Dad’s Army – Vintage Appeal

Dad’s Army PG, BBC and Universal

It is 1944 and barrage balloons, ration coupons and bombsites dominate British life as the country’s combined forces prepare for the stroke that will end the war.

The Nazi ‘HQ Quarters’ sends Agent Cobra, in the guise of a reporter from a women’s magazine, to infiltrate a village on the South Coast and uncover plans of a British invasion. Meanwhile the home guard of Walmington-on-Sea under the leadership of bank manager Mr Mainwaring, assisted by clerk Wilson, are on probation patrolling near an army camp, a mission they must perform flawlessly or be disbanded.

Pensioner Private Godfrey’s sister Cissy (Annette Crosbie) become suspicious of the glamorous new girl in town who has a regiment of women up in arms. A sergeant is given the bird. A cliff hanger leads to a discovering full of hot air. An officer is stripped of his rank. Will the townsfolk and their makeshift militia intercept the spy and stop the transfer of information vital to the war effort?

Dad’s Army, based on the much-loved 1968 to 1977 BBC sitcom, is a gentle, Ealing Studios style film abounding in vintage charm with comedy, pathos and patriotism nicely measured. The new cast is well matched to the old, Toby Jones as Captain Mainwaring in particular. Bill Nighy is a little less Oxbridge than John Le Mesurier’s Sergeant Wilson but Michael Gambon is spot on as Private Godfrey and Alison Steadman plays Wilson’s foxy lady with relish. There is a cameo by Ian Lavender, the original Private Pike, promoted to the part of Brigadier.

The punch lines do seem to fall flat without the studio audience’s laughter. It needs to be seen in a full but intimate cinema screen room with a knowing and enthusiastic crowd ready to be entertained. The story features a gratifying appearance of the series’ elusive Elizabeth Mainwaring who turns out to be a good sort after all. The Mata Hari theme is a little laboured but Catherine Zeta-Jones is perfectly credible and alluring in the part.

A mini-invasion, a U-boat, secret communications, attempted seduction, parlour farce and snake in the bosom of the village has Walmington-on-Sea rising to the defence of their own. A ‘stupid boy’ gets wise and dashing, ‘we’re doomed!’ until the cavalry arrives, so ‘don’t panic!’

This will be appreciated by those who remember the war, the long aftermath years, and the series’ first and subsequent runs as well as by more youthful fans of classic comedy. Those in between may be a little mystified but likely encouraged to fish out the series and it will score on Christmas TV. My movie buddy said that he had to put the TV episodes out of his mind and pronounced the film ‘quite good’.

It does, however, make it into the feel-better category. The crises of threatened relationships, loss of status and career are set in the broader calamity of a country at war, uncertainty of life and death, loved ones far away in peril, scarcity of food and other resources, limited travel, the blackout and the air raids. Dad’s Army is not just a tribute to the historic TV series but to the resilience and humour of ordinary folk who by intent or default survived and performed with heroism in exceptional times, to create better ones.

About the Author Chartreuse

Chartreuse is a freelance writer, editor, photographer and promotional videographer. She has written a feel-better film review column for Heath & Happiness Magazine, and is the owner of Heypressto. Chartreuse’ greatest inspiration is Abraham-Hicks. Her favourite quote is ‘You can be, do or have anything you want’.

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