CHITTY CHITTY BANG
CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG was a childhood favorite that I eagerly acquired when it was issued on Laserdisc in the widescreen format. Of course, I was equally eager to acquire the film on DVD, but for some odd reason the initial DVD release of CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG was in the dreaded pan and scan format, thus forcing me to avoid the disc like the plague. Even then, I knew that CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG would eventually be reissued on DVD in widescreen format, and fortunately, I still had my Laserdisc to tide me over until that glorious day would arrive. Although it has taken approximately five years, I am happy to report that MGM Home Entertainment has issued CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG ($30) in a two disc Special Edition that finally gives fans of this wonderful family film a beautiful widescreen presentation.
Based upon the book by Ian Fleming, CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG tells the story of the magical car created by eccentric inventor Caractacus Potts (Dick Van Dyke). Living with his two young children Jemima (Heather Ripley) and Jeremy (Adrian Hall), as well as his equally eccentric father (Lionel Jeffries), Caractacus spends his time trying to get his brilliant ideas to work as he envisioned. The children’s love for a rusting hulk, that was once a great racing car, is the impetus that leads Caractacus to meet beautiful candy company heiress Truly Scrumptious (Sally Ann Howes) and rebuild the rusted racer into a beautiful motorcar dubbed Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. What follows is an adventure in the Kingdom of Vulgaria, after the spoiled Baron Bomburst (Gert Fröbe) tries to acquire Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for his own. The cast of CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG also features legendary British comedian Benny Hill, as well as Anna Quayle, James Robertson Justice and Robert Helpmann.
MGM Home Entertainment has made CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG in a 2.20:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays (a pan and scan presentation is also included in the two-disc set, but will not be reviewed here). The widescreen transfer is absolutely marvelous, producing an image that is beautifully sharp and very nicely defined. Colors are generally strong and vibrant, although shots that contain special effects work appear less saturated than the main body of the film. Also, any shot with an optical effect, appears slightly softer than anything that remains unprocessed. There are no signs of chroma noise or bleeding of the more intense hues at any time during the presentation. Blacks appear accurate, whites are crisp and contrast is very smooth. Shadow detail is very good for a film from 1968, plus the picture produces a nice dimensional quality. Digital compression artifacts rarely become noticeable.
For this release, CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG has been upgraded to a Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. MGM has done a commendable job of transcribing the film’s multi-channel soundtrack into the newer digital format. The sound maintains the character of an older multi-channel mix, with the forward soundstage being dominant and the rears chiming in only occasionally. One notable exception, in which the rear channels are highly active, occurs during the pre-credit racecar sequence. In general, there is good channel separation across the forward soundstage, especially during musical number, which produce very nice stereo imaging. Speaking of the music, fidelity is very good for a vintage soundtrack, with everything sounding quite lovely when amplified. Dialogue is cleanly rendered and always understandable. French, Spanish and Portuguese language tracks are also provided on the DVD, along with English, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.
Animation and sound serves to enhance the interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplements that have been spread across both discs of this set. Disc one includes sing-a-long subtitles for the musical numbers, as well as a speak peek at the stage production of CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG playing in London and scheduled to hit Broadway. On disc two is the majority of the supplemental programming. Remembering Chitty Chitty Bang Bang With Dick Van Dyke is an eighteen-minute interview in which the actor shares his memories of the production. A Fantasmagorical Motorcar runs ten minutes and shows just what happed to the driving version of the car. Vintage featurettes from the film’s original theatrical release include The Ditchling Tinkerer, The Potts Children's Featurette and Dick Van Dyke Press Interview. Also included are original Sherman Brothers demo tapes for the film’s songs, two theatrical trailers, five TV spots and a photo gallery. The rest of the supplements are for the kiddies and include a read-along version of the story and a couple of interactive games.
CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG is indeed a treat that will certainly please longtime fans, now that is has been issued on DVD in its proper widescreen aspect ratio. The widescreen presentation looks and sounds marvelous, thus making the long wait worthwhile. With the addition of the supplements, the two-disc Special Edition of CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG becomes a must own DVD. Highly recommended.
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