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Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 11, 2010 by  



A classic MGM musical which contains action, humor, entertaining music and fun for the entire family!  “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” receives a wonderful Blu-ray release just in time to celebrate the film’s 42nd year anniversary.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 1968 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

FILM RELEASE: 1968

DURATION: 2hrs. and 25 minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Stereo, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 DTS

COMPANY: MGM/20th Century Fox

RATED: G

Release Date: November 2, 2010

Based on the novel by Ian Fleming

Directed by Ken Hughes

Screenplay by Roald Dahl and Ken Hughes

Produced by Albert R. Broccoli

Associate Producer: Stanley Sopel

Music by Irwin Kostal

Cinematography by Christopher Challis

Edited by John Shirley

Production Design by Ken Adam

Art Direction by Harry Pottle

Costume Design by Joan Bridge, Elizabeth Haffenden

Starring:

Dick Van Dyke as Caractacus Potts

Sally Ann Howes as Truly Scrumptious

Heather Ripley as Jemima Potts

Adrian Hall as Jeremy Potts

Lionel Jeffries as Grandpa Potts

Gert Frobe as Baron Bromburst

Anna Quayle as Baroness Bomburst

Benny Hill as toymaker

James Robertson Justice as Lord Scrumptious

Robert Helpmann as Child Catcher

Based on the children’s book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Magical Car by Ian Fleming, the film tells the story of an eccentric professor (played by Dick Van Dyke) who invents wacky machinery, but can’t seem to make ends meet. When he invents a revolutionary car, a foreign government becomes interested in it, and resorts to skullduggery to get their hands on it.   The all-time family classic evolves from there and viewers are taken on a magical ride with the professor and loveable motorcar.

Ian Fleming may be known for his successful James Bond books but in 1964, Fleming would release his first children’s book titled “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Magical Car”.

In 1968, his friend writer Roald Dahl (“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, “Fantastic Mr. Fox”, “Matilda”) would write an adaptation of the book along with writer and filmmaker Ken Hughes (“Casino Royale”).  The film would be directed by Hughes but also received the backing of James Bond film producer Albert R. Broccoli and would feature the musical arrangement by composer Irwin Kostal (“Mary Poppins”, “Bedknobs and Broomsticks”, “Fantasia”, “Charlotte’s Web” and “The Sound of Music”).

The film would become a box office hit and eventually become a children’s movie classic.

“Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” takes place in 1910 and two young children Jeremy and Jemima Potts (played by Adrian Hall and Heather Ripley) who live with their father, inventor Caractacus Potts (played by Dick Van Dyke, “Mary Poppins”, “The Dick Van Dyke Show”) and their grandfather (played by Lionel Jeffries, “The Spy with a Cold Nose”).

Unfortunately,Caractacus Potts is not a successful inventor.  Despite having two children who adore him, he is constantly busy with trying to make his inventions work that he doesn’t realize that his own children are skipping school and because he is a single widowed father, he lets the kids do what they want.

As for the kids, both Jeremy and Jemima love hanging out at Coggins Garage, where they like to sit on an old, broken down race car.  Because times are tough, Mr. Coggins plans to sell the broken down car to a man for 30 shillings.  The man wants to use the car to scrap it and make it to iron but the children love the car so much that they beg Mr. Coggins not to sell.  Mr. Coggins gives the kids a chance by telling them if they can pay him 30 shillings before the man buys it, it’s theirs.

So, as the kids plan to rush back home to tell their father, while leaving the garage, the kids don’t see a car coming by and the car drifts off the road.  The person driving the car is an upper-class woman named Truly Scrumptious (played by Sally Ann Howes, “Anna Karenina”, “My Sister and I”, “Fools Rush In”).

Needless to say, she is not to happy to see these kids not at school and so she takes him home to talk to their father.  But what Truly finds is a man who is more busy with his inventions than his kids and she tries to talk to him about his children, things don’t start off quite well between Truly and Caractacus and the two get into an argument.  Needless to say, their first meeting with each other doesn’t go quite well.

Meanwhile, the children explain that a man was trying to buy their car and that they can get it back if they pay 30 shilling.  As much as the father knows his kids love it, its money that the father doesn’t have.  He explains to them that if they do make money, it goes to his inventions.  But as the father who wants to make his children happy, he’ll do what he can.

So, Caractacus tries to make money by trying to sell a sweet candy that plays like a flute and finds out that the person that he needs to go through to promote his invention is Lord Scrumptious, the wealthy sweet factory owner who happens to be the father of the woman, Truly Scrumptious, who Caractacus argued with earlier.

Fortunately, Truly appreciates his invention and tries to give him confidence.  And everything looks to go well, until all these dogs start break into the building because of the flute and unfortunately, Caractacus is denied.

Caractacus tries to raise money any way he can including him trying to sell his flawed automatic hair-cutting machine.  Fortunately, while trying to hide from the customer that received the flawed haircut, he ends up doing a song and dance act which earns him money to pay to get the car back.

