Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)

chitty chitty bang bang poster 1968 movie
7.0 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Great looking movie with fun actors

The story takes way too long to get good

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Studio:  Warfield Productions

Genre(s):  Musical/Romance/Action/Adventure/Family

Release Date(s):  December 16, 1968

MPAA Rating:  G

chitty chitty bang bang toot sweets dick van dyke sally ann howe james robertson justice

Toot-Sweets…dogs love them!

Caractacus Potts (Dick Van Dyke) is an inventor extraordinaire who has yet to invent anything of significance.  When his children convince him to buy a former racecar, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is born.  A trip to the sea side with Truly Scrumptious (Sally Ann Howes) the daughter of a candy magnate named Lord Scrumptious (James Robertson Justice) leads to Potts’ amazing car catching the attention of the ruler of Vulgaria Baron Bomburst (Gert Fröbe).  Accidentally kidnapping Grandpa Potts (Lionel Jeffries) instead of Professor Potts, Caractacus, Truly, and Potts’ children Jemima (Heather Ripley) and Jeremy (Adrian Hall) must set off to Vulgaria to rescue him…a kingdom where children are outlawed!

Directed by Ken Hughes, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a family musical adventure.  The film is based on the 1964 children’s book Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang:  The Magic Car by James’ Bond’s creator Ian Fleming (and Bond producer Albert R. Broccoli produced it).  A loose adaptation, the script was crafted by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory writer Roald Dahl and was met by mostly negative reviews.  The movie lost money on its run in the theaters, but has gained cult classic status.  The movie received one Oscar nomination for Best Song (“Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”).

chitty chitty bang bang scary child catcher robert helpmann

Every child of the ’70s and ’80s thought child abductors looked like this…

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was allegedly out to “out-Disney” Disney.  It hired the Sherman Brothers who wrote songs for big Disney films like Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, and The Aristocats to write the music and brought in Mary Poppins’ Dick Van Dyke (also allegedly trying to get Julie Andrews) to be part of it.  The result is sometimes great…but often flat.

The problem with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is that it is almost two and a half hours and the first hour of the film really doesn’t even involve any fantasy.  The set-up of the movie has Chitty Chitty Bang Bang saved from a junkyard, the meeting of Truly, and a fun number involving Toot-Sweets (which leads to a dog invasion) and a dance number for Dick Van Dyke.  It probably wouldn’t hold kids interest and could sour them before they reach the fun and creepy part of the movie.

chitty chitty bang bang baron bomburst wind up dolls dick van dyke sally ann howes gert frobe

Something’s fishy about these dolls…

The movie’s second half involves a story being told by Dick Van Dyke about the kingdom of Vulgaria.  When I was little, I didn’t see that it was obviously a story, but that is what is supposed to happen for kids.  It is here that the story about a car gets weird…and creepy.  The last of the film really feels like a Roald Dahl novel.  The car can travel on water and then reveals it can fly.  Vulgaria is completely trippy.  It is ruled by a tyrant king (and his wife who sometimes have a kinky Chicago thing going on), and children are outlawed and hidden under the city to prevent them from being captured by the scary Child Catcher (Robert Helpmann) who smells children.  It is twisted and scary as hell.

The movie is aided by the likable combination of Dick Van Dyke, Sally Ann Howes, Heather Ripley, and Adrian Hall.  Lionel Jeffries plays the grandfather, but actually was younger than Dick Van Dyke.  The movie brings in Goldfinger Gert Fröbe as the evil ruler and Benny Hill as the helpful toymaker.  Robert Helpmann’s Child Catcher has gone down as one of the scariest cinema creations on many lists and deleted from the children’s takeover of the castle is a young Phil Collins.

chitty chitty bang bang flying car ending

I wish Doc Brown made the DeLorean like this…

I think the movie also looks great.  The sets are fantastic and the cinematography is top-notch.  The big castle scene was shot at Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany which served as the model for Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disneyland.  I also love both the jack-in-the-box designs and the final dance sequence with Van Dyke and Howes as a marionette and a wind-up dancer (which Barenaked Ladies used in their  “One Week” video).

I like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang but only because I grew up with it.  It is long but fun to revisit on occasion and the first half of the movie is well worth the second half.  The movie isn’t perfect but it is goofy fun in the lines of Disney and those who like musical movies like Pete’s Dragon, Mary Poppins, or Oliver! might enjoy this adventure.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

Leave A Response