Ignore the image above for a moment, and try to name the following movie from the 1960s: it’s written by Ian Fleming, it features car chases where the hero uses a tech-savvy vehicle, and has a megalomaniacal villain bent on conquest. Also: bizarre henchmen; foreign intrigue; and finally weird sexual tension but said mega-villain and his “Baroness” as they try to kill each other.
You could say any number of Bond films. And you would be wrong. I just described half the fucking plot of the 1968 proto-steampunk, kid-film extravaganza, Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang. Ian Fleming write the book that inspired the film but he died in 1964, so they needed another dude for the screenplay. They found none other than Roald Dahl, creator of Willy Wonka and other mind-bending stories for scaring kids in the proper British way.
So any other Bond linkages? Oh, my yes. The villain in 1964’s Goldfinger plays the villain here, Baron Bomburst of Vulgaria. Q, the beloved quartermaster of Bond’s gadgets, plays (with a sly wink and a nod) a junk dealer. The director of Casino Royale is here directing and co-writing. The producer on no less than 5 Bond films, Albert Broccoli, is also on staff.
Dahl plays fast and free with the book and adds his own style of wackadoo. Then we have famous English cartoonist, Rowland Emett, building the contraptions in Caractacus Pott’s house. His delicious Rube Goldberg-esque, steampunked madness earned him the title “the fantasticator.” Brit comedian and genial pervert Benny Hill plays it straight as a repressed toymaker. And the scariest villain is the Child-Catcher, an evil pied piper, with a ridiculous nose and a wicked dancing step who tricks the kids into prison (the actor was famous for playing bad guys, but was actually a professional stage dancer). The songs are horribly sappy, and I still remember them fondly from my own boyhood.
There’s even a stand-in for the Bond Girl: Truly Scrumptious, the PG version of Pussy Galore. Watch it with your kids, you’ll love it.