27 – ‘The Child Catcher’ – Halloween

A movie question for you, is ‘The Child Catcher’ the creepiest character to appear in children’s cinema? I would say the definition of a horror movie character is one that gives you nightmares!! Well ‘The Child Catcher’ from ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ is written for children and often remembered into adulthood as giving them nightmares!!!

So this is my Halloween movie revue written for those who hadn’t heard of ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ and what better way to explain the film than write a Post through the eyes of only one character, one which hopefully others will enjoy.

What have…………………

  • Hannibal Lecter
  • Jigsaw Killer
  • Darth Vader
  • The T1000
  • The Joker
  • Crueller de Vil
  • Wicked Witch of the North
  • and The Child Catcher

………………. all have in common? Answer, they have all been voted the most Evil Characters in film, quite a chilling list and in my opinion ‘The Child Catcher’ adds an extra dimension……. yes he’s VERY creepy’ but he also resonates in todays big bad world, there’s an honesty about him which the others don’t have, in real life there are creepy men out there, men who abduct children and I think he taps into childrens and parents psyche. It’s said The Child Catcher gave children nightmares, I’m unsure if that’s actually true but clearly I remember age 10 going to Hull Regal Cinema with my Grandma and experiencing a fright with his creepy face seared across my imagination ever since. But perhaps today’s children playing computer games are less innocent than children of the 1970s and perhaps ‘shock scares’ don’t work as well.

Whilst researching this post I came across a Social Media Poll which voted The Child Catcher as one of the most terrifying characters in kids’ Films……with his skipping dance and jingly black cape actor Robert Helpmann is both sinister and spine chillingly creepy, take a look at his picture and tell me what you see? I would say he has the look of a modern day child ******** so feared by parents! I’ll say no more.

But don’t panic ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ isn’t a horror film, believe it or not you’ll be watching a fairy tale family musical movie with catchy tunes which perhaps juxtaposes this evil man even more! And hey this is Halloween so I’m obliged to give you a movie many adults rate as their earliest screen fright memory.

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The Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!

I’m going to refrain from writing my own movie review of this 1968 children’s musical, firstly because film favourites are deeply personal subjective and near impossible to recommend, and secondly professional film critics are far more skilled than I (so they say! 😀 )

rrrrrrrr  Rotten Tomatoes rated CCBB a healthy 7/10

Brief Synopsis, a children’s musical, lots of catchy tunes, funny, happy, with a flying car, adorable family, castle, and an all round ‘evil baddie’ and all from a book written by Ian Fleming with a screenplay from Roald Dahl……….. pretty impressive hey?

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Robert Helpmann both ballet dancer and actor

I hope at this point readers are still with me! I’ve kept the first part easy to follow, a short description seems more fun than writing a film review incidentally the stage version is still very popular with British audiences

‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ wasn’t an all happy experience for Robert Helpmann because his face became synonymous with that of a child catcher! I guess some people blur fiction and reality and become confused between a film personification and the real man, which is sad because afterwards Robert often felt he had to reinforce the fact he loved children which must have been upsetting.

Perhaps I’m overplaying the film a little, ‘The Child Catcher’ is not the main character in the film, in fact he doesn’t appear until an hour and forty minutes in and then only for ten minutes or so but what a quite memorable ten minutes! Incidentally he doesn’t appear in the book either having being dreamt up from Roald Dahl’s imagination which probably explains why adults remember him so vividly, it’s been a while since I’ve read a Roald Dahl novel, probably I should visit mums go in the attic and re read our old childrens books.

As I’ve explained err several times I’ll refrain from a full review and I hope I haven’t built the film up tooo greatly for modern sophisticated audiences? But on reflection I think a creepy man with giant net enticing children into his cage with promises of free candy and ice cream has a resonance today.

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Movie still

Robert’s portrayal is evil through and through, he’s a villain, he’s the creature under the bed he’s a boogieman of childrens silver screen, he’s designed to be a nightmare, carrying a pole with metal hook attached trying to catch children and although he’s only in a couple of short scenes he is able to create a chilling monster……….. but I’d say in a healthy way?

Finally The Child Catcher has made a number of lists for the most frightening villain/characters of all time:

  1. He made Entertainment Weekly’s list of “50 Most Vile Movie Villains,”
  2. Several Empire Magazine lists, a Digital Spy list.
  3. Total Film’s “Greatest Movie Villains” list.
  4. CBBC (Children’s British Broadcasting Corporation) poll voted him the scariest villain from a children’s book.

Andrew