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  Dad's Army Don't Panic, Don't Panic
Year: 1971
Director: Norman Cohen
Stars: Arthur Lowe, John Le Mesurier, Clive Dunn, John Laurie, James Beck, Arnold Ridley, Ian Lavender, Liz Fraser, Bernard Archard, Derek Newark, Bill Pertwee, Frank Williams, Edward Sinclair, Anthony Sagar, Roger Maxwell, Sam Kydd, Fred Griffiths
Genre: Comedy, WarBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: The Second World War has just commenced, and in the sleepy town of Walmington-On-Sea local bank manager George Mainwaring (Arthur Lowe) is disgusted at the Nazis and itching to help the war effort, wondering whether spies have infiltrated even this location. To this end, he refuses to cash a cheque from a stranger, little knowing that the man is in fact a British Army General (Bernard Archard), and earning the military man's ire. But Mainwaring has other things to concern him, like how to hear the latest speech from the Prime Minister over the radio; noticing he has no radio in his office thanks to colleague Arthur Wilson (John Le Mesurier) pointing it out, they rush over to the local hardware shop to tune in. And when they listen in, it's a message that stirs Mainwaring's patriotic fervour: a volunteer soldier organisation set up across the land to defend the country from Nazi invasion...

Before Only Fools and Horses became established as Britain's favourite sitcom, Dad's Army firmly held onto the crown, and possibly has a strong claim to the throne still. And this being the nineteen-seventies when the programme was in its heyday, the obvious route to go down was to make it into a film, as that's what just about every U.K. sitcom was doing at the time. Fortunately it was made while the whole, original cast were still alive, so at least this provides a record of an excellent ensemble, with all the favourites present and correct such as Clive Dunn's elderly butcher Lance Corporal Jones who plies self-styled leader Mainwaring with sausages and the like to get his way, mainly to stay with the regiment and not be retired off as he probably should.

The plot of the film resembles three of the episodes stuck together, and in truth doesn't succeed quite as well as the thirty minute instalments did. The humour is largely of the gentle variety, with the odd saucy line getting through to remind us this is a big screen adventure where they could get away with a little more. Scripted, as it was on television, by Jimmy Perry and David Croft, the first third outlines how the town's Home Guard were brought together, with the indomitable Mainwaring making sure he is at the head of the platoon as its Captain, and Wilson as his sergeant. Jones becomes the third in the chain to humour him, and the others are made up of doom merchant undertaker Private Frazer (John Laurie), Private Godfrey of the weak bladder (Arnold Ridley) and spiv Private Walker (James Beck, who lest we forget was the first of the regular cast to die; funny how morbid viewers can get around this series).

Opening out the more intimate series was a risky idea, perhaps, and Wilson's relationship with the mother of young Private Pike (Ian Lavender) is more blatantly illicit, but on the whole it's none too bad. The bits of business with the cast trying out various ways to defeat their potential enemy, with much in the way of props going wrong, is perhaps less amusing than the more reliable character stuff, and, for example, the scenes with the General on his horse floating down the river go on far too long for such a familiar payoff (an old Harold Lloyd joke, too). But the national pride in the real people these actors represent is as deeply felt as the well intentioned mocking of them - early on the preparations of the Home Guard are contrasted with the supposedly more organised Nazis across the Channel to comic effect. And they do get to catch some actual villains in what is perhaps a step too far. That epilogue is strange however, with the soldiers standing on the White Cliffs listening for tunnelling Nazis; perhaps it was to suggest the every ready stance of the Guard, yet in effect it's oddly unsettling. Music by Wilfred Burns, which wisely includes the famous theme tune.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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