Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Childhood Horror: The Child Catcher

There are many scary things about childhood; almost everything else is bigger than you for a start, that’s very scary, and then you’ve got strangers, parked cars (according to Dave Prowse), maths, impending acne, and the fact that seemingly every other week you are taken to the doctor to be jabbed with needles to guard against an endless variety of terrible diseases that are apparently constantly trying to kill you. And, as if that wasn’t enough, sometimes, people, with absolutely no thought to future consequences to the innocent children who are, indeed, our future, make the illogical decision to insert the most terrifying characters and imagery into seemingly harmless pieces of co-called children’s entertainment. A prime example of this is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’s The Child Catcher. I mean really, who thought this was a good idea?


Like the unholy offspring of a spider and an undead funeral director, The Chid Catcher stalked onto our screens 43 years ago and has filled mini hearts with terror ever since, and probably some big ones too. Just to make him even more horrifying, The Child Catcher came fully equipped with a great big net, a savage looking hook and an all action cart cage cleverly disguised as the ultimate child attractant, a sweetshop, this is precisely why our parents so vehemently advise us against sweets and strangers. The only consolation here is that if Dick Van Dyke’s kids were really so dumb as to be tempted out from hiding by the badly disguised skeletal form of creeping pure evil then it probably would have been for the best if they were removed from the gene pool altogether. I really have no sympathy for them.

Largely their own fault

Splitting his time equally between smelling cheeeldren and stalking about balletically brandishing lollipops in their general direction, The Child Catcher was in the employ Baron and Baroness Bomburst and charged to capture and imprison any errant children from the streets of Vulgaria, a task he undertook with all due evil relish.

With Benny Hill (also inappropriate for children)

I have to confess that as a child I actually wasn’t that scared of The Chid Catcher. I suspect that this is because I came from a family of dancers so therefore was on some level aware of the aesthetics of movement and what it can create. Also I didn’t like sweets, and wasn’t dumb so I knew I’d be ok. Weirdly though, as an adult (ish), I can see and appreciate how truly terrifying he was, I mean really scary. Honestly, 60s, what were you thinking?


  1. Most people talk about being terrified by the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz, but the Child Catcher and the ancient booer from The Princess Bride were the main offenders in my childhood nightmares. It seems like scary/borderline inappropriate things for children are fixtures in family films from the 60s and 70s. (The Harpy from The Last Unicorn and the boat ride scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory are good examples of this.) As far as the kids go, I agree with you wholeheartedly. Why they decided it would be a good idea to go with the Child Catcher is beyond me!

  2. Hey, Tab, lovely to see you. You are so right, the 60s and 70s were wildly inappropriate kidwise, and the 80s to some extent, must do some 80s kid stuff at some point. You reminded me of awesome scariness there too. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is almost entirely terrifying.

  3. It's hilarious that this is considered a children's show. How the times have changed.

  4. For some reason, my sister and I found the Child Catcher hilariously ridiculous and burst into hysterical laughter at the mere sight of him. To this day, we extend our noses with hooked fingers and chant "Ice cream! Lollipops! All Freeee Todaaaaay!" whenever we think something is particularly silly.

  5. CREEPER!!! He gives me chills... not the good kind of chills either. Love ya Jinx! :]

  6. Good post Jinx! By the time I saw Chitty Chitty Bang Bang I was probably 17 and was amused and entertained but not frightened... Have you ever seen the (1985)Return to Oz film? The opening sequences in the insanse asylum had to be scary for the young kids that the film was aimed at.

  7. I think that Dick Van Dyke was the scariest looking thing in that movie. I've always been terrified of the witch in "The Wizard of Oz" though and still don't know if she was really a man or a woman. Actually, just about everything in "The Wizard of Oz" scares me so I haven't watched it since I was five.

  8. Feeling this post. Also, welcome to LAMB!

    Que The Lights
    QTL Images

  9. Mary Poppins gave me nightmares. Although I can't remember where or why or who.



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