Dick Van Dyke, Sally Ann Howes, Lionel Jeffries, Gert Fröbe, Anna Quayle, Benny Hill, James Robertson Justice, Robert Helpmann, Heather Ripley, Adrian Hall
Ian Fleming (novel), Roald Dahl, Ken Hughes
Enter a world of great adventure.
Let your imagination take flight with one of the most wonderful family films of all time! Dick Van Dyke will take you on an incredible ride in an extraordinary car called Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Experience the timeless Oscar nominated classic in an all new definitive special edition that boasts an array of extras as magical as the film itself.
Aspect Ratio: 2.20:1
English DTS-HD MA 7.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French DTS 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
German DTS 5.1
Italian DTS 5.1
Russian DTS 5.1
Castilian Spanish DTS 5.1
Czech Dolby Stereo 2.0
Polish Dolby Digital 5.1
Thai Dolby Stereo 2.0
Runtime: 145 min.
Release Date: 11/2/2010
• “Music Machine”
• “Chitty Chitty’s, Bang Bang Driving Game”
• “Toot Sweet Toots Musical Maestro”
• “Remembering Chitty Chitty Bang Bang With Dick Van Dyke” Documentary
• “A Fantasmagorical Motorcar” Featurette
• Sherman Brothers Song Demos
• “The Ditchling Tinkerer” Featurette
• Original Dick Van Dyke Interview
• “The Potts Children” Featurette
• Photo Gallery
• Vintage Advertising Gallery
PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.
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Chitty Chitty Bang Bang [Blu-Ray] (1968)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 26, 2011)
Best known as the creator of James Bond, aka Mr. Kiss-Kiss, Bang-Bang - a character originally meant for adults - Ian Fleming tossed some sop to the kiddies with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Adapted into a popular film in 1968 by another successful author, Roald Dahl – along with director Ken Hughes - Chitty starts with a montage that shows a particular car as it wins one major early 20th century race after another. Eventually, it crashes and ends up junked. It almost winds up melted down, but little kids Jemima (Heather Ripley) and Jeremy (Adrian Hall) attempt to save it when they convince their wacky inventor father Caractacus Potts (Dick Van Dyke) to buy it.
Before this occurs, the kids meet a prissy young woman named Truly Scrumptious (Sally Ann Howes); she nearly runs down the children when they play in the road and then drives them home. She seems appalled that they aren’t in school and seeks to reprimand Caractacus. The pair butt heads, and Caractacus feels irate over her criticisms, though he starts to see her points.
Caractacus lacks the funds for the vehicle, but his failed inventions finally seem to pay off via some candies with holes in them. These whistle, which makes them endearing. Caractacus runs into obstacles when he attempts to sell them to a sweets manufacturer (James Robertson Justice), but some wheel greasing occurs when it turns out that Truly is this dude’s daughter. Initially it looks like Mr. Scrumptious will pursue the “Toot Sweets”, but a mishap undermines these efforts and leaves the Potts family back at square one.
However, when a carnival comes to the area, Caractacus tries to get back in the black with his automatic haircut machine. This fails, and when the victim of a miserable buzz pursues him, Caractacus ends up in a musical revue. This nets him some bucks, so he – finally – buys the car.
After a few days in the shop, Caractacus emerges with a radically revamped roadster. He takes the kids for a ride toward a picnic, and based on the car’s distinctive motor noise, they name it “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”. Along the way, they accidentally run Truly off the road. After a quick argument, she agrees to accompany them on their outing, and the foursome enjoy a happy day.
When a threat arises and the car ends up stuck in the sea, the group soon discovers its magic as it sprouts a raft and allows them to drive it across the water. Nasty Baron Bomburst (Gert Frobe) sees all this and decides he must acquire the car, so he sends his henchmen to pursue it. The remaining half of the film focuses on the two main plots: the burgeoning relationship between Caractacus and Truly as well as the attempts for Bomburst to land Chitty. The latter leads them on a chase out of the country and into some wild adventures.
Chitty seems to enjoy a nice reputation as a charming children’s’ fantasy, and indeed it does offer some likable elements. However, it seems less than successful as a whole, mainly due to its turgid pacing. Man, does this flick move slowly! Actually, that’s not totally true, as the movie picks up moderately during its second half. Most of the action occurs during that portion, so at least it improves as it progresses. The movie’s second hour seems considerably more entertaining and creative than its first.
Unfortunately, we must suffer through some genuinely dull elements. It takes the tale a full 48 minutes for Caractacus to actually buy the car, which is at least twice as long as it should have taken. We know he’s going to purchase the stupid thing, and I see no reason for the filmmakers to prolong the wait for so long. Sure, some of this sets up the characters, but we definitely don’t need 48 minutes to get the backstory on the Potts family and to launch the relationship between Caractacus and Truly.
