|Chitty Chitty Bang Bang|
Original cinema release poster
|Directed by||Ken Hughes|
|Produced by||Albert R. Broccoli|
by Ian Fleming
|Edited by||John Shirley|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Budget||$10 million or $12 million|
|Box office||$7.5 million (rentals)|
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a 1968 musical adventure fantasy film, directed by Ken Hughes with a screenplay co-written by Roald Dahl and Hughes, loosely based on Ian Fleming's novel Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang: The Magical Car (1964). The film stars Dick Van Dyke, Sally Ann Howes, Adrian Hall, Heather Ripley, Lionel Jeffries, James Robertson Justice, Robert Helpmann, and Gert Fröbe.
The film was produced by Albert R. Broccoli. John Stears supervised the special effects. Irwin Kostal supervised and conducted the music, while the musical numbers, written by Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman, were staged by Marc Breaux and Dee Dee Wood. The song "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" was nominated for an Academy Award.
The story opens with a montage of European Grand Prix races in which one particular car appears to win every race it runs in from 1907 until its final race in 1909, when the car crashes and catches fire, ending its racing career. The car eventually ends up in an old garage in rural England, where two children, Jeremy and Jemima Potts, have grown fond of it. However, a man in the junkyard intends to buy the car from the garage owner, Mr. Coggins, for scrap. The children, who live with their widowed father Caractacus Potts, an eccentric inventor, and the family's equally peculiar grandfather, implore their father to buy the car, but Caractacus cannot afford it. While playing truant from school, they meet Truly Scrumptious, a beautiful wealthy woman with her own motor car, who brings them home to report their truancy to their father. After she leaves, Caractacus promises the children that he will save the car, but is taken aback at the cost he has committed himself to. He looks for ways to raise money to avoid letting them down.
Later that evening, Potts discovers that the sweets produced by a machine he has invented can be played like a flute. He tries to sell the "Toot Sweets" to Truly's father, Lord Scrumptious, a major confectionery manufacturer. He is almost successful until the whistle attracts a pack of dogs who overrun the factory, resulting in Caractacus's proposition being rejected.
Caractacus next takes his automatic hair-cutting machine to a carnival to raise money, but his invention accidentally ruins the hair of his customer Cyril. Potts eludes the vengeful Cyril by joining a song-and-dance act. He becomes the centre of the show and earns more than enough in tips to buy the car and rebuild it. They name the car "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" for the unusual noise of its engine. In the first trip in the car, Caractacus, the children, and Truly picnic on the beach. Caractacus tells them a tale about nasty Baron Bomburst, the tyrant of fictional Vulgaria, who wants to steal Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
As Potts tells his story, the quartet and the car are stranded by high tide. The story then continues, in which they are attacked by pirates working for the Baron. All of a sudden, Chitty deploys huge flotation devices and transforms into a power boat, and they manage to escape Bomburst's yacht and return to shore. The Baron sends two spies to capture the car, but they capture Lord Scrumptious, then Grandpa Potts by accident, mistaking each for the car's creator. Caractacus, Truly, and the children see Grandpa being taken away by airship, and they give chase. They almost catch up with Grandpa, but they accidentally drive off a cliff.
As they approach the bottom, Chitty sprouts wings and propellers and begins to fly. The chase continues, and they follow the airship to Vulgaria and find a land without children; Baroness Bomburst fears and abhors children and imprisons any she find. Grandpa is taken to the castle, and has been ordered by the Baron to make another floating car just for him. He bluffs his abilities to the Baron to avoid being executed. The Potts' party is helped and hidden by the local Toymaker, who now works only for the childish Baron. Chitty is discovered and then taken to the castle. While Caractacus and the toymaker search for Grandpa and Truly searches for food, the children are caught by the Baroness’s Child Catcher.
The Toymaker takes Truly and Caractacus to a grotto beneath the castle where the townspeople have been hiding their children. They concoct a scheme to free the children and the village from the Baron. The Toymaker sneaks them into the castle disguised as life-size dolls for the Baron's birthday. Caractacus snares the Baron, and the children swarm into the banquet hall, overcoming the Baron's palace guards and guests. In the ensuing chaos, the Baron, Baroness, and the evil Child Catcher are captured. Chitty comes to their rescue and, at the same time, they are reunited with Grandpa. The Potts family and Truly bid farewell to the Toymaker and the rest of the village, then fly back home to England.
