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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

October 30th, 2010

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - Blu-ray / DVD Combo - Buy from Amazon: DVD Case or Blu-ray Case

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is coming out this week on a Blu-ray / DVD combo pack. The film is based on a book by Ian Fleming, who of course created James Bonds. Now try watching the movie without the James Bond theme song in your head. This is a movie that was made in 1968 and even films made 15 or 20 years ago can look less than impressive on Blu-ray, so the real question is... Shouldn't the name Chitty Chitty Bang Bang have some punctuation in the name? That's been bugging me all day. ... Moving on...

The Movie

Beginning in 1907 at the Grand Prix de France, and then switching to the 1908 Grand Prix Deutschland, and then the British Gran Prix the following year. We watch several big races and car 3 wins them all, or it would have, had it not been forced to swerve out of the way of a little girl and her dog, which results in a fiery crash. No one is hurt, but the car is totaled.

The next year the car is lying in a front yard of Coggin's Garage, with two young kids, Jeremy and Jemima, pretending there are in a race. However, while they are playing, the junk man offers to buy the car as scrap metal from Mr. Coggins. Yes, Mr. Coggins is played by Desmond Llewelyn, a.k.a., Q. I dare you to watch this movie without the James Bond theme running through your head. It's just not possible.

Anyhoo, Jeremy and Jemima are horrified by the thought of their beloved car being melted down, so they get Mr. Coggins to agree not to sell the car if their father will buy it for the same price, 30 Bobs, which calculated into today's money would be 47 Sams and an Albert. So excited by the prospect, they race home and are almost his by a car. The driver is Truly Scrumptious, who asks why they are not in school and drives them home with the intent of telling their father, Caractacus Potts, what happened. Their meeting isn't exactly amicable, as Caractacus is quite short with Truly and is offended that she would dare tell him how to raise his kids.

In need of money to buy the car, Caractacus decides to sell his latest invention, a whistling candy, to the Scrumptious Sweet Company... who is owned by Lord Scrumptious... Truly's father. However, instead of doing what he expects, Truly acts as a champion for him and tries to convince her father to buy the treats. But to no avail. (It was going so well, till all of the dogs showed up.) A couple attempts later, including one that reminds me of the flowbee, and he has the money. It takes a while to fix the car, but when he has, he takes his kids, and Truly, out for a picnic on the beach. While there he tells them the story of Baron Bomburst, the evil ruler of Vulgaria, who once captured a daring spy and threatened him with a giant laser.

"Do you expect me to talk?"
"No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die."

It's impossible, I tell you.

(It gets worse when Benny Hill shows up as the Toymaker, because then you have the James Bond Theme and "Yakety Sax" battling for supremacy inside your head.)

As you can probably tell by the tone of my review, I'm having a fun time writing this. This is because I'm having a fun time watching this movie. Granted, a lot of that has to do with nostalgia, and there is some question as to how well it will translate for kids who will be seeing it for the first time when it comes out on Blu-ray this week. The special effects are obviously old-fashioned, but still retain a high level of charm despite this, or perhaps because of this. There are several catchy song and dance numbers, but this should surprise no one, as the music was done by The Sherman Brothers.

On the other hand, the film is long, nearly two-and-a-half hours, while the romantic sub-plot does slow things down at times, but it is still a fun adventure.

The Extras

There are many extras on the Blu-ray starting with a sing-along version of the song, there's a memory game you can play during the film, plus you can watch just the songs if you want. There's a short driving game, a very short game. Dick Van Dyke sits down for a 25-minute long interview / retrospective, there's a 10-minute look at the original Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which still tours. There is a 30-minute demo real with The Sherman Brothers. There are a trio of archival featurettes, including a 10-minute featurette on Rowland Emett, the man who made many of the prop inventions; there's an old interview with Dick Van Dyke; and finally a behind-the-scenes featurette with Heather Ripley and Adrian Hall, who played Jemima and Jeremy. There is also an image gallery and some vintage trailers.

The technical presentation for the film is immaculate, especially for a movie that is more than 40 years old. The studio has taken great care to make sure the video looks as clean as it can. In fact, I would bet it hasn't looked this good since its first theatrical run. The audio as been upgraded to a 7.1 surround sound track, and it is worth it. It still has the look of a 1960s British film, but that has more to do with the style, not the transfer.

The two-disc set also includes the DVD, with a sing-along version of the movie. All this for just under $20 on Amazon.com, which would be an acceptable price for shovelware. Not all of the new extras are overwhelming (the games are kind of "meh" though I do appreciate the effort) but this is certainly good value for the money and worth the upgrade.

One final note, the two editions are identical, except for the case.

The Verdict

I hear there are plans to remake Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I'm quite sure it will have better special effects, but I'm quite sure it won't have the same charm. If you own the film on DVD, then theBlu-ray / DVD Combo Pack is worth the upgrade. If you liked seeing it as a kid, or have kids of the right age, it's worth picking up.


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