HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
 
Newest Reviews
For the Sake of Vicious
Hell Bent
Straight Shooting
Jules Verne's Rocket to the Moon
Man They Could Not Hang, The
Final Days
Frightened City, The
Assimilate
Sequin in a Blue Room
Common Crime, A
Into the Labyrinth
Power, The
Wake of Death
Night Orchid
Mortal
Iron Mask, The
Dinosaur
Personal History of David Copperfield, The
Dove, The
Collective
Charulata
Minari
Violation
Defending Your Life
Champagne Murders, The
He Dreams of Giants
Lost in America
Take Back
Honeydew
Banishing, The
Drifters, The
Gushing Prayer
Escape from Coral Cove
Swan Princess, The
Shortcut
Stray
Butterfly Murders, The
Pimp
Feedback
Lady is a Square, The
   
 
Newest Articles
Meiko Kaji's Girl Gangs: Stray Cat Rock on Arrow
Having a Wild Weekend: Catch Us If You Can on Blu-ray
The Drifters: Star Lucie Bourdeu Interview
Meiko Kaji Behind Bars: Female Prisoner Scorpion on Arrow
The Horror of the Soviets: Viy on Blu-ray
Network Double Bills: Tarka the Otter and The Belstone Fox
Network Double Bills: All Night Long and Ballad in Blue
Chew Him Up and Spit Him Out: Romeo is Bleeding on Blu-ray
British Body Snatchers: They Came from Beyond Space on Blu-ray
Bzzzt: Pulse on Blu-ray
The Tombs Will Be Their Cities: Demons and Demons 2 on Arrow
Somebody Killed Her Husband: Charade on Blu-ray
Network Double Bills: Maroc 7 and Invasion
Network Double Bills: The Best of Benny Hill and The Likely Lads
Network Double Bills: Some Girls Do and Deadlier Than the Male
Absolutely Bananas: Link on Blu-ray
Network Double Bills: Hawk the Slayer and The Medusa Touch
The Price of Plague: The Masque of the Red Death on Blu-ray
Network Double Bills: Seance on a Wet Afternoon and Ring of Spies
Chaney Chillers: Inner Sanctum Mysteries - The Complete Film Series on Blu-ray
Adelphi Extras: Stars in Your Eyes on Blu-ray
Toons for the Heads: Fantastic Planet and Adult Animation
Nature Girl: The New World on Blu-ray
Network Double Bills: Perfect Friday and Robbery
Network Double Bills: The House in Nightmare Park and The Man Who Haunted Himself
   
 
  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 2448 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 probably has psychic powers?
Laurence Fishburne
Nicolas Cage
Anya Taylor-Joy
Patrick Stewart
Sissy Spacek
Michelle Yeoh
Aubrey Plaza
Tom Cruise
Beatrice Dalle
Michael Ironside
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Andrew Pragasam
Darren Jones
Enoch Sneed
  Paul Tuersley
  Chris Garbutt
  Sdfadf Rtfgsdf
Stately Wayne Manor
   

 

Last Updated: