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89 of 90 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An essential DVD release
At last - a most eagerly awaited DVD release, and it's no disappointment. The packaging, menus, and print quality are all top notch. Extras are limited to a 45 minute documentary (helpfully divided into three parts) and director's commentary - I believe it's only Lord Attenborough's first.

The print is simply wonderful - widescreen never looked better, and it's...
Published on 4 Nov 2006 by Mr. R. Jordan

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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Oh what a lovely send up
Never spoof a spoof is an old cinematic adage - yet Richard Attenborough's directorial debut is not only a spoof of a spoof of a fake, but also perhaps his most daring and artistic production, even ahead of Shadowlands. Unfortunately, he should have listened more carefully to that adage. Adapted from a stage play based on Alan Clark's 1961 "history" of generalship in the...
Published 23 months ago by saisynaber


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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A excellent satire, 15 May 2007
By 
This film has not dated since I first saw it in the late 60s, the height of anti-Vietnam war demonstrations.

From the first scene where we see Maggie Smith on her recruiting drive in a music hall, to the numbing ending panning out on a huge landscape filled with crosses of the war dead, I think that the message here had, and still has, far more impact than so-called anti-war pictures of the time that concentrated purely on the graphic brutal horror of it all.

The subtle, sometimes silly, yet always poignant satire is evident throughout, and it's really well done too. The generals in the Great War, who were often criticised for not being at the front line with their troops, are brilliantly lampooned conducting the campaign from Brighton Pier, with cricket-type scoreboards as back drops- "Battle of the Somme. Today's dead 60,000, ground gained NIL". General Haig, admirably played by John Mills, kneels down in prayer, instead of concentrating on strategy, and says 'I know it didn't go too well today, Lord, but...'

The start of hostilities takes place on a floor-covered map on the pier, and politicians move around as in the game of Risk. The period songs are amusing, yet moving when viewed in the context of soldiers who knew they were heading for unprecedented slaughter.

The switches between the luxury of HQ and the abominable conditions of the trenches are timed perfectly.

A very fine cast, who were unfortunately the sole topic of the Special Feature. Richard 'Dahling' Attenborough in his first DVD interview, is on top form. From 'Larry to Kenny to Johnny to Dicky' and their performances 'Charming, exquisite, wonderful'... well you can just imagine. Actually, the acting was pretty good, nice and over the top in keeping with the format.

Film worth watching, but scan the Special Feature only if you fancy a trip to Luvvydom.
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51 of 63 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sign up now for The War Game; Oh! What a Lovely War is a fine film directed by Richard Attenborough, 24 Nov 2006
By 
C. O. DeRiemer (San Antonio, Texas, USA) - See all my reviews
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Genetic testing, I think, would show Oh! What a Lovely War and Paths of Glory to be fraternal twins. Both are anti-war, both use the appalling circumstances of World War I to underline the corruption of old men who use war as a way to occupy their time and cause young men to die in the tens of thousands. But where Paths of Glory uses bitterness, Oh! What a Lovely War uses irony and the clever trick of turning our own jingoistic instincts against us. The movie is a pastiche of fantasy, fact, music halls, songs with words often used by the soldiers and the real-life statements of key personalities. There are two threads which connect everything together. The first is the fate of the Smith family and the five sons who eagerly sign up to beat the Hun. The second is the smugness, the certitude, the deadly self-confidence of those who make decisions about war. The fantasy takes place on a great seaside boardwalk with a wonderful wooden pier and ornate pavilions at the end. Here the Smith family and hundreds of others line up at the counter to buy tickets to join in "the ever popular War Game." Inside the music hall Maggie Smith sings "I'll Make a Man of You," a seducing, winking recruiting song...

"The Army and the Navy need attention,

The outlook isn't healthy you'll admit,

But I've got a perfect dream of a new recruiting scheme,

Which I think is absolutely 'it.'

If only other girls would do as I do

I believe that we could manage it alone,

For I turn all suitors from me but the sailor and the Tommy.

I've an army and a navy of my own.

"On Sunday I walk out with a Soldier,

On Monday I'm taken by a Tar,

On Tuesday I'm out with a baby Boy Scout,

On Wednesday a Hussar;

On Thursday a gang oot wi' a Scottie,

On Friday, the Captain of the crew;

But on Saturday I'm willing, if you'll only take the shilling,

To make a man of any one of you."

And off go the first of the Smith sons up to the stage, encouraged by their proud and smiling wives, to take the shilling and walk out into the trenches. While the pier may be fantasy, the trenches are all too realistic. It is at Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig's headquarters at the pier where sports score boards are kept of the battles: "The Somme, 1916. British losses: 607,781 officers and men. Ground gained: Nil." It's at the pier where staff officers, well away from the fighting, play leap frog while sending out orders to attack. "One more frontal assault, gentlemen, and we shall win." And men leave the trenches as ordered to charge forward with rifles and bayonets against machine guns and barbed wire. In a looney atmosphere the troops are lined up for Sunday services and hear from an upper-class preacher, "I'm sure you'll all be glad to hear news from the home front. The Archbishop of Canterbury has made it known it is no sin to labor for the war on the Sabbath. And I'm sure you'll also like to know the Chief Rabbi has absolved your Jewish brethren from abstaining from pork in the trenches. Likewise, His Holiness the Pope has ruled that the eating of flesh on Friday is no longer a mortal sin..." Through it all the home front, energized against the Hun, reads the death lists with trembling but brave lips, and the men who die deal with the absurdity by singing their own morbid versions of songs...

