Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

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Our fine four-fendered friend!

Having noted the success of Disney's Mary Poppins, its 1964 Edwardian Era Musical, Metro Goldwyn Mayer sought three years later to re-establish its position as the leading purveyor of musical films by hiring The Sherman Brothers, the same song-writing team that had scored Poppins, to adapt another period piece into a big-budget musical extravaganza. The result was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang .

Caractacus Potts (an English inventor with an American accent played by Dick Van Dyke) rebuilds an old wreck of a race-car and makes a few slight improvements, such as giving it the ability to sail and to fly. With his kids, grandfather and the beautiful daughter of a candy mogul, Caractacus travels to the distant, vaguely mitteleuropäisch land of Vulgaria (location shooting for the film version was done around the Bavarian castle of Neuschwanstein and in the medieval town of Rothenburg-ob-der-Tauber), where they get in trouble with the country's Evil Aristocrat leaders who hate children, but like their car (hey, it's better than a Lada). Naturally, they steal both.

The book it's based on was written by Ian Fleming. Yes, that Ian Fleming. The movie itself was directed by Albert Broccoli of the same fame. Gert Fröbe, who played the Baron, also played Auric Goldfinger. Benny Hill was the Toymaker. Oh, and the screenwriter was Roald Dahl. Seriously, you can't make this stuff up.

Tropes used in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang include:
  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Under the castle.
  • Accidental Aiming Skills: The Baron tries to shoot his own wife when she gets launched into the air and held up with a Parachute Petticoat under the pretense he's trying to help her down. But he does succeed in popping her dress and having her land safely, much to his disappointment.
  • Ad Break Double Take: The Intermission is followed by a replay of the scene preceding it.
  • All Just a Dream: All the parts with Vulgaria and the car flying (except the very end) are a story Potts tells to his children while on a date with Truly.
    • Except in the stage musical, where we are expected to believe all this really happened.
    • Of course this introduces the Fridge Logic of how a mundane Chitty can fly at the very end if the rest was made up. What is the point of All Just a Dream if it there is no consistency?
  • Amphibious Automobile
  • Anachronism Stew: The Baron's army includes knights in greathelms, Napoleonic cavalry, and late 19th-century riflemen. In what is, by best estimate, no earlier than 1913, and might actually be the 1920s.
    • Also, the costuming is definitely Edwardian, but the steamship, the zeppelin and the cars could conceivably be from the 1930s.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Baron and Baroness Bomburst, the leaders of Vulgaria.
    • Though averted hard with Truly Scrumptious, who is, well...
      • And played with in the case of her father, Lord Scrumptious, who comes across initially as a right bastard, but turns out to be Grandpa Pott's old commanding officer and a much nicer guy than he appeared.
  • Artistic License Physics: Yeah, yeah, we know, but... Two relatively small fabric wings and a pair of drone-sized rotors are not going to support a ton and a half of motorcar.
  • Attack! Attack! Retreat! Retreat!: The lone Vulgarian foot soldier following behind the cavalry, when the gates close behind him.
  • Auto Kitchen: Caractacus Potts has a Rube Goldberg Device breakfast-making machine as one of his many household inventions.
  • Awful Wedded Life: How the Baron seems to view his marriage to the Baroness, even though (other than her neurosis about aging, apparent dimness, and a certain moral flexibility about the fate of children) she doesn't seem to be all that bad and is quite devoted to him.
  • Bang Bang BANG: The tiny cannons Bomburst's forces use all make booming noises quite out of proportion to their size.
  • The Baroness: The Baroness.
    • Unlike most examples, this Baroness is in fact an actual baroness. She is married to a baron and lives in the capital of a barony.
  • Black Humor: Toward the end of the film, several characters are thrown into the lake near Neuschwanstein Castle. If you know the history of Neuschwanstein (there were several tragic drownings in that lake), this is a lot darker.
  • Blush Sticker: Truly and Caractacus wear small red circular stickers on their cheeks as part of their doll disguises during the Baron's birthday party.
  • Brick Joke: On the way back to Vulgaria, the two spies are thrown off the zeppelin when Baron Bomburst tries to lighten it. Later, we see the spies having swum all the way back, but because the Vulgarian people are fighting at the castle, they head back into the water to swim away.
  • Building Is Welding: The children peer in a window at one point to see Caractacus doing some welding on Chitty's frame early in the process of rebuilding it.
  • Bungling Inventor: Caractacus.
  • Car Song: The theme tune.
  • Child-Hater: Having been invented by Roald Dahl, Vulgaria naturally has its whole culture built (very illogically) around this. It's not a Country of Hats, though, because it came about only because of the Baroness' neurosis and is imposed on an unwilling population.
  • Childless Dystopia: Vulgaria.
  • Chroma Key: Used to make Chitty fly. You can see blue matte lines in some shots, especially around Jeremy and Jemima's hair and inside the see-through trim on Truly's hat.
  • Cliff Hanger: Chitty plunging off the White Cliffs of Dover just before the Intermission.
  • Cold Equation: Played for Laughs when the crew of the Baron's airship have to jettison excess weight in order to carry Grandpa's hut back to Vulgaria. (This occurs during Grandpa's song "Posh!".) After exhausting everything not critical to the airship's function, they toss the two spies overboard. (Non-fatally -- the spies manage to swim back to Vulgaria just in time to see the Baron overthrown.)
  • Cool Airship: The baron's "zeppelin" (actually a blimp) has a pretty cool design.
  • Cool Boat: Chitty can float as well as fly. (Although technically, sea-going Chitty is a hovercraft.)
  • Cool Car: Guess...
  • Counterpoint Duet: "Truly Scrumptious/Doll on a Music Box" during the Baron's birthday party.
  • Crapola Tech: Caractacus has this problem with his inventions; it was so bad that it went all the way through and out the other side to being good for his "toot sweets", which became edible dog whistles.
  • Creation Sequence: A montage of scenes showing Caractacus's actions -- often idiosyncratic and sometimes apparently silly -- during Chitty's reconstruction.
  • Creator Backlash: For many years, Heather Ripley, who played Jemima, never talked about the movie because her parents divorced during its making and she blamed the film for it. However, her attitude towards this movie has become fonder now.
  • Dawson Casting: Truly Scrumptious was supposed to be in her twenties, though Sally Ann Howes was in her mid-thirties when she took the part.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The Vulgarian villagers.
  • The Ditz: One gets the impression that the Baroness is more than a little dim; it's entirely possible that the ramifications of the anti-child law -- ranging from the implied murder of children to the extinction of the Vulgarian population in a single generation -- simply never occurred to her.
  • Driving Into a Truck: Lord Scrumptious is captured by being tricked, Looney Tunes-style, into driving up into the back of a truck.
  • Dystopian Edict: The Bombursts' law against children.
  • Eagle Land:

Spy 1: But I can speak English and still be Vulgar(ian).
Spy 2: That would make you an American.

  • The Edwardian Era
  • Ejection Seat: When Baron Bomburst commands Grandpa to make the eponymous car fly, Grandpa presses a button at random that sends the Baroness shooting skyward out of her seat. (See Parachute Petticoat, below.)
  • English Rose: Truly Scrumptious.
  • Failed a Spot Check: The children failing to notice that the candyman was the Child Catcher in a brightly-colored robe with a ribbon on his hat.
    • Everyone at the party who failed to notice little things like manacles being snapped around their ankles.
  • Fantastic Ghetto: The sewers in which the children are sequestered.
  • Fatal Method Acting: Narrowly averted. Robert Helpmann's dancing reflexes saved him when he was riding the Child Catcher's carriage and it turned on its side too quickly. Helpmann leapt off in time, amazingly unharmed.
