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DVD Review

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang


Starring: Dick Van Dyke, Sally Ann Howes and Lionel Jeffries
Twentieth Century Home Entertainment
RRP: £2.99
Certificate: U
Available 25 February 2008

Caractacus Potts is an eccentric inventor who rescues an old racing car from the scrap heap and turns it into an amazing flying car. For the car's maiden voyage, Potts takes his family to the beach for a picnic. Here he starts to tell his two children a story about them and their new car, which can float on water and fly. The tale takes them to the mystical land of Vulgaria, where Baron Bomburst is intent on having the car for himself. Can the Potts escape before the Baron imprisons them?...

Set at the turn of the 20th century, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a classic Hollywood movie that was released in 1968. Based on the book by James Bond author Ian Fleming, the movie's script was written by Roald Dahl and Ken Hughes (who also directed).

The basic story, for those who've been living in a cave for the last 40 years, follows an eccentric inventor, Caractacus Potts, and his two children. When an old racing car, which the Potts children have been playing on in the local scrap merchants, is sold the children nag their father to buy the car. He brings it home and lovingly restores it, giving it a few bizarre modifications. The Potts children have also managed to befriend the beautiful daughter of the local sweet factory owner, Truly Scrumptious, and she comes along with them on the car's maiden voyage.

They name the car "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" because of the strange noises the engine makes, and head off to the beach. Here Caractacus starts to tell the children a story about pirates. The rest of the film shows the fantasy tale that Caractacus is making up as he goes along, and involves kidnapping, the car turning into a boat and a plane, and the children being kidnapped by an evil Baron - who wants the car for himself.

Notable guest stars include Gert Fröbe (who played Auric Goldfinger in Goldfinger) as Baron Bomburst, Benny Hill as the Toymaker, James Robertson Justice as Lord Scrumptious, Desmond Llewellyn (better known as Q from the James Bond movies) as Coggins, Barbara Windsor, Stanley Unwin and Arthur Mullard.

Extras on disc one include A Fantasmagorical Motor Car (9 min 43 sec feature that interviews Pierre Picton the owner of Gen 11, who bought it from the film's producer, Albert R. Broccoli, in 1974. Picton worked on the movie, and this featurette provides some interesting information on the origins of the car); Vintage Advertising Gallery (various movie trailers and TV spots); and Sing-a-long (which puts up the words to the songs as you watch the movie, with the colour of the text changing as each word is sung. Not a great extra though, as the timing is far from perfect).

Disc two contains the following extras:

Remembering Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with Dick Van Dyke (26 min interview with Dick Van Dyke where he talks about all the other stars, as well as other things he can remember from the filming. Highlights include the fact that he states he was four years older than Lionel Jeffries (in reality he's six months older) who played his father; and his story about being mistaken for an extra while chatting with some of them during the shots for the opening scenes featuring the racing cars. The result was that he accidentally managed to end up on screen as an extra); Extract from 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang the Musical' (10 min ad for the West End musical and the subsequent musical's DVD release).

Then we have 3 x Vintage Featurettes: The Real Caractacus Potts (9 min 42 sec feature that looks at the man who created Potss's inventions - Rowland Emett the cartoonist and inventor); Dick Van Dyke Press Interview (8 min 26 sec interview with Van Dyke in the UK, conducted while filming was still going on. Highlights include him being asked what he thought of the new fashionable mini mini mini skirts in London; being asked what he missed most about US - his answer was hamburgers, which you couldn't buy in the UK at that time; and him being vocal about the ratings system in the US and how it should be scrapped for something better); and On Set with the Potts Children (3 min featurette with the two kid's talking about what filming on location was like).

There's also a Photo Gallery; Sherman Brothers' Demos (the Sherman Brothers' play and sing the songs); and several Fun & Games extras. These Fun & Games extras include Read-along (get your kids to read aloud the story, or read-along as the story progresses); One Person's Junk is Another Person's Jalopy (examine the blueprints and then search Potss's workshop for the right bits to create each invention); Toot Sweet Special Delivery (Flying in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, you must deliver sweets to the children below) Chitty Colouring Book (pop the DVD into your PC and print off various pictures that can be coloured in).

To be honest, I'm not entirely convinced that two discs were necessary for this release. I'm sure that everything would have fitted on the first disc, but there's no disputing that the disc producers really went to town to try and satisfy fans of the movie. And for a film that's 40 years old, it's amazing what they have managed to dig up - it certainly puts some of the more recent DVD releases, where there should be plenty of material on offer, to shame.

This DVD is being released as part of MGM's celebration of 90 year's of United Artists filmmaking, but as 20th Century Fox now owns the DVD division of MGM it's, rather confusingly, being released by Fox. This is the same DVD that has been previously released, there are no additional extras, and it's just one of a series of United Artists movies that are being relaunched with a new retail price, that starts from £2.99.

We're not quite sure of the exact price for this release - the PR company told us they didn't have information on the RRP for each release and, at the time this review went live, there were no online stores stocking this DVD at a reduced price. If you can pick this up for less than a fiver it's well worth it.


Darren Rea