The year is 1941 and the Second World War is raging across Europe; this British bomber is returning from a raid when it gets lost thanks to navigation trouble when their map is damaged. The leader of the crew, Sir Reginald (Terry-Thomas), demands to know where they are but the answer of Calais is proven wrong when the clouds part and the Eiffel Tower is revealed below. Suddenly the plane is shot at and badly damaged, meaning the Brits have to bail out over the capital...
Don't Look Now - We're Being Shot At, or La grande vadrouille as it was originally called, was one of the most successful films the French ever made, in France, that was, as while it took record takings at the box office there, elsewhere in the world it was not as well known. This would be a lot to do with the casting of two of their country's biggest comedy stars as the ones reluctantly (at first) joining the Resistance to save the bomber pilots as Bourvil and Louis de Funès are still revered even today as a couple of the finest humorists to emerge from there, so naturally this movie was a must-see for generations of French.
As to whether it travelled, consensus seems to be hard to settle upon. There were those who didn't see the joke, were put off by the subtitles or whatever, and those who appreciated the gentle humour mixed with more raucous slapstick that were on the menu here, and in truth there are some good laughs to be had. But was it consistently hilarious? Probably not, as for one thing there was a lot of it, as if director Gérard Oury was trying to emulate the big budget comedies such as It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World or Those Magnificent Men in the Flying Machines, the sort of thing that had no qualms about taking two hours or more to tell their jokes.
Terry-Thomas was no stranger to such comedies of course, which was presumably why he was only too pleased to turn up in this, more as part of the supporting ensemble than the star, and demonstrating his skill with the language although he speaks English as well. This could be seen as a spoof of the hefty war movies emerging in this era too, the sort of star-studded affair that was packing out the cinemas internationally, but if it was it represented a mild send-up rather than anything scathing, actually it looked more like a precursor to eighties sitcom 'Alllo, 'Allo, cheerfully silly instead of ruminating darkly on the reality of the conflict.
Three of the pilots are on the run in Paris within the first half hour, and house painter Bourvil finds himself assisting one when he drops in on his platform. De Funès meanwhile plays the other end of the class scale, a classical music conductor at the Paris Opera who is due to lead a concert for the occupying Nazis, unaware that the Resistance have planned a bomb attack in the auditorium. The stakes are raised when Sir Reginald and company steal German uniforms as a disguise and are threatened with being unwittingly blown up too, yet the bulk of the story takes place in the French countryside where they all escape to, heading for the unoccupied Southern region and freedom for the fugitives. With some warmly ridiculous farce for your pleasure, this is never boring and its aims to be crowdpleasing more than satirical are to an extent successful. You might wish it wasn't quite so easygoing and perhaps more of a thriller, but it looks to be the film Oury intended as the stars are in their element. Music by Georges Auric.