  • Finish Dialogue in Unison: Grandpa Potts recounts one of his stories from India, saying "I got up this morning and I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he..." and his son Caractacus, with his two children, Jeremy and Jemima, finish the joke for him: "...ever got in my pajamas I shall never know." Grandpa nonchalantly replies, "You've heard it before." And everyone laughs.
  • Flying Car: Chitty, obviously.
    • Furthermore it's at least ten years before the invention of the first reliable helicopter, and yet Chitty has vertical propellers!
      • Chitty is an autogyro, not a helicopter.
  • Food Fight: Makes up a fair amount of the first stage of the rebellion against the Baron.
  • Gainax Ending: The ending has the Caractacus and Truly fly off in the car. Despite it already being revealed the car only had the ability to do that in the dream sequence.
  • Genre Adultery: Based on a children's book written by a man famous for gritty spy novels.
  • Gentleman Adventurer: Played with. Grandpa Potts thinks he's this trope, but he's really just insane.
    • More likely just eccentric, he never seems to take it seriously beyond the cosplay.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress
  • Have a Gay Old Time: "You'll find a slight squeeze on the hooter an excellent safety precaution, Miss Scrumptious."
  • Homemade Inventions: Caractacus's various devices. Some of the fun of them is noticing where he repurposed existing things -- like silverware -- to make parts for them.
  • Hubcap Hovercraft: Chitty's amphibious mode, which appears to be a genuine hovercraft.
  • Inferred Holocaust: Unusually, in the Backstory of the movie: It's never explicitly specified what the law against children was going to do about any children already in existence, but the very fact that their parents hid them away suggests that a "Massacre of the Innocents" was in the offing. Worse, that was by no measure an entire barony's usual population of tweens and teens living under the castle, even given how small Vulgaria seems to be -- they are likely to be the survivors of an initial purge of children from the barony.
    • And afterward: The youngest children hidden under the castle are perhaps 10 or 12, which tallies with the Toymaker's line that the Bombursts' law against children was passed a decade or so earlier. Even assuming that the villagers took turns caring for them, how many infants died during the first months or years of their exile? What happened that no children younger than 10 or 12 are in evidence? It's unlikely that an entire barony has chosen celibacy for over a decade -- so what happened to any babies born in that time? Or worse, any women who got pregnant?
  • Intermission
  • Invasion of the Baby Snatchers: The Child Catcher, and more generally the Baron himself.
  • It Will Never Catch On: Among Caractacus's not-quite-working inventions are a prototype television and a vacuum cleaner.
  • Just Train Wrong: There is a brief shot of a train from the Great Western Railway. Except it's not, it's actually a rather poorly-disguised World War II-era "Austerity tank".
  • Let X Be the Unknown: One of the spies goes by the codename of "X". His superiors get confused and think they are speaking to Rex or Tex.
  • Mad Scientist: Not merely Caractacus himself (who, as his father says, is "Eccentric -- definitely eccentric. Can't think where he gets it from!"), but also a collection of (rather grotesque) inventors forced by the Baron to work on a supercar for himself.
    • At least one of them was just a telephone repair guy whom the baron kidnapped.
  • Magic Bus: Chitty.
  • Man Child: Baron Bomburst, ironically.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: Believe it or not, Robert Helpmann, who played the terrifying Child Catcher, was extremely kind, especially towards the children.
  • Meaningful Name: Caractacus Potts. Dick Van Dyke himself once said it was just a long form for "crackpot".
    • Lampshaded in the case of Truly Scrumptious with the song that bears her name. ("By coincidence, Truly Scrumptious, you're truly, truly scrumptious.")
    • In-Universe, "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" is a descriptive name born of the sounds the car makes. (On the meta-level, it came from "Chitty Bang Bang", the name of several real race cars of the era, which was obscene (for the time) World War I slang about what soldiers do when they get their leave chits.)
