Thursday, May 21, 2009

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)

Dick Van Dyke, Sally Ann Howes, Doll on a Music Box, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
One of my favorite musicals as a child was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Besides its great song, the movie also stars Dick Van Dyke, who makes any movie with his slap-stick antics and wacky facial expressions.

The film follows Van Dyke as inventor Caractacus Potts.1 His children implore him to purchase an old junk racer and fix it up. Thus Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (the car) is born. The children's wild antics lead him to a adversarial/loving relationship with the wealthy Truly Scrumptious.2 The car however draws the attention of Baron Bomburst, ruler of the barony of Vulgaria.3 The Baron mistakenly kidnaps Grandpa Potts, and the quartet of heroes is forced to rescue him.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Roses of Success
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is largely successful because of its songs. The only unfortunate songs in the film are its ballads "Hushabye Mountain" and "Lovely Lonely Man." These songs contain the sort of saccharine sweetness of songs like "Feed the Birds (Tuppence a Bag)" from Mary Poppins and, in my opinion, have no place in a fun musical. However, songs like "Chu-Chi Face" wherein the Baron tries to kill his Baroness, "Toot Sweets," and "The Roses of Success" work to cover the mistake of those two songs.

Though the Baroness is clearly a villain in the film, her only real crime is desiring a land without children, a position with which I can sympathize. Of course, her desire to be rid of children may be due to the childish antics of her husband, who she loves dearly anyway.4 The comical nature of the villains and the cheery songs makes Chitty Chitty Bang Bang an overall enjoyable film from my childhood that I still enjoy today.

Gert Fröbe, Anna Quayle, Chu-chi Face, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Notes:
1. It's a pun you see, Caratacus Potts --> Crack Pot... Very clever naming in this film.
2. Played by Sally Ann Howes. Of course, this name is another pun. Truly Scrumptious in addition to being an absolute delight is also the daughter of a confectioner.
3. Yet another pun! Vulgaria --> Vulgar. Oh what piquant wit. Bomburst is either a reference to bombs bursting, as the Baron has an explosive temper, or a pun on "bombastic" which also fits with his personality. The Baron is superbly portrayed by Gert Fröbe.
4. The Baron and Baroness Bomburst almost have a Al and Peg Bundy type relationship, where she is a relatively attractive woman whose plain husband has no desire for her.

1 comment:

OTTAWABILL said...

funny the way you put that about the Baron and his wife...I have two groups on Yahoo..one for Anna Quayle..the Baroness and the other for Peggy Bundy....Maybe it's how their respective hubbys hate them that I liked their wives?? But damn..the Baron tries at ever turn to kill a hot beauty who really does love him...what a moron..