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Upper class twit Windrush (Ian Carmichael) causes military mayhem when he joins up in the army. An inept soldier, he unwittingly becomes involved in his high-ranking uncle's (Dennis Price) scam to appropriate some rather valuable spoils of war - a haul of German jewels. A sequel followed with 'I'm Alright Jack'.
With a remarkable cast headlined by Ian Carmichael, Richard Attenborough, Dennis Price and Terry Thomas, WWII army comedy Private's Progress was one of the major British hits of 1956. Carmichael is Stanley Windrush, a naïve young soldier who during training falls in with the streetwise Private Cox (Attenborough). Windrush's uncle is the even more ambitiously corrupt Colonel Tracepurcel (Price), who plans to divert the war effort to liberate art treasures already looted by the Germans. The first half of the film is quite pedestrian, though the pace picks up considerably once the heist gets underway, and the cheery tone masks a really rather dark and cynical heart.
Carmichael's innocent abroad quickly wears thin, but Attenborough and Price steal the film, as well as the paintings, with typically excellent turns. With a nod in the direction of Ealing's The Ladykillers (1955) the film also anticipates the attitudes of both The League of Gentlemen (1959) and Joseph Heller's novel Catch 22 (1961), though lacks the latter's greater sophistication. The cast also contains such British stalwarts as William Hartnell, Peter Jones, Ian Bannen, John Le Mesurier, Christopher Lee and David Lodge, and was sufficiently popular to reunite all the major players for the superior sequel, I'm Alright Jack (1959).
On the DVD: Private's Progress is presented in black and white at 4:3 Academy ratio, though the film appears to have been shot full frame and then unmasked for home viewing so there is more top and bottom to the images than at the cinema. The print used shows constant minor damage and is quite grainy, though no more than expected for a low-budget film of the time. The mono sound is average and unremarkable, and there are no special features. --Gary S Dalkin --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Reviewers who treat this film as simply comedy (mild or otherwise) are a little wide of the mark. Maybe we associate many of the actors (Carmichael, Jones, Thomas, for example)... Read morePublished 10 days ago by Wilberfalse
I echo the comments of others here, a great film ruined by a truly dreadful transfer. One wonders if anyone ever bothered to check the finished product at all. Read morePublished 2 months ago by a reader from Dorset