With the money, Caractacus Potts rebuilds the wrecked racing car which makes an unusual sound in its engine which they nickname “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”.  While Caractacus and kids go to drive the rebuilt race car, they end up nearly running Truly Scrumptious off the road but they give her a ride and eventually she joins the family for a fun day at the beach.

And while they are together, everyone has fun.  Meanwhile, the kids have so much fun, now that Truly has joined them on their trip and immediately Jeremy and Jemima wonder what if their father marries Truly.  How happy they would be.

As the four get back into the car, Jeremy talks about watching for pirates on the beach and immediately Caractacus begins to tells them a story about the tyrannical ruler of Vulgaria named Baron Bomburst who wanted to steal the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car.

And thus the adventure of the four begin as we see the overcoming the tyranny of Baron Bomburst in several adventures which involve the children being kidnapped and  Caractacus Potts and Truly Scrumptious coming to the rescue.

VIDEO:

In many ways, there is a positive about seeing a film shot in 70 mm.  So, far seeing “The Sound of Music” in HD and being shot in 70 mm, there is definitely a noticeable difference when seeing 70 mm versus an older film shot in Technicolor.

“Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” is featured in 1080p (widescreen 2:20:1) and was shot in 70 mm (Super Panavision 70) and the first thing you will notice is the amount of detail.  The first thing that caught my eye was seeing the red leather of the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car.  You can see the upholstery so nicely.  Before the car was cleaned up, you can see the detail of how murky the engine was at first, as well as see the grime on the car.

But once the car is fixed, the car’s red and gold colors look vibrant on screen, especially as it drives through the village and the green grass starts to pop.  Also, the detail of the clothing.  From the corduroy jacket of Caractacus Potts to the dress worn by Truly Scrumptious.  We can see details in the wood of the Potts home as well as the detail on the trunks of the trees.

Although, the film is not as vibrant as “The Sound of Music”, you can tell there was cleanup done for this film’s restoration.  Sometimes I feel that maybe the film was shot in overcast weather, thus some parts looking a bit dark at times.  But fortunately, there was a good amount of colors that stood out during the whole entire film.

Also,since you get a DVD version of the film with this Blu-ray release, compare the two films together and you will notice the picture quality of the Blu-ray version is much better than its DVD counterpart in terms of showcasing the film’s colors, detail and more.  There is just more detail that you see in this Blu-ray version of the film and it looks very nice!  Blacks are nice and deep and there is also a good amount of grain.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” is presented in 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Stereo, Spanish 5.1 and French 5.1 DTS.  I raved about “The Sound of Music” and wrote about how the audio really enhanced my appreciation for the film, especially by giving it a 7.1 lossless soundtrack.  Well, I was quite amazed to see the film being presented with a 7.1 lossless soundtrack.

Well, 20th Century Fox is also giving “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” a lossless soundtrack in 7.1, just the opening sound of the 1908 races will amaze you.  You hear the cars zipping through your soundscape.  Audio panning from left to right, sound coming from your rear surrounds, your other surround channels and more.

I will say that while the film does show you what this film is capable of in 7.1, throughout the film, I felt that it wasn’t utilized as much as I had hoped.  If anything, most of the dialogue and musical portions of the film are presented through the center and front channels but as I was hoping to hear more surround usage, especially rear surrounds, I didn’t hear it as much as I did in the beginning and some of the action sequences.

But at the same time, I felt more lenient considering this film was not released in 7.1 to begin with.  Considering the film’s age and how it was present before, I have to give credit to 20th Century Fox for even giving this film a 7.1 lossless soundtrack.  It may not be immersive as I hoped, but its still a well-done lossless soundtrack for this musical classic.

Subtitles are presented in English SDH, Spanish and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” comes with the following special features:

  • Sing-Along – While watching the film, during the musical scenes, you can watch it via sing-along (think “Karaoke”).
  • Music Machine – Featuring the musical portions of the movie.  You can select a musical scene or watch them all.
  • Chitty Chitty’s, Bang Bang, Driving Game – A remote control game.  Using your remote, you can steer Chitty to avoid obstacles on the course.
  • Toot Sweet Tots Musical Maestro – A game in which you will see candy contraptions six times throughout the film.  But you must remember the order of the candy and using your Blu-ray remote’s multi-color buttons.
  • Remembering Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with Dick Van Dyke – (25:58) Dick Van Dyke reminisces of the making of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” and his amazement of the performance of his two young talent and how actress Sally Ann Howes adored the children and spent a lot of time with them during the long wait times in-between shooting.  Working with Lionel Jeffries (who played the grandfather) who was actually younger than him, working with Ken Hughes and more.
  • A Fantasmagorical Motorcar – (9:44) Pierre Picton, the current owner of one of the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang cars shows off how the main car of the film and how he has taken care of it and how its still looks great today.
  • Sherman Brothers’ Demos – (30:20) A rare video footage uncovered by MGM archivist of Richard and Robert Sherman singing the songs from the film before the film was shot. (Note: This portion is audio-based)
  • Vintage Featurettes – Featuring the following featurettes:

The Potts Children Featurette -(3:06) A vintage featurette on the two children of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”: Heather Ripley (Jemima Potts) and Adrian Hall (Jeremy Potts).