"If you want the old battalion,

We know where they are, we know where they are,

We know where they are.

If you want the old battalion, we know where they are,

They're hanging on the old barbed wire.

We've seen them, we've seen them,

Hanging on the old barbed wire."

Even their laughter at Christmas can have an ironic twist...

"It was Christmas Day in the cookhouse, the happiest time of the year,

Men's hearts were full of gladness and their bellies full of beer,

When up popped Private Shorthouse, his face as bold as brass,

He said We don't want your puddings, you can stick them up your...tidings of co-omfort and joy, comfort and joy, o-oh ti-idings of co-omfort and joy.

"It was Christmas Day in the harem, the eunuchs were standing 'round,

And hundreds of beautiful women were stretched out on the ground,

Along came the wicked Sultan, surveying his marble halls,

He said Whaddya want for Christmas boys, and the eunuchs answered...tidings of co-omfort and joy, comfort and joy, o-oh ti-idings of comfort and joy."

The film ends with one of the most touching and slightly bitter conclusions I've ever seen. The Smith family, now just the women, walk on a fine, sunlit day through a meadow filled with white crosses. The camera pulls back and back until we can only see these four moving white dots in a vast, endless meadow of green grass and white crosses. And we can hear soldiers faintly singing their own version of "They Wouldn't Believe Me."

"And when they ask us, how dangerous it was,

Oh, we'll never tell them, no, we'll never tell them.

We spent our pay in some cafe,

And fought wild women night and day,

'Twas the cushiest job we ever had.

"And when they ask us, and they're certainly going to ask us,

The reason why we didn't win the Croix de Guerre,

Oh, we'll never tell them, oh, we'll never tell them.

There was a front, but damned if we knew where."

This was Richard Attenborough's first job as a director and he pulls it off with great effectiveness. He rounded up the cream of British actors, starting with Lawrence Olivier. These aren't stunt cameos. Even when some of the parts are just a few lines, the actors perform with great effect. They are key to the opening scene when, playing the important rulers and statesmen in 1913 and 1914, they are gathered around inside a fantasy pavilion and Attenborough constructs the background to the war using them.

I think the film is one of the best and oddest of the anti-war movies. It was based on the Joan Littlewood theater piece, which was small-scale, brisk and acerbic. If any, like me, squirm at Paths of Glory's earnestness, they might want to sample its fraternal twin directed by Attenborough.

In keeping with the spirit of both Oh, What a Lovely War and Paths of Glory, it seems appropriate to give Wilfred Owen the last word. He was a young officer in WWI who often wrote poetry when he wasn't fighting. Owen was killed leading yet another charge just four days before the armistice was declared. He was 25. His poems were published posthumously to great acclaim. This excerpt tells the story of a gas attack and of a man who fumbled getting his mask on...

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,

He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you, too, could pace

Behind the wagon that we flung him in,

And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,

His hanging face, like a devil's, sick of sin;

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood

Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,

Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud

Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues...

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest

To children ardent for some desperate glory,

The old lie: Dulce et decorum est

Pro patria mori. *

*Which translates as "It is sweet and honorable to die for one's country."
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oh! What a lovely, lovely War., 26 Mar 2010
By 
This review is from: Oh! What a Lovely War: The Special Collector's Edition [DVD] [1969] (DVD)
This DVD has all the freshness of the original film. Thoroughly enjoyed both by nostalgic oldies and the slightly youngers who appreciated the clever production with its contrasting humour and hopeless sadness. Flanders 1917- Afganistan 2010. Every wasted life a tragedy.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The final scene..., 27 Oct 2006
By 
D. Burgess-joyce "Bellini" (England) - See all my reviews
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...will have you crying. It has got to be one of the most poignant and moving of all endings. I agree with the guy above, this is probably the best film ever made. Buy it!
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Oh what a lovely send up, 14 Aug 2012
This review is from: Oh! What a Lovely War: The Special Collector's Edition [DVD] [1969] (DVD)
Never spoof a spoof is an old cinematic adage - yet Richard Attenborough's directorial debut is not only a spoof of a spoof of a fake, but also perhaps his most daring and artistic production, even ahead of Shadowlands. Unfortunately, he should have listened more carefully to that adage. Adapted from a stage play based on Alan Clark's 1961 "history" of generalship in the First World War (really more a novel and, being written to make money rather than add to knowledge, designed to be as tendentious and controversial as possible) about the corruption and incompetence of First World War generals, this film sets out to do two things - lampoon the arrogant, out of touch and wealthy elites who dominated the British Army and led them to disaster via total incompetence and ignorance, and portray the horrors of the trench war as a counterpoint, usually accompanied by an ironical song or three.