When Caractacus finishes the story they set off for home, stopping to drop Truly off at Scrumptious Manor, where Caractacus dismisses any possibility of them having a future together, with what she regards as inverted snobbery. The Potts family arrive back at their cottage where Lord Scrumptious surprises Caractacus with an offer to buy the Toot Sweets as a canine confection, re-naming them Woof Sweets. Caractacus, realising that he will be rich, rushes to tell Truly the news. They kiss, and Truly agrees to marry him. As they drive home, he acknowledges the importance of pragmatism as the car takes off into the air again, this time without wings.
After the crs, a screen with the words "Exit Music" appears with a reprise version of the "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" theme playing.
The cast includes:
The part of Truly Scrumptious had originally been offered to Julie Andrews, to reunite her with Van Dyke after their success in Mary Poppins. Andrews rejected the role specifically because she considered that the part was too close to the Poppins mould. Instead, Sally Ann Howes was given the role. Van Dyke was cast after he turned down the role of Fagin from another 1968 musical Oliver! (which ended up going to Ron Moody).
Fleming used to tell stories about the flying car to his infant son. After the author had a heart attack in 1961 he decided to write up the stories as a novel.
The novel was published in 1964, after Ian Fleming's death. The book became one of the best selling children's books of the year. Albert Broccoli, who produced the James Bond films, based on novels by Ian Fleming, read the novel and was originally not enthusiastic about turning it into a film. He changed his mind after the success of Mary Poppins.
In December 1965 it was reported Earl Hamner had just completed a script from the novel. In July 1966 it was announced the film would be produced by Albert Broccoli. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman produced the James Bond films but would do separate projects as well; Chitty Chitty was done by Broccoli alone.
In December 1966 Broccoli announced that Dick Van Dyke would play the lead. It was the first in a multi-picture deal Van Dyke signed with United Artists. By April 1967 Sally Ann Howes was set to play the female lead and Ken Hughes would direct from a Roald Dahl script. Howes was signed to a five picture contract with Broccoli. It was the first film for the child stars who were cast after an extensive talent search. Robert Helpmann joined the cast in May.
The Caractacus Potts inventions in the film were created by Rowland Emett; by 1976, Time magazine, describing Emett's work, said no term other than "Fantasticator...could remotely convey the diverse genius of the perky, pink-cheeked Englishman whose pixilations, in cartoon, watercolor and clanking 3-D reality, range from the celebrated Far Tottering and Oyster Creek Railway to the demented thingamabobs that made the 1968 movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang a minuscule classic."
Ken Adam designed the hero car, and six Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang cars were created for the film, only one of which was fully functional. At a 1973 auction in Florida, one of them sold for $37,000, equal to $213,097 today. The original "hero" car, in a condition described as fully functional and road-going, was offered at auction on 15 May 2011 by a California-based auction house. The car sold for $805,000, less than the $1–2 million it was expected to reach. It was purchased by New Zealand film director Sir Peter Jackson.
Filming started June 1967 at Pinewood Studios.
|Feature in film||Location of filming|
|Scrumptious Sweet Co. factory (exterior)||Kempton Waterworks, Snakey Lane, Hanworth, Greater London, England.|
This location now includes a steam museum open to the public.
|Scrumptious Mansion||Heatherden Hall at Pinewood Studios in Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, England|
|Windmill/Cottage||Cobstone Windmill in Ibstone, near Turville, Buckinghamshire, England. Also known as Turville Windmill.|
|Duck Pond||Russell's Water, Oxfordshire, England|
|Train scene||The Longmoor Military Railway, Hampshire, England. This line closed in 1968, the same year the film was released.|
|Beach||Cap Taillat, Saint-Tropez, France|
|River bridge where spies attempt to blow up Chitty||Iver Bridge, Iver, Buckinghamshire, England. This bridge is Grade II listed.|
|Railway bridge where spies kidnap Lord Scrumptious||Ilmer Bridge, Ilmer, Buckinghamshire, England. This bridge carries the Chiltern Main line between Birmingham and Marylebone.|
|White rock spires in the ocean and lighthouse||The Needles stacks, Isle of Wight, England|
|White cliffs||Beachy Head, East Sussex, England|
|Baron Bomburst's castle (exterior)||Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany|
|Vulgarian village||Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Bavaria, Germany|
United Artists promoted the film with an expensive, extensive advertising campaign, hoping for another Sound of Music. The movie was released on a roadshow basis.
