Potts People

The very first movie I remember seeing in a theater was 1968’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I was 7 at the time. I stumbled across it on TV a few months ago, about halfway through, and ended up sitting and watching the rest. I still love this movie. Most of the songs still stick with me almost half a century later, and the line “From the ashes of disaster grow the roses of success.” is probably the most inspirational idea I ever got from a movie. (Disclaimer: I can’t think of a second inspirational thought from a movie.)

But I’ve recently come to realize that the cheerful music and family-friendly plot are really a smokescreen for an alien invasion movie.

Consider the following:

1) Caractacus Potts (Dick Van Dyke) is clearly adopted. His father and both his children all have British accents, and yet his accent is clearly American. This makes perfect sense if he learned English from television signals beamed into space since the 1950’s.

2) Caractacus clearly has powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. How else would a child named Caractacus Potts have survived middle school? “Look! It’s Cactus-face Potty!” was likely to have been heard more than once around the cricket fields at recess, unless at least one bully was telekinetically impaled on a wicket. Makes you wonder just how much blood was spilled at Potts’ prom.

3) The car is clearly some sort of alien mind control device. Potts claims to have built it, but seems utterly shocked when it deploys its wings and starts flying. This makes perfect sense if the alien overlords beamed the knowledge into his mind, and then erased it when the construction was completed, to keep it from falling into the hands of the British Secret Service. (Note: the book the movie was based on was written by James Bond creator Ian Fleming. Coincidence? I think not.)

4) Notice the behavior of the children in the clip here. The family is out on their maiden voyage in the car. They’ve just noticed the hypnotic murmur of the engine (chitty chitty chitty chitty chitty chitty bang bang) a few seconds earlier. Suddenly, they begin singing the praises of the car. Together. In harmony. So enthralled are they by their new motorized overlord that they don’t notice teleporting twice in the span of a minute. (If you look closely, you can see this at 0:44 and again at 1:06 in the clip above.)

Sure, John, you may be thinking to yourselves, that’s possible, but there could be a perfectly logical explanation. Maybe Caractacus Potts was educated abroad, where he lost his English accent. Perhaps building the car took so long that he forgot he attached automatic flying and flotation safety gear. And maybe the kids learned the song Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for their school pageant, and it’s purely coincidental that the car makes that noise.

Those explanations sound a little farfetched to me, but even if I accept them, the incontrovertible evidence is what happens next. Truly Scrumptious is nearly run off the road by the mesmerized Potts clan. (Aside: What kind of father names his daughter Truly Scrumptious? Has he never seen teenage boys? Was she named after her ex-stripper mom?) She accepts a ride, but then starts to get suspicious of the car and the claim that Potts built it. Chitty doesn’t like that (notice the immediate “Bang Bang!” warning). Jemima helpfully explains about the car’s name and tells Truly “Listen!” Suddenly, the children are singing their hymn to the car, and within seconds, Truly joins in. Somehow, mysteriously she knows the words, and the harmonies, and even takes a verse herself. By the time they reach the passing train (in the book it’s called Chuggy Chuggy Toot Toot), the young woman has been Truly Assimilated.

Suddenly, I’m very afraid.

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