HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
Newest Reviews
1917
Tree House, The
Sputnik
Seducao da Carne
Yes, God, Yes
Five Graves to Cairo
You've Been Trumped Too
Woman in Black, The
Elvis: That's the Way It Is
Man Who Laughs, The
Watch List
Giraffe
Kat and the Band
Echo
Perfect 10
Octaman
Red Penguins
China Syndrome, The
Babyteeth
Round-Up, The
Around the Sun
Once There Was Brasilia
Peripheral
Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street
Ice
She Demons
Good Girls, The
Hail, Hero!
Faces in the Crowd
Tamango
Traitor, The
Tomorrow
Third Generation, The
Saxon Charm, The
Spy Intervention
Moonrise
Mulan
Killer with a Thousand Eyes, The
Vigil, The
Liberation of L.B. Jones, The
   
 
Newest Articles
What Use is Grief to a Horse? Equus on Blu-ray
For God's Sake Strap Yourselves Down: Flash Gordon on 4K UHD Collector's Edition
Party Hard: Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure on Blu-ray
Network On Air: Nights in with ABC 2 - Your Faces are All Blurred!
Eve Knew Her Apples: The Lady Eve on Blu-ray
Network On Air: Tempo - Gallery One
Network On Air: Nights In with ABC 1 - Welcome Once Again to Manchester!
Transformative Apocalypses: Phase IV and Southland Tales
The Happiest Days of Their Lives: The Guinea Pig on Blu-ray
Faced Poe: Three Edgar Allan Poe Adaptations Starring Bela Lugosi on Blu-ray
Hard Luck, Buster: The Cameraman on Blu-ray
At the Hop: Mr. Vampire on Blu-ray
Divine Madness: Female Trouble on Blu-ray
Country Matters: Further Out of Town on Blu-ray
Bat-Damn: Was Joel Schumacher's Batman Really That Bad?
The Beat Goes On: Takeshi Kitano Collection on Blu-ray
Dream Treats: Scorsese Shorts on Blu-ray
It's Only Money: Laughter in Paradise on Blu-ray
A Regular Terpsichore: Dance, Girl, Dance on Blu-ray
Teenage Trauma: Baby Love on Blu-ray
The Happening: Pet Shop Boys It Couldn't Happen Here on Blu-ray
Who Watched The Watchmen?
The Golden Age of Colonic Irrigation: Monty Python Series 4 on Blu-ray
Lady of Pleasure: Lola Montes on Blu-ray
Take You to the Gay Bar: Funeral Parade of Roses on Blu-ray
   
 
  To Be or Not To Be Humour As A Weapon
Year: 1942
Director: Ernst Lubitsch
Stars: Carole Lombard, Jack Benny, Robert Stack, Felix Bressart, Lionel Atwill, Stanley Ridges, Sig Ruman, Tom Dugan, Charles Halton, George Lynn, Henry Victor, Maude Eburne, Halliwell Hobbes, Miles Mander, Helmut Dantine, James Finlayson
Genre: Comedy, WarBuy from Amazon
Rating:  9 (from 2 votes)
Review: Poland, August 1939, and someone is causing a stir among the residents of this Warsaw street, the reason for which we have to go back in time a few minutes to the nearby theatre. There a troupe of actors are rehearsing their latest work, a political satire about the threat of Nazi Germany, though when their Hitler (Tom Dugan) announces "Heil me!" the producer (Charles Halton) has his objections as he thinks the laugh will distract from the serious message. Hence their Fuehrer stand-in strides out into the streets to prove how convincing he can be...

Of course, the makers of this film were not to know how prescient that opening sequence was, as a lot of the reaction at the time centered upon exactly how funny a film tackling Nazis and the war in Europe could really be when millions of people were suffering, even dying, as a result of that. It didn't help that audiences of the day were having further mixed feelings as the movie's luminous star Carole Lombard had died in a plane crash shortly after filming had been completed - on a war bonds fundraiser to boot.

Director Ernst Lubitsch was even forced to defend To Be or Not to Be on the public stage when the lambasting got too much to bear, pointing out that by making fun of the Nazis he was by no means belittling the devastation they were causing, and indeed his implementation of broad humour was as justified as if he had made some sober catalogue of war atrocities. In Britain, we were used to seeing the likes of George Formby and Arthur Askey take on the enemy through the medium of comedy, so were only too pleased to see the Americans do the same, but it took a long time, even after the Second World War ended, for this work to gain its proper acceptance.

Such is the stuff of cult movies, naturally, and watching it now you can see Lubitsch, his screenwriter Edwin Justus Mayer, and his game cast were actually walking a tightrope between a serious depiction of the harrowing effects of the conflict and a brave send-up of a deplorable evil that needed this approach to give some kind of human perspective on the inhuman. You could also see why the plot so appealed to showbiz folks, as it illustrated how entertaining the beleaguered public was just as important to sustaining morale, and placed the performers in an arena where their talent would not only be welcome relief, but able to save lives and get one over on the Nazis.

Jack Benny, already a superstar in the United States from his radio show, was a great choice to play Joseph Tura, the vain stage actor whose marriage to Polish celebrity Maria (Lombard, who claimed this had been her favourite role) is placed in jeopardy when she is tempted by a handsome young Polish flyer (Robert Stack). In a plot unafraid to be complicated, the flyer ends up in the R.A.F., but his squadron accidentally give the names of their friends and relatives to a Nazi spy posing as a benevolent professor (Stanley Ridges), yet the pilot catches on and is sent on a mission back in Warsaw to stop the list of names getting into the wrong hands. Thus the theme of roleplaying is developed, as Joseph has to take on the professor part, and things do become very tense for what was considered a poorly judged spoof, as Lubitsch conveys how much was at stake. Not only are there many big laughs here, you have to admire a work made when it was - imagine if the Nazis had won, and what would have happened to its creators. Music by Werner R. Heymann.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

This review has been viewed 2110 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 
Review Comments (0)


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Which star is the best at shouting?
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Brian Blessed
Tiffany Haddish
Steve Carell
Olivia Colman
Captain Caveman
Sylvester Stallone
Gerard Butler
Samuel L. Jackson
Bipasha Basu
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Paul Smith
Darren Jones
Andrew Pragasam
  Lee Fiveash
  Mick Stewart
Enoch Sneed
  Dsfgsdfg Dsgdsgsdg
   

 

Last Updated: