‘Dad’s Army: The Movie’ (Film)


Please feel free to comment on my review.

The Real ‘Dad’s Army’ Movie

This is still a better ‘Dad’s Army’ movie compared to the 2016 one! 🙂

In 1971, ‘Dad’s Army’ had become a huge success. The TV show had been on for four seasons by that point. It would go on to have its first Christmas Special in ‘Battle of the Giants!’ and later have Series 5 in 1972. But before that, the ‘Dad’s Army’ cast and crew went to Hollywood to make their movie! 🙂

‘Dad’s Army: The Movie’ was released by Columbia Pictures. It was directed by Norman Cohen, produced by John R. Sloan and its screenplay was by the TV show’s creators Jimmy Perry and David Croft. And of course it featured the original ‘Dad’s Army’ cast who had starred in the classic TV show.

This included Arthur Lowe as Captain Mainwaring, John Le Mesurier as Sgt. Wilson, Clive Dunn as Corporal Jones, John Laurie as Private Frazer, James Beck as Private Walker, Arnold Ridley as Private Godfrey and Ian Lavender as Private Pike. I’m very pleased this movie was made featuring that cast!

Around the time, a lot of UK TV sitcoms were made into movies. As well as ‘Dad’s Army’, there was also ‘Steptoe & Son’, ‘The Likely Lads’ and ‘On the Buses’ getting their own movies. Most of these movies were outside the continuity of the original TV series. The ‘Dad’s Army’ movie is no exception!

I imagine the ‘Dad’s Army’ movie was made to sell the TV show in America. Just like the Adam West ‘Batman’ movie was made to promote their TV series in the UK and aboard as well as the ‘Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers’ movie. But like I said, the ‘Dad’s Army’ movie doesn’t fit into the TV series.

The ‘Dad’s Army’ movie is more of a retelling of the ‘Dad’s Army’ TV series but with a bigger budget. It starts the story from scratch based on ‘The Man and the Hour’ pilot episode as the Walmington-on-Sea men get called and become Local Defence Volunteers before they become the Home Guards.

There are also traces of other early episodes of ‘Dad’s Army’ fitted into the movie based on the TV scripts. This includes episodes like ‘The Armoured Might of Lance Corporal Jones’ and ‘Battle School’ from Series 3. I recognised these aspects in adapting from TV into film after I watched the TV series!

A shame that ‘The Deadly Attachment’ was made after the ‘Dad’s Army’ movie as that would have made it better compared to what it actually ended up being. With that said, there is a German scout plane that crashes into Walmington-on-Sea and the ‘Dad’s Army’ team save the town from German pilots.

Going back to a previous remark I made, I’m not saying the ‘Dad’s Army’ movie is terrible. Far from it! In fact, as I stated before, it’s better than the 2016 movie. But the 1971 ‘Dad’s Army’ film isn’t a masterpiece. It’s a retread of some early ‘Dad’s Army’ episodes with new plot elements to help it out.

Also, because it’s a movie that exists outside the main ‘Dad’s Army’ continuity, it doesn’t have to be taken seriously. It’s like it exists in a parallel universe. There are lots of differences in the movie compared to the TV series. For example, Nazis and old WWII footage gets shown in the actual movie.

David Croft was reframed from including old WWII footage in the opening titles for the TV series. Here, the ‘Dad’s Army’ movie is allowed to include that. It also lets us see what the war is like from the Nazis’ point of view as well as Walmington-on-Sea’s with intriguing and amusing comparisons. 😀

There are also minor differences from TV show into movie. For one thing, the bank isn’t called Swallows Bank. It’s called Martin’s instead. Hodges is also Chief Air Raid Warden already in the film; the Vicar and the Verger are already established and Frazer is already the funeral director unlike on TV.

As ever, Arthur Lowe is brilliant as Captain Mainwaring in the movie. I enjoyed how determined he is to defend Britain to the last, despite the opposition he gets especially from those like Major General Fullard who puts him down. I like how he confronted that German pilot in the film’s dramatic finale.

John Le Mesurier is equally brilliant as Sgt. Wilson in the movie. He maintains the laid-back, nonchalant attitude that provides a good foil for Mainwaring. He also quietly supports Mainwaring within the Home Guard, despite him being politer, posh and not militant as Mainwaring would like. 🙂

I enjoyed Clive Dunn as Lance Corporal Jones in the film. Jonesy is pretty enthusiastic despite being of old age. I could hear more of him sharing stories of being in the Sudan and saying ‘they don’t like it up ’em’. That moment where he blew up the gas bag on his van with a bayonet was very funny. 😀

John Laurie as Private Frazer is equally good, being the cynical Scottish soldier as usual. I should point out a lot of the ‘privates’ don’t get much to do compared to the main leads. But Frazer has stand-out moments, including when he gets annoyed with Jonesy for ruining his oil weapon for the road.

James Beck is excellent as Private Walker in the movie. Not meaning to be a downer, but I’m glad this movie was made before he passed away in 1973. I enjoyed Walker’s spiv stuff in the film and it was amusing when he got inside Jonesy’s bathtub tank that very soon ended up falling into the river.

Arnold Ridley is funny as Godfrey in the movie. There’s a scene where Godfrey is out in the pouring rain on guard duty and he recites a poem to keep his mind off ‘being excused’. Admittedly that’s taken from the episode ‘Battle School’, but it’s amusing how it found its way here into the film.

Ian Lavender is very good as Pike in the film. I don’t think Pike is particularly stand-out in the movie. He’s quieter and reserved compared to being in the TV series, especially during a line-up scene. It was funny when Pike had to do Walker’s guard duty instead whilst Walker attended to his ‘mother’!

The film also features Liz Frazer as…Mrs. Pike. Not Janet Davies. Okay, now this is interesting. Liz Frazer is well-known for being in ‘Carry On’ films. The reason she was cast as Mrs. Pike instead of Janet Davies is because she was more ‘sexier’ and less ‘homely’. I would have preferred Janet Davies.

Now that’s not to say Liz Frazer is terrible as Mrs. Pike. She plays the character decently well for the few scenes she’s in. But she doesn’t match to the edge Janet Davies had with Mrs. Pike in the TV series. Jimmy Perry wasn’t happy with the casting decision of Liz Frazer. It was imposed by Columbia.

The film also features Bernard Archard as Major General Fullard, the film’s antagonist. I’ve seen and heard Bernard Archard in ‘Doctor Who’ stories like ‘The Power of the Daleks’ and ‘Pyramids of Mars’. I found Major General Fullard to be an unlikeable jerk. He takes an instant dislike to Mainwaring.

And the reason for that is…Mainwaring wouldn’t cash his cheque to him at the bank upon their first meeting. Now I believe Mainwaring was in the right when suspecting Fullard might be a spy. But Mainwaring’s mistakes in being commander of the platoon don’t help to win Fullard’s approval here.

The cast also includes Derek Newark (who I’ve seen in the ‘Doctor Who’ stories ‘An Unearthly Child’ and ‘Inferno’) as the Regimental Sergeant Major. There’s also Bill Pertwee as Hodges, Frank Williams as the Vicar, Edward Sinclair as the Verger and Michael Knowles as the Staff Captain. There’s also Scott Fredericks (who I’ve seen in the ‘Doctor Who’ stories ‘Day of the Daleks’ and ‘Image of the Fendahl’), Ingo Mogendorf and Franz Van Norde as the Nazi pilots!

There were plans for a sequel to the ‘Dad’s Army’ movie. Sadly that didn’t happen, which is a shame. The film had mixed reviews despite performing well at the box office. Apparently the sequel would have been called ‘Dad’s Army and the Secret U-Boat Base’. Possible ‘Deadly Attachment’ movie?

‘Dad’s Army: The Movie’ is an enjoyable ride featuring the ‘Dad’s Army’ cast in a big-budget movie by Columbia Pictures. It’s not the greatest spectacle, but for what it’s worth I’m very happy to have seen it. It’s a better film adaptation of the TV show and remains really true for our main characters.

‘Dad’s Army: The Movie’ rating – 7/10

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2 thoughts on “‘Dad’s Army: The Movie’ (Film)

  1. Bronwyn

    I would need to see the 2016 movie again to compare properly, but from memory, I feel they were pretty much on an equal par. The 1971 movie was overlong, sometimes a little dull and ponderous and a watered down version of the TV series. True, it had flashes of it’s old charm, like when General Fullard and his horse floated down the river on a section of a sabotaged bridge. And the 2016 version was spoilt somehow by historical inaccuracies, such as delicious-looking cakes at a time of strict wartime rationing. Nor would anyone have been able to simply ring up a Paris number from the south of England after Nazi occupation. Furthermore, I wish the spy’s identity hadn’t been quite so obvious. But I did find myself laughing in places in the 2016 movie. Also, I liked the homage the 2016 version made to the bravery and intelligence of women in wartime, in contrast to the 1971 version, which frankly was a piece of fluff, albeit a charming one. The women there are relegated to being evil, nagging old harridans who are best kept out of sight, or else are dim, helpless sex kittens thrown in for a bit of eye candy. Also, Bradley is right in that the 1971 movie is merely a mish mash of some of the highlights from the TV series, such as the bridge rescue, or the Nazi parachutists, both of which were cherry-picked from the series. The 2016 movie was more original. So I’d give the 1971 movie a 6/10, the 2016 one 7/10.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Hi Browyn,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the 1971 and 2016 ‘Dad’s Army’ films.

      I haven’t seen the two ‘Dad’s Army’ films that have been made so far in quite a while, but I still rate the 1971 film more highly than the 2016 film. It’s interesting how my opinions on these films differ compare to yours, but I appreciate why you would consider the 2016 film more favourably than me considering it has a more original story to it than the 1971 film. I suppose it’s because the original ‘Dad’s Army’ cast are in the 1971 film that I regard it more highly. Also I feel the 2016 film didn’t have enough familiar references to the original TV show and that Mrs. Mainwaring was shown (which shouldn’t happen since that was never done in the TV series).

      I know I said in my review for the 2016 film that the women dressing up in army uniforms was too much for me and it made it too PC for me. In a way, I like that the 2016 film addresses the bravery and intelligence of woman in wartime and I appreciate it being depicted. Mind you, I wish there was more exploration of that in the 2016 film since it’s simply set up with no build-up to it in following from the TV series and there’s not enough focus on the women characters as the male characters take centre stage and most of the plot is on the ‘Dad’s Army’ team trying to impress Rose Winters’ character (who I agree is revealed too early and obviously as a German spy in the film).

      Many thanks again for sharing your thoughts on the 1971 and 2016 ‘Dad’s Army’ films.

      Tim. 🙂



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