|“||The Baroness will have your teeth for a necklace and your eyeballs for earrings!||„|
|~ The Child Catcher threatening the Toymaker.|
|“||I don't trust a man who makes toys in a land where children are forbidden!||„|
|~ The Child Catcher|
The Child Catcher is the secondary antagonist in the 1968 film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which is based on the 1964 English children's novel of the same name by the late Ian Fleming. However, he was not featured in the original book.
He was portrayed by the late dancer Robert Helpmann.
The Child Catcher is depicted as a black-clad, large-nosed man who is employed to hunt down children and take them away. He carries a large net of the sort used to catch butterflies, and a rather menacing-looking hook such as those used by old-fashioned abortionists. The Child Catcher occasionally snares his prey by luring them out with lollipops. When they fall for his trick, he puts them in cages to be carted off to a large prison under orders from the evil rulers of Vulgaria (Baron Bomburst and Baroness Bomburst), who dislike children.
In the end, the Child-Catcher comes to help the Bomburst couple after they are taken hostage by the children. However, he ends up getting tricked by the children and is captured as well along his employers, allowing the heroes of the story to topple Vulgaria's evil regime and free all the children.
Though Vulgaria then becomes a free country, it’s completely unknown what happened to the Child Catcher afterwards; as he just captured children and was employed by Vulgaria’s rulers, it’s highly likely that he was either exiled or sent to the very dungeons where the children were imprisoned. Another possibility could be that he was pardoned for his crimes, as he only followed the orders of the Bomburst couple — although, because of the children’s hatred for him, he will most likely not easily escape justice.
- The Child Catcher's role as a cruel child hunter is regarded as one of the most common themes in Roald Dahl's works, featuring abusive and unkind child haters or teachers who delight on the childrens' suffering, like Captain Lancaster in Danny, the Champion of the World or Agatha Trunchbull in Matilda. This is because of Dahl's real life experiences during his childhood, where he had a teacher named Captain Hardcastle who was sadistic with him.
- Despite the Child Cather's scary reputation, Heather Ripley (who played Jemima) said that Robert Helpmann "...Was the least scariest person I have ever met in my life. There was absolutely nothing about him that was scary. He was a sweet and charming gentleman. But the way he moved, could be very scary." Both her and Adrian Hall (who played her on-screen brother, Jeremy) attended his funeral.
- Robert Helpmann was nearly killed when the carriage that he was driving for the film spun out of control and turned over. Thanks to his dancer's reflexes, he was able to leap off of the moving wheel and land safely on his feet.
- The Child Catcher, alongside Baron Bomburst and Baroness Bomburst, did not appear in the book on which the film is based, which was written by James Bond novelist Ian Fleming. They were instead largely the creation of Roald Dahl of Willy Wonka fame, who co-wrote the film with Ken Hughes and created most of the Vulgaria scenes.
- Ironically, the Child Catcher was voted by BBC News as "the scariest villain in children's books" in 2005 in spite that he didn't appear in the original book, suggesting that either BBC News didn't know that he was just created for the film or just attributed him as a children book villain because of being created by Roald Dahl, who was a well renowned children's novelist.