That element offers another weakness. From their “meet cute” on, it seems ridiculously obvious that the pair will fall in love and she’ll become the new mother for Jemima and Jeremy. If the flick ever explained what happened to Mrs. Potts, I missed it. (I also couldn’t figure out what the decidedly American Caractacus was doing with a very British father and kids; maybe the missing Mrs. Potts was a Brit and gramps is her dad.) Van Dyke and Howe interact fairly well, though they don’t show tremendous chemistry. Nonetheless, the inevitability of their relationship means it lacks drama or much to interest us.
Much of the cast seems fine, and it indeed includes some talented performers. Unfortunately, the two main children create some sickly sweet moments. I usually find British child actors to seem more real and less cutesy than American ones, but that isn’t the case here. Ripley and Hall look like they came straight from some sugary ad campaign and make the flick a little cloying at times.
Personally, with Dahl behind the script, I hoped for something a bit edgier than Chitty and more along the lines of Willy Wonka. Some of that pops up, especially during the second half. Nonetheless, the film prefers to stay on the gentle side of the humor, so don’t expect a lot of bright wit here. The flick prefers cute and light over incisive and sharp.
One area in which Chitty excels relates to its production values. Veteran Bond production designer Ken Adam handles those chores here and he makes Chitty a wonder to watch. Most of the film’s inventiveness comes from those elements, and the movie adopts a nice storybook feel that helps involve us in the fantasy.
Interestingly, Chitty features other connections to James Bond. In addition to the authorship of Ian Fleming and the production design of Adam, Cubby Broccoli produced both, and we also see actors Gert “Goldfinger” Frobe and Desmond “Q” Llewelyn. I noticed other vets like production associate Peter Hunt as well, and I might have missed some others.
Ultimately, Chitty has its charms and provides some decent fantasy, but it just moves too darned slowly and features too little plot. For a film named after a car, we see awfully little of the titular vehicle, and the movie lacks focus. I may be in the minority, but I think Chitty offers a visually appealing but slow and only sporadically engaging flick.
The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A/ Audio B+/ Bonus B
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.20:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. I felt impressed by this terrific transfer.
Sharpness appeared consistently positive. Almost no instances of softness popped up during the film. Instead, the movie came across as nicely detailed and well defined, even in the wider shots. I noticed no issues connected to jagged edges or shimmering, and no edge enhancement seemed apparent. As for print flaws, these remained surprisingly absent. Nary a speck, mark or blemish ever emerged through the film’s 145 minutes.
Colors also provided a highlight of the movie. Given the various fantastic episodes, I expected some lively hues, and the transfer delivered. The image presented a nice variety of tones that looked quite vivid and dynamic. Blacks seemed deep and firm, without any problems connected to inkiness or a lack of depth. Shadows also were smooth and cleanly depicted, without excessive density or darkness. Ultimately, I found nothing about which I could complain in this clear and attractive picture.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang also presented a very positive DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack. While not up to modern standards, the film offered a soundfield that seemed very broad and encompassing for its era. Unsurprisingly, the forward domain dominated, and that area showed a wide auditory image. The side speakers demonstrated nice stereo delineation for the music, and effects helped create a good feeling of placement and movement. Elements panned smoothly and accurately. The surrounds added a nice sense of atmosphere, and they also presented solid activity when appropriate. The movie started with a vivid sequence, as race cars zoomed all around the spectrum, and other scenes contributed some fine expansion as well.
Audio quality showed its age at times but remained fairly positive. Dialogue mostly sounded natural and distinctive, though a little edginess occasionally emerged. Effects also showed some minor harshness at times, but those elements mostly came across as reasonably full and accurate. I noticed only a little distortion on occasion.
Music seemed a little heavy in the high-end realm and wasn’t tremendously deep, but the score and songs mostly appeared acceptably detailed and rich. Overall, the soundtrack of Chitty seemed more than satisfactory for an older flick.
How did the picture and sound of this Blu-Ray compare with those of the DVD from 2003? Both showed growth, especially in terms of the visuals. I thought the old DVD looked pretty good, but it couldn’t compare to the dazzling transfer on display here. I seriously doubt the film’s looked this good since 1968, and it might not even have been this impressive back then.
I thought the Blu-ray’s audio was a bit stronger than the DVD’s. Overall, I thought the quality was generally superior. The Blu-ray’s mix seemed a little more natural and pleasing. The Blu-ray didn’t offer a day and night difference, but I felt it provided the superior audio.
The Blu-ray mixed old and new components. I’ll mark Blu-ray exclusives with special blue print.