  • Mr. Starship: Chitty. But this instance of the trope is not so much the fault of the audience as it is the fault of the main characters who endow Chitty as a character themselves. One may notice that the characters only take it so far; for example, they never refer to Chitty as 'he,' only as 'it.'
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: C'mon now? Bomburst? (Not to mention "Vulgaria"?)
    • Kids, NEVER TAKE SWEETS FROM A STRANGER, PARTICULARLY IF THAT STRANGER IS CALLED THE CHILDCATCHER.
  • Never Say "Die": It's never explicitly specified what the law against children intended to be done about the children already in the country, but given that their parents took the risk of hiding them all away under the Baron's castle, it's safe to assume they weren't going to be escorted to the border and given homes in the next country over.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Herod: The Bombursts' law banning children only results in the children being hidden and learning survival skills that aid them in overthrowing the Bombursts years later.
  • No OSHA Compliance: The Scrumptious candy factory doesn't have handrails and has some of the boiling vats of sugar sitting on the edges...
  • The Nose Knows: The Childcatcher's huge nose lets him track people's scent.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Dick Van Dyke is in a movie set in England with English actors playing the other members of his family and he still uses his American accent. Of course, we all know what happened the last time he attempted a British accent.
  • Of Corsets Sexy: The Baroness
  • Oh Crap: At first, the children when they realize the Childcatcher has joined the battle. But then the Childcatcher himself when he realizes he's outnumbered.
  • Old-Timey Bathing Suit: Caractacus and the children, at the beach.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Liberally sprinkled throughout the second half of the film and always successful: The Pottses' and Truly's disguises as jacks-in-the-box, followed by the Child Catcher's disguise as a candyman, and finally Caractacus and Truly disguised as a marionette and a doll.
  • Parachute Petticoat: Happens to the Baroness when she is launched from Chitty's Ejector Seat.
  • Parenting the Husband: Baron and Baroness Bomburst. She buys the man toys, for God's sake, and coos over him as if he were a precocious, temperamental infant. (Which, admittedly, he totally acts like.)
  • Percussive Maintenance: When the giant music box that is given to the Baron as a gift for his birthday doesn't start up correctly, a swift kick from Caractacus gets it started again. Possibly a choreographed part of the whole performance, though, and thus a subversion.
  • Perfectly Cromulent Word: "Phantasmagorical". Which is, in fact, a real if somewhat obscure word that hasn't been in common usage since the 19th century.
  • Playing Gertrude: Lionel Jeffries, who plays Grandpa Potts, was actually six months younger than Dick Van Dyke.
  • Plunger Detonator: Complete with the Looney Tunes gag of the detonator exploding instead of the dynamite.
  • Prophetic Names: With an surname like Scrumptious is it any wonder Truly Scrumptious's father went into sweet production?
  • Punny Name: Truly Scrumptious
    • Also, Caractacus (say it really fast, and drop the "acus") Potts.
      • Possibly Lampshaded when Caractacus asks his children if they believe he's a crackpot.
      • Definitely Lampshaded when he admits to Truly that it's a silly name.
    • Ironically, despite Fleming's penchant for women with Punny Names in his Bond novels, Truly Scrumptious was invented by Roald Dahl. Lord "Skrumshus" didn't have a daughter in the novel.
  • Pushed in Front of the Audience: Mr. Potts at the fair lets this happen when he realizes it will hide him from the angry customer to whom he just gave a horrible haircut.
  • Recursive Adaptation: There was a Novelization by John Burke of the movie, scripted by Roald Dahl from the original book by Ian Fleming, since the movie script wasn't really close to the original at all. In it, all the scenes in Vulgaria are more explicitly said to be Potts' fantasies due to his inability to cope with the loss of his wife.
  • Right Under Their Noses: The villagers of Vulgaria hide their children in the subcellars and sewers under the Baron's castle.
  • Road Runner vs. Coyote: The sequence where the Vulgarian spies are trying to capture Chitty.
  • Robot Girl: Truly masquerades as one as part of the plan to overthrow the Bombursts.
  • Rube Goldberg Device: Pretty much everything in the Potts Household is set up this way, by Caractacus himself.
  • Running Gag: Truly ends up in a boggy pond whenever she's driving by the Pottses.
  • Ruritania: Vulgaria.
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: There's a reason he called the Childcatcher, His nose knows.
  • Sentient Vehicle: Chitty. First there's its "autopilot" mode while flying to Vulgaria. And then it drives itself into the castle to rescue the Pottses and Truly (and Grandpa).
  • Sesquipedalian Smith: Caractacus Potts.
  • Shipper on Deck: Jeremy and Jemima work very hard to get their dad Caractacus together with Truly.
  • Shout-Out: During breakfast, Grandpa Potts tells everyone "I got up this morning, and I shot an elephant in my pajamas.", making everyone say in unison "How it ever got into my pajamas, I shall never know."
  • Sickeningly Sweethearts: Played with. The lyrics and tempo of "Chu-Chi Face" make it sound like the Baron and Baroness are this trope. But throughout the song, the Baron makes repeated attempts to kill her while she (mostly) seems to remain oblivious.
  • Sinister Schnoz: The Child-Catcher.
  • The Sixties: The original novel was set in early-60s Britain, with the eponymous car being a vintage barn-find Caractacus bought because neither he nor anyone else in the Potts family wanted to be the twelfth family on the block with a black Morris Minor.
    • (May possibly be The Fifties combined with Did Not Do the Research: A highway mentioned early in the novel did not exist until the 1960s, but Fleming may not have known that.)
  • Spoiled Brat: The Baron, a rare adult version.
  • Spy Tux Reveal: When first deployed, the Vulgarian spies shuffle out of the water still wearing the ship's funnel disguises they wore on the baron's ship, and pull them off to reveal completely dry clothing underneath.
  • Steampunk: The movie has a steampunk sensibility, but Chitty is a 20th century gasoline-powered vehicle, and the mood is the very opposite of "punk". The novel is set in the 1960s and is definitely not steampunk.
    • The setting is still not "punk" but Dieselpunk might be a closer match for Chitty herself.
  • Swing Low, Sweet Harriet: Truly on her garden swing. Rrrrowrrr...
  • Those Magnificent Flying Machines: Chitty and the Baron's blimp. Early in the film, Caractacus attempts to build a set of rocket wings, as well. Epic Fail.
  • Thrown From the Zeppelin: Happens literally to the two spies when they need to lighten the load on the baron's zeppelin.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The children are told point blank about the Child Catcher, ordered to stay put, and not to go outside no matter what...and they still go running after him with the call of sweets in hand.
    • The worst of it is that they had seen the Child Catcher before and yet they were fooled by his Paper-Thin Disguise.
  • Trap Door: Baron Bomburst tries to dispose of his wife through one.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: The baron and Baroness.
  • Vehicle Title: If you don't know by now...
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The episode of the two spies dressed as "English gentlemen" may be based on a World War II story in which two German spies were apprehended in the fen-country of Norfolk because (having been misled by P. G. Wodehouse and other similar English authors) they had attempted to pass as Englishmen by wearing spats and top-hats, both unsuitable to the terrain and hopelessly out of fashion by the 1940s.
    • Caractacus is reputed to be partially based on Henry Leland.
    • Chitty itself is based on several actual early race cars which all bore the name "Chitty Bang Bang". See the trivia page for a bit more information.
  • Villain Love Song: "You're my little chuchi face!".
  • We Don't Need Roads: This might actually be the Ur Example of this trope. The major premise was basically "Check out this car: it can fly."
  • Yes-Men: The baron's advisers/court is made up entirely of these.
  • Zeppelins from Another World: One of the signs that we're in the fantasy world of Caractacus's story is the extremely fanciful design of the Vulgarian "zeppelin" (which is actually a blimp, as it does not possess a rigid frame supporting and defining the gas bag).