Movie Review

Dad's Army

At last! Their epic story invades the Big Screen!
Dad's Army Movie Poster

US Release Date: 09-01-1971

Directed by: Norman Cohen


  • Arthur Lowe
  • Capt. Mainwaring
  • John Le Mesurier
  • Sgt. Wilson
  • Clive Dunn
  • LCpl. Jones
  • John Laurie
  • Pte. Frazer
  • James Beck
  • Pte. Walker
  • Arnold Ridley
  • Pte. Godfrey
  • Ian Lavender
  • Pte. Pike
  • Liz Fraser
  • Mrs. Pike
  • Bernard Archard
  • Maj. Gen. Fullard
  • Derek Newark
  • R.S.M.
  • Bill Pertwee
  • Hodges
  • Frank Williams
  • Vicar
  • Edward Sinclair
  • Verger
  • Anthony Sagar
  • Police Sergeant
  • Pat Coombs
  • Mrs. Hall
Average Stars:
Reviewed on: April 22nd, 2015
Arthur Lowe and John Le Mesurier in Dad's Army: The Movie.

Arthur Lowe and John Le Mesurier in Dad's Army: The Movie.

In the 1970s there was a trend in British cinema of making movie adaptations of television sitcoms that were still airing at the time. Dad's Army, based on the long running sitcom of the same name, is one such film. While mostly unknown in the US, the series is often considered a classic in the UK. In a 2004 poll conducted by the BBC to find the greatest British Sitcoms, the series placed 4th (one ahead of Fawlty Towers). The original series ran from 1968 to 1977 (3 years longer than World War II, during which it was set for its entire run). It is still aired in reruns and is fondly remembered enough by some that a brand new movie remake is due to be released in 2016 starring Billy Nighy and Michael Gambon.

The film, as the series did, centers around the antics of a unit in the Home Guard during World War II. The Home Guard was comprised of volunteers who were either too old, too young, or in jobs that exempted them from conscription. They were intended to be the last line of defense against the seemingly inevitable invasion of Britain by Nazi Germany. Although the humor pokes fun at the often inept members of the unit, it's also a gentle tribute to them and revived interest in the real Home Guard and has been cited as keeping the memory of its members alive much longer than it would have been without the series and movie.

Although filmed between series 3 and 4 of the television show, instead of continuing the story, the plot is a retelling of the episodes that had already aired and focuses on the formation of the unit and its early days. Most of the cast from the show reprised their roles apart from Janet Davies (one of the few female characters), who wasn't deemed sexy enough by the studio and who insisted she be recast, a decision the writer's resisted and regretted, but were powerless to prevent.

Arthur Lowe stars as the pompous and bumbling Captain Mainwaring, the local Bank Manager who takes charge of the Home Guard unit in the village of Walmington-on-Sea. Part of his desire to serve stems from the fact that he just missed the last War by a year, being stationed in Germany after the armistice. His second-in-command is the upper-crust Sgt. Wilson, played by John Le Mesurier, who also serves as Mainwaring's chief clerk at the bank. The rest of the unit is made up of an eccentric cast of characters including the quite elderly Cpl. Jones and the black market dealing "Spiv", Private Walker, amongst many others.

The humor ranges from slapstick to innuendo and double entendre ("I must ask you to keep your hands off my privates!") and included many stock catchphrases that are still recognized in Britain today. Corporal Jones, who steals many scenes, has several catchphrases just on his own. He often bores his fellow soldiers with war stories from 40 years ago, employing the politically incorrect phrase, "fussy wuzzies" to refer to those he was fighting. He also often works himself up into a tiff with the phrase, "They don't like it up 'em.", while brandishing a blade of some sort. And Captain Mainwaring's use of the insult, 'You stupid boy." in reference to young Pike was listed by the Radio Times as one of the 25 greatest television put-downs of all time.

As with many sitcom to film adaptations, the movie has some inherent weaknesses. The characters are likable, but not very deep. While the story starts strongish, with the formation of the unit, it soon starts to feel episodic. It needed a stronger over-arching storyline. Because these are sitcom characters and from a sitcom that was still ongoing at the time, there isn't much room for character or plot development. It couldn't do anything that would alter the characters or even allow them to grow. Subsequently, after the first 45 minutes or so, it starts to feel stretched.

Although much of the humor seems dated and old fashioned, it still remains gently amusing and even contains a few genuine laugh out loud moments. It will be interesting to see if the writers of the modern remake will be able to retain the spirit of the original while bringing the comedy up to more modern standards. They'll have to walk a delicate balance if they want to please fans of the original while attracting young audiences of today.

Reviewed on: March 7th, 2016
The men of Dad's Army

The men of Dad's Army

The word quaint kept popping up in my mind as I watched Dad's Army. Scott mentioned that there are some sexual innuendos, but they are all very dated. Young Pike standing watch while Walker "visits his sick mother" is played so innocently that it created no response from me. The punchline is intended to come when Pike states that the lusty voice in the background does not sound sick. The scene could have been played far funnier and dirtier, but the joke is kept as innocent as can be. Perhaps it was the time and that this movie was based on a television show but a bit more maturity in the script could have helped.

All of the adult talk is tame by today's standards. Wilson stating he comes around to have dinner and what not with Pike's mother has lost any humor it may have once had, as has Pike's ignorance to their affair. When Walker is asked if visiting his "mother" can wait, he responds that, "I know she can wait but I can't." I imagine these jokes were all considered quite naughty at the time or in the show but today this movie is kid ready. A moment later a guard, armed with a spear, demands to see a man's papers. As it is dark, the guard asks the unknown man for a light, who hands him some matches. The guard then hands the mystery man his spear so the guard will have both hands free to light the match and read the identification papers. Its a joke straight out of a Three Stooges short. Even the line "...keep your hands off my privates." would be more enjoyed by a 12 year old today, than an adult.

Now, where Dad's Army works is with the characters being so likable and very enthusiastic. These middle aged and elderly men all eagerly jump at the chance to do their duty for the war effort. I smiled when they built the road block and poised themselves for a battle. The old man posing at the ready with his spear about to be thrown was humorous. What was his plan once the spear was thrown?

The members of the Home Guard are so eager to do their service to King and country that they invent new weapons to help them. However, each of their inventions and efforts lead to a catastrophe telegraphed way in advance. What do you think will happen to a bathtub turned into a mobile armed vehicle. How about the fate of a military car approaching the spot on a road where the Home Guard has devised an oil spilling trap? What about an officer on top of a horse, who demands the Home Guard salute him as he rides across a bridge that they are holding together with a rope. The most obvious one is when they ride into a military camp on a steam roller.

Still, despite the obvious slapstick humor and middle school sexual jokes, Dad's Army won me over. These men are undeterred by their own ineptness or lack of faith from the real military, in their efforts to stop a possible German attack. These men often seem dimwitted and ill prepared but they are never less than brave. A remake could definitely work if they keep the characters as stalwart as they are here, update the mature humor and rely more on one liners than just slapstick and prat falls.

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