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  Chitty Chitty Bang Bang You'll Believe A Car Can Fly
Year: 1968
Director: Ken Hughes
Stars: Dick Van Dyke, Sally Ann Howes, Heather Ripley, Adrian Hall, Lionel Jeffries, Gert Fröbe, Benny Hill, James Robertson Justice, Robert Helpmann, Anna Quayle, Barbara Windsor, Arthur Mullard, Richard Wattis, Victor Maddern, Desmond Llewelyn, Max Wall
Genre: Musical, Comedy, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 4 votes)
Review: Two children persuade their inventor father (Dick Van Dyke) to buy and repair an old racing car that has seen better days. But when the wicked ruler of Vulgaria hears about the car, now called Chitty Chitty Bang Bang because of the noise it makes, he decides he wants one, too...

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang received terrible reviews when it came out, but plenty of people who grew up watching the film on TV have other ideas about it. Created by the team who made the James Bond series, it was adapted from Ian Fleming's book by celebrated children's author Roald Dahl and director Ken Hughes.

It does have a few problems - it's too long, the special effects could be better, and it takes over an hour to get to the fantasy sequence. But it has many plus points: the cast is talented (Van Dyke is at his most likeable), Ken Adam's set design is imaginative and most of the songs are excellent (the main exception being Sally Ann Howes' solo number). Those songs, written by the Sherman brothers, are the main highlights (along with every scene Lionel Jeffries is in), including "Me Old Bamboo", "The Roses of Success", "Posh!" (my favourite), and, of course, the theme song.

Many of the most memorable children's films, from The Wizard of Oz to Spy Kids, have an element of the grotesque, and when we reach Vulgaria things get strange. The Baron and Baroness (Gert Fröbe and Anna Quayle) are overgrown children in the worst, brattish, kind of way and as such have had the real children hunted down and imprisoned courtesy of the Child Catcher (Robert Helpmann). He's a creepy, nightmarish character who carries a large net and, worryingly, a large hook. It's the strange elements such as these (surely influenced by Dahl), along with the songs, that help Chitty Chitty Bang Bang stick in the mind and stay with the TV generation. And I wouldn't crtiticise a film for trying to pack in too many ideas.

Also worth watching for, even in the smaller roles, are all the British performers who add to the air of eccentricity, including Gerald Campion, Michael Darbyshire and Stanley Unwin (speaking his trademark gobbledegook).
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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