The film was the tenth most popular at the US box office in 1969. However because it was so expensive it lost United Artists an estimated $8 million during its theatrical run. Five films produced by Harry Saltzman, including The Battle of Britain, lost UA $19 million. This contributed to United Artists scaling back their operations in the UK.
Time began its review by saying the film is a "picture for the ages—the ages between five and twelve" and ended noting that "At a time when violence and sex are the dual sellers at the box office, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang looks better than it is simply because it's not not all all bad bad"; the film's "eleven songs have all the rich melodic variety of an automobile horn. Persistent syncopation and some breathless choreography partly redeem it, but most of the film's sporadic success is due to director Ken Hughes's fantasy scenes, which make up in imagination what they lack in technical facility."
The New York Times critic Renata Adler wrote, "in spite of the dreadful title, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ... is a fast, dense, friendly children's musical, with something of the joys of singing together on a team bus on the way to a game"; Adler called the screenplay "remarkably good" and the film's "preoccupation with sweets and machinery seems ideal for children"; she ends her review on the same note as Time: "There is nothing coy, or stodgy or too frightening about the film; and this year, when it has seemed highly doubtful that children ought to go to the movies at all, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang sees to it that none of the audience's terrific eagerness to have a good time is betrayed or lost."
Film critic Roger Ebert reviewed the film, writing: "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang contains about the best two-hour children's movie you could hope for, with a marvelous magical auto and lots of adventure and a nutty old grandpa and a mean Baron and some funny dances and a couple of [scary] moments."
The original soundtrack album, as was typical of soundtrack albums, presented mostly songs with very few instrumental tracks.
The soundtrack has been released on CD four times, the first two releases using the original LP masters rather than going back to the original music masters to compile a more complete soundtrack album with underscoring and complete versions of songs. The 1997 Rykodisc release included several quick bits of dialogue from the film between some of the tracks and has gone out of circulation. On 24 February 2004, a few short months after MGM released the movie on a 2-Disc Special Edition DVD, Varèse Sarabande reissued a newly remastered soundtrack album without the dialogue tracks, restoring it to its original 1968 LP format.
In 2011, Kritzerland released the definitive soundtrack album, a 2-CD set featuring the Original Soundtrack Album plus bonus tracks, music from the Song and Picture Book Album on disc 1, and the Richard Sherman Demos, as well as six Playback Tracks (including a long version of international covers of the theme song). Inexplicably, this release was limited to only 1,000 units.
In April 2013, Perseverance Records re-released the Kritzerland double CD set with expansive new liner notes by John Trujillo and a completely new designed booklet by Perseverance regular James Wingrove.
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Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was released numerous times in the VHS format as well as Betamax, CED, and LaserDisc. In 1998, the film saw its first DVD release. The year 2003 brought a two-disc "Special Edition" release. On 2 November 2010, MGM Home Entertainment through 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment released a two-disc Blu-ray and DVD combination set featuring the extras from the 2003 release as well as new features. The 1993 LaserDisc release by MGM/UA Home Video was the first home video release with the proper 2.20:1 Super Panavision 70 aspect ratio.
The film did not follow Fleming's novel closely. A separate novelisation of the film was published at the time of the film's release. It basically followed the film's story but with some differences of tone and emphasis, e.g. it mentioned that Caractacus Potts had had difficulty coping after the death of his wife, and it made it clearer that the sequences including Baron Bomburst were extended fantasy sequences. It was written by John Burke.
Corgi Toys released a scale replica of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with working features such as pop out wings. Mattel Toys also produced a replica with different features, while Aurora produced a detailed hobby kit of the car.
An educational PC game was released in October 1996, featuring the titular car where players have to solve puzzles to complete the game.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (musical) was adapted as a stage musical based on the film. The music and lyrics were written by Richard and Robert Sherman with book by Jeremy Sams. The musical premiered in the West End at the London Palladium on 16 April 2002 with six new songs by the Sherman Brothers. The Broadway production opened on 28 April 2005 at the Lyric Theatre (then the Hilton Theatre). After its closing in London, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang toured around the UK. The UK Tour visited Asia when it opened on 2 November 2007 in Singapore. The Australian national production opened on 17 November 2012. The German premiere took place on 30 April 2014.
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