Radio 4, October 20, 2014, 4 p.m. (and then on iPlayer)
A look back at Ian Fleming’s story for children.
Writer and broadcaster Brian Sibley – whose adaptation of The Once and Future King is set to hit the airwaves on November 9th – loves Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the tale of a magical car; that becomes clear from his introduction to this fascinating short documentary which charts the creation of the story, the real life inspiration behind it, and its journey to the big screen. Want to know how the original Chitty Bang Bang derived its name? Or who had to make a model of the car before the book was published? The information is here, along with much else which may come as a surprise to even the most ardent Fleming-phile.
Sibley is helped in his quest for the truth about Chitty by Fleming’s nieces – including Survivors star Lucy Fleming – as well as the original illustrator John Burmingham, Ian Fleming’s bibliographer Jon Gilbert, and Richard M. Sherman, whose music, written with his brother Robert, brought Cubby Broccoli’s movie to life. There’s archive interviews too, with Fleming himself, and screenwriter Roald Dahl, and the story’s brought up to date with input from Frank Cottrell Boyce, who’s penned three sequels to the original (although you’d be pardoned for thinking there’s just the one from this).
A half-hour slot isn’t enough to investigate every nook and cranny of Chitty’s fifty years – there’s nothing about the comic strip version in the Daily Express (who were the publishers of the ongoing 007 strip), or the stage show which broke records at the London Palladium, or indeed the brilliant recipe for fudge which Fleming provides in the book (which I can still remember how to make from memory!) – but this is a lovely nostalgia trip, which is illustrated with clips from the movie as well as readings from the book. We’re reminded of some classic characters who didn’t make it to the film version, such as Joe the Monster and his black car, as well as the movie’s original creations, Truly Scrumptious and the Child Catcher – whose voice gave me goosebumps as I listened to this just as it scared the living daylights from me as a six year old first seeing the film!
Verdict: A cavalcade of delight, and a wonderful tribute to a fine four-fendered friend. 9/10