The Ditchling Tinkerer – (10:07) A vintage featurette about a man named Roland Emmit who created the inventions for “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”.

Dick Van Dyke Press Interview – (8:48) A vintage interview of Dick Van Dyke answering questions from the press about “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”.

  • Photo Gallery – With your remote, you can cycle through the photo gallery.
  • Vintage Advertising Gallery – Featuring the U.S. Theatrical Trailer (3:20), the French Theatrical Trailer (3:37) and five TV Spots (1:01).
  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Musical Trailer – (2:30) The making of the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang musical. (NOTE: This featurette is on the DVD only)

EXTRAS:

“Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” comes with a slip-over cover case. Also, included is a DVD featuring the feature film with two bonus features.  The DVD is presented in Widescreen 2:30:1, English 5.1 Dolby Digital, French and Spanish stereo and subtitles in English, French and Spanish.

I know that there are may people who have looked at “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” as a musical classic, and for many people in the ’60s, these musicals were common place, but for musicals that included children, these were quite special and thus “The Sound of Music”, “The Music Man”, “Mary Poppins” and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” were always looked at good ol’ family musical classics!

But for many fans of the James Bond books and films, the fact that Ian Flemming had involvement with “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” also captured the attention of men.  Here is a film that showcased aero-engined race cars, cars that were literally forgotten but yet brought back into film in a musical.  And similar to how the Aston Martin DB5 caught the eyes of James Bond fans in the 1964  film “Goldfinger”, the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car caught the eyes of children with its ability to fly and float in water, part of the fantasy that kids loved about the film back then.

But as I watched this film for the first time in probably 30+ years since I saw it as a child, I felt the film was quite sugar sweet.  I mean that in a good way as in cute, pure, fun and very innocent.

Dick Van Dyke similar to his role in “Mary Poppins” four years earlier, he can dance and he can sing and actress Sally Ann Howe was absolutely beautiful in this film, as with her vocals that probably what I recognized the most about this film. She can sing!  It helps that Van Dyke is paired with the songwriting duo, Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman (who wrote the music for “Mary Poppins”) and this collaboration brings some of that “Mary Poppins” style of magic to “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”.

But what I found so sugary sweet and innocent are the children.  These kids are very cute and well-behaved it appears in the film and you can tell that they were comfortable and enjoying themselves.  But when they start bursting into song as they look at Truly and starting singing “You’re truly truly scrumptious.  Scrumptious as a cherry peach parfait.  When your near us.  It’s so delicious.”

It’s so cute, so sweet but at the same time, I couldn’t get over the name “Truly Scrumptious” given to the main female lead.  But I suppose in the ’60s it would be fine, otherwise if the name was used in a modern film, I doubt it would be used for a pure and sweet woman like the character played by Sally Ann Howes.  Needless to say, casting nailed it down with the hiring of these two children as they were perfectly cast for the film and it was good to know (from the special features included) that Sally Ann Howe was very close with the children and spent a lot of time with them on the set, especially those long hours of waiting on the set (Howe was a child actress and knew how lonely it was to be a child at a set, so she wanted to make sure the kids felt comfortable and it shows on film).

As for the Blu-ray release, 20th Century Fox has done a magnificent job thus far with “The Sound of Music” and a solid job with “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”.  It would have been nice to see the same dedication that they have given to “The Sound of Music” for this classic film.  It would have been great to hear an audio commentary as many people on the cast are still alive.  It would have been great to get everyone together after all these years for a featurette.  That is what made “The Sound of Music” release so special, 20th Century Fox went beyond what many people expect for a Blu-ray release and literally hit a grand slam in picture quality, audio quality and special features.  Although not released on Blu-ray, Disney did the same for the “Mary Poppins” DVD release.  Unfortunately, we don’t see Sally Ann Howe or the children now grown up but we do get Dick Van Dyke reminiscing about the film, as well as some vintage audio and video.

In the end “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” is a good musical for the entire family.  Not necessarily my favorite family musical and it is a bit too sweet for my taste, but I did enjoy the film for its fantasy elements and the fact that you have a wonderful collaboration with Van Dyke and the Sherman Brothers, showcasing Sally Ann Howe’s beautiful voice and also featuring a well-done performance by the children of the film.

Although not a release with the bells and whistles in terms of special features, it’s still a solid Blu-ray release and you also get a DVD version of the film included for those long commutes during the Christmas holiday.

It’s important to note that there are two versions available for this release, the DVD+Blu-ray version and the Blu-ray+DVD version.  The main difference is the DVD+Blu-ray version comes in a DVD-style of case, while the Blu-ray version comes in a blue Blu-ray case.  But they are essentially the same release  and come with both Blu-ray and DVD disc, just a different case is featured.

Overall, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” is a a classic MGM musical which contains action, humor, entertaining music and fun for the entire family!  “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” receives a wonderful Blu-ray release just in time to celebrate the film’s 42-year anniversary.  Recommended!

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