpa still inside.
  • Smuggling with Dolls: The Vulgarian soldiers unknowingly smuggle Caractacus and Truly into Baron Bomburst's castle disguised as dolls packaged in boxes, under the pretense of the Toymaker delivering the Baron his birthday presents.
  • Steampunk: 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?)
  • Sweets of Temptation: The Child Catcher of Vulgaria successfully captures the hero's children by luring them in with the promise of free sweets.
  • Swing Low, Sweet Harriet: Truly on her garden swing.
  • Teenage Wasteland: Vulgaria has outlawed children of all ages, forcing the townspeople to hide them in a ghetto. Some of these exiled children are teenagers, who mostly look after the infants.
  • "Test Your Strength" Game: The big guy whose nerves Caractacus gets on is seen winning at one of these. He even breaks the bell off.
  • 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.
  • Throw It In: In-universe, the buskers go along with a random member joining their dance and learning the routine in a matter of seconds. They even have a fun call and response about what to do with bamboo sticks. At the end, one even gives a hat-full of earnings to Mr. Potts as thanks for his participation.
  • 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. 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.
    • Baroness Bomburst doesn't realize her husband is trying to kill her.
  • Trap Door: Baron Bomburst tries to dispose of his wife through one. She just walks back without acknowledging it.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: The Bombursts.
  • Unconventional Food Usage: When Mr. Pott realises that when you blow through his invented candy, it makes a whistling sound, he licenses them as "toot sweets" and encourages people to play them like instruments.
  • 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.
  • Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: While the Bombursts are over the top and immature villains, their dragon, the Child Catcher, has been a notorious source of Nightmare Fuel to younger viewers. Exaggerated in stage productions where the Child Catcher is given a more distinctly monstrous, Gothic appearance ala Orlok or Cesare that really make him stick out like a sore thumb in an otherwise bright and cheerful story.
  • Villain Love Song: "You're my little chu-chi face!" Subverted since he spends the whole song trying to kill her.
  • Villain Song: In addition to the above-mentioned "Chu-Chi Face", the stage version adds "The Bombie Samba".
  • 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.
    • The spies themselves are a double-subversion: They're tossed out of the airship in the middle of the North Sea and could be presumed to have drowned (or at least the one who says he can't swim), but then they're seen swimming to shore just in time to see the chaos the children have wrought spill out into the castle grounds and retreat back into the sea, this time never to be seen again.
  • 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.