Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)


I think in my head Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was similar to a Herbie film, so I wasn't really expecting a great deal.  What I certainly didn't expect was a slew of 007 connections.  For a start, the novel was written by Ian Fleming, with a screenplay created in part by Roald Dahl (You Only Live Twice) with additional dialogue by Richard Maibaum (various screenplays from Dr. No through to Licence to Kill); and the production design was by the mastermind of the volcano base - Ken Adam.  It was even a Cubby Broccoli production!

I’m not even on to the cast yet.  The nasty Baron Bomburst is none other than Goldfinger himself: Gert Frobe; Desmond Llewelyn makes a cameo appearance as Coggins the garage owner who is selling CCBB, and even Vic Armstrong (seasoned 007 stuntman - later stunt coordinator) is involved.  Phew, I think that’s it; answers on a postcard (or in the comments if you prefer) if you think I’ve missed any Bond connections.

As far as the movie itself goes, well, I'm the first to admit that I don't like musicals, but I actually rather enjoyed CCBB.  For two reasons probably.  The first is Dick Van Dyke.  His cheery eccentric inventor is quite an infectious character (and surely the inspiration for the most famous of inventors; Doc Emmet Brown - even his dog is called Edison), his personality perfectly encapsulated by the name Caractacus.  I know him primarily as Dr Mark Sloan, and I was aware that he could sing, but I didn't realise how well.

Which brings me to the second reason I enjoyed the film; the songs aren't that irritating.  Even the main song which is reprised endlessly is rather a fun ditty.  Those tunes that aren't so good are for the most part completely forgettable, so can't get lodged in your head and drive you mad (Suddenly Seymour I'm looking at you).  The children were for the most part pretty good and not so whiney and annoying, the introduction of the sinister child catcher keeps them on edge and if anything allows Caractacus and Truly Scrumptious (yes that's actually the name of the love interest) to act like children themselves.  Speaking of Scrumptious, Sally Ann Hayes is a good counterpoint to zany Caractacus, even if she doesn't do women drivers any favours by repeatedly driving into the same pond.

Apart from all the obvious (dance numbers, nice special effects on CCBB) Ken Hughes' direction isn't too shabby either.  The camera work is usually quite fluid, and was creative enough even during the slower songs.  Choreography of the dances was very good, in particular the performance in the circus was quite amazing, not least because it must have been really hard for DVD to have been half a move behind everyone else at the beginning.

So there we have it; I don't think I'm particularly becoming a convert to musicals by any stretch, but given the right cast, choreography and tunes I can quite enjoy them.  But, well, you know, that’s just, like, er, my opinion, man.