We get a sing-along element. This uses the subtitle stream to run the film’s lyrics along with the musical numbers. Of course, the regular English subtitles do this as well, but the “sing-along” highlights each word as it gets sung, which makes it more like a real karaoke feature.
In a similar vein, Music Machine lets you view solely the movie’s musical numbers. It allows you to check out the tunes individually or in one long 44-minute, 16-second package. That’s not a way I’d like to see them, but it’s an interesting option.
Two new games appear. Chitty Chitty’s Bang Bang Driving Game requires you to “steer” the car with your remote. This means you simply hit left or right to avoid obstacles. The game lasts maybe 60 seconds and is a snoozer.
Toot Sweet Toots Musical Maestro provides another game. It accompanies the film itself; six times during the flick, colored candy icons appear on screen, and you’re supposed to remember the order in which they’re lit. This is a simple memory game without much to make it effective, especially since it provided a counterintuitive display – well, at least for me.
The colored icons correspond to the colored buttons on the Blu-ray remote, but – at least on my Panasonic remote – they weren’t in the right places. This means that the red button is on the far left of the remote, but the red icon wasn’t in a corresponding spot. Perhaps this was an intentional attempt to make the game more challenging, but it just turned it into more of a chore.
After this we get a documentary called Remembering Chitty Chitty Bang Bang With Dick Van Dyke. In this 25-minute and 58-second piece, we get the usual mix of movie clips, behind the scenes materials, and interviews with Van Dyke. He provides a general discussion of his take on the film and discusses topics like his dancing, the special effects, working with others, and various production elements. The tone remains cheerful and focused totally on the happy side of things, which makes “Remembering” a little banal as we just hear how much fun everything was. Still, Van Dyke tosses in enough good anecdotes and insightful mentions of trivia to make this worth a listen for fans of Chitty.
Another featurette shows up via A Fantasmagorical Motorcar. The nine-minute and 44-second piece uses the same combination of elements seen in the prior program; here we get notes from Pierre Picton, owner of the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang picture car. He goes over his involvement in the film and how he ended up with the vehicle. Picton also discusses car components, the different versions of it, and he gives us a closer look at the vehicle. It presents a moderately interesting examination of the car, as it lets us see the various elements in reasonably close detail.
An audio extra pops up with the Sherman Brothers Song Demos. These cover 14 tunes created for the movie. All told they last 30 minutes, 20 seconds, as we hear the Shermans play the numbers with just piano and voice accompaniment. This feature offers an interesting look at early versions of the songs.
Three vintage components arrive next. A featurette called The Ditchling Tinkerer runs 10 minutes, seven seconds and initially focuses on inventor Rowland Emett, the man who created the wacky inventions seen in the movie. This shows him at his home, where he takes ordinary objects and puts them together into new devices. It then concentrates more specifically on the pieces seen in the film. Those bits present some remarks from Emett as he goes through the pieces and his work. “Tinkerer” avoids too much blatant promotion and gives us a moderately entertaining examination of the flick’s inventions.
The eight-minute and 48-second Original Dick Van Dyke Interview presents a press occasion with the actor that occurred three weeks into the shoot. He addresses a few bland questions but gets some decent ones like a query about the “sad state” of American TV. (The more things change...) Van Dyke also gets into his other then-contemporary projects like Divorce American Style, and he goes over the demise of his TV show and his impressions of “mini-mini skirts.” Nothing incredibly revealing occurs, but it’s an intriguing snapshot of the era.
The last vintage element, The Potts Children featurette lasts three minutes, six seconds. It shows behind the scenes shots from the set and elsewhere and comes with narration mostly from then-young actor Heather Ripley. While we watch the kids in action, we hear superficial comments. It doesn’t offer much of interest and feels like the most blatant example of promotion among the vintage pieces.
The Vintage Advertising Gallery presents a mix of elements. It offers the film’s theatrical trailer as well as a French trailer. It also features five TV spots. Inside the Photo Gallery we find a collection of stills. The area includes 47 pictures in all. This combines publicity and behind the scenes shots for a moderately interesting package.
A second disc offers a Bonus DVD. This provides the same platter that came as Disc One from the 2003 2-DVD set.
I really wanted to like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and I respected some elements of the production. However, the movie seems too tedious and free from plot to become anything truly winning. It looks good but doesn’t offer much beyond an attractive exterior. The Blu-ray boasts stunning picture and very good audio plus some light but moderately interesting extras. Though I’m not wild about the movie, its presentation means that I definitely recommend this release to fans. I can’t imagine Chitty will ever look or sound much better than it does here.
To rate this film, visit the original Special Edition review of CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG