CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG  [Blu-ray] [UK Release] A Vivid, Splendid Ride! The Most Fantasmagorical Musical Entertainment in the History of Everything!
Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, start your engines. You are about to take an incredible ride with one of the most wonderful family films of all time. With its clever tunes, including the 1968 OSCAR® Nominated Original Title Song. Marvellous cast and enchanting storyline, this delightful romp is lots of fun and simply "toot sweet" to pass up! Dick Van Dyke stars as eccentric inventor Caractacus Potts, who creates an extraordinary car called Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. It not only drives, but also flies and floats, as it leads him, his two children and his beautiful lady friend, Truly Scrumptious [Sally Ann Howes], into a magical world of pirates, castles and endless adventure.
FILM FACT: "Doll on a Music Box" is sung near the end of the musical by Truly Scrumptious and is a musical counterpoint, also being sung simultaneously with Caractacus Potts' rendition of the song "Truly Scrumptious." Two songs apparently intended for the film but ultimately relegated only to instrumental background music are "Come to the Funfair" and the "Vulgarian National Anthem." The Caractacus Potts inventions in the film were created by Rowland Emett. In 1976, Time magazine, describing Rowland Emett's work, said no term other than "Fantasticator...could remotely convey the diverse genius of the perky, pink-cheeked Englishman whose pixilation's, in cartoon, watercolour and clanking 3D reality, range from the celebrated Far Tottering and Oyster Creek Railway to the demented thingamabobs that made the 1968 film `Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' a minuscule classic." The part of Truly Scrumptious had originally been offered to Julie Andrews, to reunite her with Van Dyke after their success in `Mary Poppins.' Julie Andrews rejected the role specifically because she considered the part too close to the Mary Poppins mould.
Cast: Dick Van Dyke, Sally Ann Howes, Lionel Jeffries, Gert Fröbe, Anna Quayle, Benny Hill, James Robertson Justice, Robert Helpmann, Heather Ripley, Adrian Hall, Barbara Windsor, Davy Kaye, Alexander Doré, Bernard Spear, Stanley Unwin, Peter Arne, Desmond Llewelyn, Victor Maddern, Arthur Mullard, Ross Parker, Gerald Campion, Felix Felton, Monti DeLyle, Totti Truman Taylor, Larry Taylor, Max Bacon, Max Wall, John Heawood, Michael Darbyshire, Kenneth Waller, Gerald Taylor, Eddie Davis, Michael Audreson (uncredited), Theo Aygar (uncredited), John Baskcomb (uncredited), Phil Collins (uncredited), John Crocker (uncredited), Gabrielle Daye (uncredited), Harry Fielder (uncredited), Kay Hamilton (uncredited), Miranda Hampton (uncredited), Connel Miles (uncredited), Roy Murray (uncredited), Grace Newcombe (uncredited), Dickie Owen (uncredited), Colin Rix (uncredited), Jessie Robins (uncredited), John Ruddock (uncredited) and Richard Wattis (uncredited)
Director: Ken Hughes
Producers: Albert R. Broccoli and Stanley Sopel
Screenplay: Ken Hughes and Roald Dahl
Composers: Richard M. Sherman (lyrics), Robert B. Sherman (lyrics) and Irwin Kostal (score) (uncredited)
Cinematography: Christopher Challis
Video Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 2.20:1 [Super Panavision 70]
Audio: English: 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish: 5.1 Dolby Digital and French: 5.1 DTS
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish and French
Running Time: 140 minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Studio: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: When one thinks of Ian Fleming, one name usually pops to mind: Bond; James Bond. But in 1968, another of Fleming's creations made the leap to the big screen with ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.’ This curiously titled film is based on a children's book by Ian Fleming and stars Dick Van Dyke, who previously appeared in the highly successful 1964 fantasy film, ‘Mary Poppins’ now appears as Caractacus Potts, an inventor who spins a remarkable tale for his two children about a magical flying car.
‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' belongs to a class of films that are often mistaken for Disney productions when they're in fact not. While on other movies the reasoning doesn't usually go further than the use of animation or archetypes made popular by Disney, in the case of `Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' the confusion is more warranted. Dick Van Dyke playing the male lead in a splashy, two-and-a-half-hour 1960s musical with songs by the Sherman Brothers and score by Irwin Kostal is understandably reminiscent of ‘Mary Poppins.’ `Throw in a prim and proper female lead and two children, all from England, and the comparisons to Disney's 1964 classic are inevitable.
Loosely based on a book by creator Ian Fleming, ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' finds its protagonist by way of Caractacus Potts [Dick Van Dyke]. Caractacus Potts is an inventor, but not a very successful one. As the single father of children Jemima [Heather Ripley] and Jeremy [Adrian Hall], he struggles to make ends meet. The children request he save a used motorcar from destruction, so Caractacus Potts has it completely refurbished, christening it Chitty Chitty Bang Bang based on the sound it makes.
With Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the trio meets the refined, well-to-do Truly Scrumptious [Sally Ann Howes], daughter of a rich candy factory owner. She joins the group on a picnic that leads to storytelling from Potts. In his tale, the petulant and greedy Baron Bomburst [Gert Fröbe] seeks to steal Chitty for himself. Unable to do so, he kidnaps Grandpa Bungie Potts [Lionel Jeffries], thinking him to be the creator of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car. Thanks to the features Caractacus Potts has installed in the vehicle, the gang follows Baron Bomburst by both sea and air to the land of Vulgaria, where children are strictly prohibited. Now Caractacus Potts finds himself having to both rescue Grandpa Bungie Potts and keep his children safe.
The second half of the picture works much better, which is unusual, since many musicals have a strong first act to which the second can't compare, especially with films of the genre of ‘The Sound of Music,' `Funny Girl' and `Fiddler on the Roof' immediately come to mind. That's not to say that `Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' in Act II isn't perfect, however. The whole thing is played pretty much as a farce and because of that, there's barely a sense of peril. Only two scenes involving Robert Helpmann's as the creepy “Child Catcher” character present any real tension.
Even at its most self-serving, the picture is still entertaining for a variety of reasons. The songs by Richard and Robert Sherman are as strong as those of their other works. The title song and "Toot Sweets" both stay in one's head for days while "Doll on a Music Box" has a haunting quality to it. The choreography by ‘Mary Poppins' Marc Breaux and Dee Dee Wood is also impressive, particularly on "Toot Sweets" and "Me Ol' Bamboo." Often, musical numbers have a different feel from their surroundings, but these ones display just as much creativity and imagination as the dramatic scenes.
The screenplay, by Roald Dahl and Ken Hughes, who also directs, is remarkably good. The music is not distinguished, but with lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, like "Oh, what a lovely, lonely man," and "There's magic in the wake of a fiasco" and lines like "Zis is X speaking." The film, which accelerates, as a musical should, as it goes along can hardly miss. The preoccupation with sweets and machinery seems ideal for children. There is a very jolly, well done dance number, in which Miss Sally Ann Howes and Dick Van Dyke play puppets in Vulgaria, and another wittily vicious, patty cake minuet, choreographed by Marc Breaux and Dee Dee Wood.
Dick Van Dyke essentially plays himself here, which is just fine as he exudes natural charm as always. His charisma is almost enough to make one forget he's the sole American in this production, a fact that makes him being the father of two British children a bit odd, and Dick Van Dyke reportedly refused to do an accent for the film after the criticism he endured for his Cockney one in `Mary Poppins.'
The rest of the cast is likewise appealing and obviously having a great deal of fun. Most surprising is Gert Fröbe. Having only seen him as the calm and collected Bond villain Goldfinger, his over-the-top temper tantrums as the Baron are quite a revelation. Other cast members like Sally Ann Howes, Benny Hill, and Lionel Jeffries feel slightly underutilised, but they make the most of their screen time, particularly Lionel Jeffries.
The fantasy side of the film is deliberately a little obvious technically, so that when Chitty Chitty Bang Bang flies or floats, in a kind of paper cut-out processing shot, it is just clear enough that what's happening is not real. The jokes and puns are fairly distributed among age levels. There are some subtle, intelligent concessions to a child's view of the absolute, unappeasable arbitrariness of adult power, particularly the habit of replying to an absolutely crucial question, some children, in this case, wanting to know whether they are going to get out of a dungeon or not, "Well, we'll see."
There's a lot to like about `Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.' It has memorable numbers, staggering production design, and a sense of whimsy that's reflected in its cast. Unfortunately, it takes too long to really get going and prefers showing off what it can do rather than serving the story it's telling. So long as expectations are kept in check, fans of musical fantasies in the vein of ‘Mary Poppins' should enjoy this.
Blu-ray Video Quality – `Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' was shot in spherical 65mm format, but a 70mm for theatrical prints, here called Super Panavision as that company provided the lenses and cameras, but which was basically the same as Todd-AO, the better-known process, at least as Todd-AO existed in the late-1960s. The result is an extremely sharp, steady image along the lines of similar 65mm titles released films. The detail is just incredible, especially in wide shots and tight close-ups, where landscapes and actors' faces, pebbles on a beach, the texture of the costumes and make-ups on the actors, really take on an almost 3D look. Viewers can note the extreme detail given to even the extras' costumes and grotesque make-up and hairstyles, or in Ken Adam's highly imaginative set design.
Blu-ray Audio Video – The Roadshow presentations of `Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' were also in six-track magnetic stereo, with fully directional dialogue and superb fidelity that, to my ears at least, home theatre audio still can't quite surpass. The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio comes awfully close, however. It's extremely strong for what it is, really maximizing the audio in every scene. The film was preceded by a brief overture, includes an unusual cliff-hanger intermission break, entr'acte, and exit music, all of which are included here.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Special Feature: Sing-Along: The Blu-ray carries over virtually all of the supplements from 2003's two-disc Special Edition DVD starting with a sing-along. As expected, this offers all of the film's musical numbers with accompanying lyrics that change colours so the singer can follow along. In a nice touch, this can be activated on the film itself or one could choose to play only the musical numbers individually or consecutively.
Special Feature: Chitty Chitty's, Bang Bang: Driving Game: The first of the Blu-ray-exclusive is where the player must guide the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car through a path made out to look like a 2D board game. Along the way, the player must avoid hitting obstacles and characters. The gameplay itself is shockingly clunky compared to most Blu-ray games, and to make matters worse, it is over in approximately 60 seconds.
Special Feature: Toot Sweet Toot's Musical Maestro: At six points throughout the film, a selection of coloured candies will emerge at the bottom of the screen. The player must press the corresponding colour keys on their remote in the same order the sweets twirl in. Why this is placed over the feature film six times instead of in an isolated set-top game is anyone's guess. It's boring and offers no treat for successful play.
Special Feature: Remembering `Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' with Dick Van Dyke  [25:58] Showcases a then-current interview with the actor about his experiences making the film. While he lavishes praise on his co-workers and the film itself, he still provides plenty of substantial information. Nearly every musical number he was a part of is given some attention, and he even points out little details to look for in each. While it's a shame Sally Ann Howes and the two actors who played the children weren't interviewed to give this piece a broader perspective, Dick Van Dyke's winning enthusiasm makes the featurette worth a look.
Special Feature: A Fantasmagorical Motorcar  [9:43] looks at the iconic car itself and its owner Pierre Picton. Pierre Picton tells of how he was entrusted with the car's maintenance during production and how he later stumbled upon it once again, purchasing it for himself. He also gives a detailed examination of the car and all of its kooky details. Pierre Picton's anecdotes are interesting, and the showcasing of the car gives one an appreciation for its design.
Special Feature: Sherman Brothers Demos  [30:20] Performed by the Sherman Brothers themselves, whether or not both are present is difficult to tell as only Richard is singing. What makes this particularly unique is that three of the demos are for songs that didn't make it into the film. All are a treat to hear and are surprisingly crisp in quality. Note that during the duration of these songs, a static image of the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car is placed on the screen. While a half-hour may not be enough time to create burn-in on a screen, it's still a little uncomfortable not to have other images in rotation.
Special Feature: Vintage Documentary: The Ditchling Tinkerer  [10:06] You get a trio of promotional clips from the time of the film's release. Focuses on inventor Roland Emmett. Roland Emmett can be credited with the many bizarre contraptions found in the Caractacus Potts home, and he even gives us a closer examination of how these work.
Special Feature: Dick Van Dyke Press Interview  [8:48] Here you have a single-take Q & A between the actor and off-screen journalists whose questions are rather banal and even a little sceptical. While Dick Van Dyke's answers are well thought-out, his mannerisms and expressions throughout the interview make him seem a little tipsy. When one knows of the actor's struggle with alcohol during this time period, it makes for somewhat uneasy viewing.
Special Feature: The Potts Children [3:05] Looks at the child actors Heather Ripley and Adrian Hall. We see them fooling around with the other actors in between takes and even some of their (staged) time exploring the German countryside. Oddly, the children, especially Heather Ripley, sound significantly older in their narration, making one wonder how long the film's post-production process ran.
Special Feature: Photo Gallery: You have a 46-still photo gallery contains various shots from the set, both candid behind-the-scenes and ones shot for promotional purposes.
Vintage Advertising Galleries: Contains the Theatrical Trailer [3:20], a French Theatrical Trailer [3:36] and five TV spots [3:36].
Finally, while perhaps falling short of being a genuine classic, ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' remains an absolute cinematic delight, which has been a massive favourite of mine for years. It is definitely recommended for viewers of all ages, but it's absolutely essential viewing for children. The hi-definition image and sound are terrific, making it easy to suggest why you should get this awesome Blu-ray disc and again I am so proud to now have it added to my Blu-ray Collection and if you have not got this in your Blu-ray Collection, then you are missing out on a fantastic treat and it will take you on a fantastic journey and all the extras you get with this Blu-ray disc is totally fascinating and is an added bonus. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom