Classical Film Reviews · Film Reviews

Classical Film Review: Dad’s Army [1971]

Dad’s Army once held- and perhaps still does- the crown of Britain’s favourite sitcom. This film is much a prequel, outlining how the small seaside town of Walmington-on-Sea’s inept Home Guard was brought together, with the indomitable Mainwaring making sure he is the Captain of the platoon. When put on manoeuvres by a visiting Major-General, the men manage to bungle one task after another… but when a group of Germans from a scout plane take the Mayor hostage at the church hall, can the group save the day?!

… did you not hear me describe them as ‘inept’?

Cinematic spin-offs of popular wireless programmes first appeared in the 1930s with the BBC’s Band Wagon although they remained a rarity. After Hammer Horror adapted BBC classic The Quatermass Experiment for the cinema in 1953, there was more of a take-up- although it was slow.

Film adaptations were, at this time, star vehicles for comedians and comic actors, much as the TV shows themselves had been. However, the commercial success of two mid-60s Doctor Who films told producers that audiences were willing to pay big bucks to see their small screen heroes in colour. They were also happy to pay to see more ‘adult’ scenes inserted into the normally family friendly world of primetime viewing. Dad’s Army’s humour is gentle with the odd saucy line. It’s comfortable family friendly viewing with enough parts that go over children’s heads.

Expanding a sitcom into a feature film is often cheaper to produce- its pre-familiarity to the audience cuts down on the advertising budget and the stories are based around small-room situations, even if the location of the room changes. The greatest benefit of these low-budget blockbusters is that they preserve popular television series and introduce modern audiences to great old TV shows. The pace of these films is also much, much faster than that of the old sitcoms, which helps it appeal to modern audiences more used to bang-bang-bang than bang…

bang… bang…

Having been made whilst the original cast was still alive, the film is a record of an excellent ensemble. The national pride in the real people these actors represent is as deeply felt as the well-intentioned mocking of them. Although, in all honesty, the plot resembles merely three episodes smooshed together- as excellent as those episodes may be!

Haven’t got into the TV show yet? You can start with this film!