Wow, it's been a long, long time since I've seen this. I'm talking about a time when I actually used to believe this was a sequel to Mary Poppins. Seriously, I was so mad that they had recast the role of Mary Poppins with Sally Ann Howes! Sure, admitting that makes me sound like an idiot, but my younger self could sense the Dick Van Dyke and Sherman Brothers (who wrote the music for Mary Poppins) connection. Now that I'm old enough to know better, I'm actually surprised by a completely different connection. James Bond. That's right! Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (the book) was originally written by 007's creator, Ian Fleming. The film was also produced by Albert Broccoli, the long-time producer of the Bond franchise. The film also stars two Bond film legends, Desmond Llewelyn who played Q and Gert Fröbe who played Auric Goldfinger. Anna Quayle even starred in the non-canon Bond spoof Casino Royale. Crazy, huh?
Besides all the amazing realizations washing over me this time around, I was swept away by the "fantasmagorical" adventure unfolding on screen. I'm telling you, the Sherman Brothers really outdid themselves when they cooked up the songs for this one. Fast and slow, wacky and meaningful, each song is insanely catchy. The stellar choreography that accompanies the music also proves that Dick Van Dyke is a dancing machine. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang isn't without its faults, though. My main complaint is that it's rather indulgent in its length. It could actually be two films, one comprised of reality and the other running wild with fantasy. Another idiot moment for me is admitting that when I was a kid I thought the entire last half of the film actually happened - flying cars and all. Instead, it's all just part of a story that Caractacus Potts (Dick Van Dyke) is telling his children to kill some time. Wow. If there's one thing that still stands true from when I was a kid, it's that my fear of the Child Catcher (Robert Helpmann) was not overblown. His lollipops will haunt my dreams forever.
If you'd like to re-visit this film, or experience it for the first time, you can find it here at the Franklin County Library!