The second is brilliantly done. It is hard to think, in a field of stiff competition, of a movie that does it better (although it is a mug's game trying to keep track of the fortunes of the Smith family unless you physically take notes, as the vignettes are so confusingly cut together). The first is not very well done at all, partly because it has to derive from myth and misinformation that grates ever more with time. General Haig starts the war selling tickets for Brighton Pier, tricking men into buying tickets for the front instead. He seldom visits France, staying in the comfort of Brighton Pier, aimlessly sending thousands of men to their deaths in random attacks designed for a war of attrition, while he dances with his wife and drinks champagne. His only real concern, revealed in his private prayers, is for victory "before the Americans arrive". The staff officers boast about how they had the odd shell land near their HQ, as the men listening cower from machine gun fire and gas attacks. Sir John French casually ignores the views of the one man in the army who knows what he is talking about (a surprisingly generous portrayal of the hard-right, Irish-hating general Sir Henry Wilson). The problem is, that this aspect had much more to do with the anti-establishment, anti-war memes of the 1960s than with the realities of the war. Haig, for example, was the only soldier in the entire British army known to have spent the entire war in France, where he began his career as a battlefield general at Mons (where part of the action actually takes place). Although he was unquestionably guilty of needlessly wasting lives in the belief that "one more push" would do it, the film deliberately twists that into a claim that he was interested only in victory, not the lives of his men - this about a man who after the war devoted his life to fundraising for veterans until his death at a comparatively young age from overwork. The mysterious and total absence of junior officers from the trenches (troops are commanded by sergeants in combat in this film) allows a strong focus on the men, again suiting the "bottom up" perspective of the 1960s - but it is also a false realization. Junior officers, leading their men in attacks, spent a huge amount of time in the trenches and were actually even more likely to be killed than the men under their command (so did junior generals spend time in the trenches, who often remained as the battalions of their brigade were rotated through the front line, although they were killed less often as they were not encouraged to go over the top). This film, and later Blackadder Goes Forth, helped to create irritating myths about the First World War that are only now slowly being dispelled. It's worth noting to that some of the sub-plots misfire too - even apart from the Smiths, the photographer who pops up everywhere as an assassin, announcer, waiter, Salvation Army band conductor and finally as Death, singing songs and smiling in sinister fashion along the way, is at best a distraction and at worst incredibly bewildering. The idea was presumably to link all aspects of the war together and show that all were affected by its tragedy - but it doesn't really work.

However, those are really side issues. Watch it and play spot-the-star - Laurence Olivier, John Mills, Dirk Bogarde, Maggie Smith and practically the entire Redgrave dynasty - as they make fleeting cameos. Watch it for the bitter humour of the men, superbly coaxed out by Attenborough and realistically portrayed. Watch it for the cunning way games and shows cut away to front line situations to enhance the feeling of two separate worlds and the belief at home and among the men (at first) that war was a game. Watch it for the few but truly brilliant moments of pathos and grandeur - the church parade, the shots of the wounded after Passchendaele. Watch it above all for one of the great final scenes in all movie history: the dead, symbolised by thousands of crosses the women walk among as white dots in aerial shot, singing to the small girl that she'll never know the truth about war, because they will never tell her.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oh, We'll Never Tell Them, 12 April 2011
By 
This review is from: Oh! What a Lovely War: The Special Collector's Edition [DVD] [1969] (DVD)
I like the way this film opposes the rich to the poor cannon fodder. That is its point, this opposition between the easily led masses and the idiot cruel leaders who count their herd nation states as 'fodder'.

Hague voices his opinion that since there are more of us than them, even though they are killing more of us each day, we will win because in the end there will be none of them left, and 5,000 of us left. 'Us' means the soldiers on the ground.

Meanwhile, the songs of the soldiers alone in the film indicate that they have been disabused of the idea that they are fighting for their country or doing something worthwhile.

The last song is sung to an old tune, and the soldiers set their own words to it:

'And if they ask us how dangerous it was, Oh we'll never tell them, no, we'll never tell them.
'And they're certainly going to ask us why we didn't win the Croix de Guerre
But we'll never tell them, no, we'll never tell them.
There was a front but damned if we knew where.'

Their loss was too much for words, so they will never tell their story.
To speak of the loss would be to give away the only thing they earned when suffering it: pride and silence.
If the dead have something over those who murdered them in these numbers, it is that they keep their secrets and they can hold their tongue, keep their lives to themselves. Besides, they didn't get home to tell the story.

Richard Attenborough is scrupulous about keeping their secret, too, in his way, by not showing actual blood or violence, and keeping the whole thing musical. He can be heard to sob in the last moments of his commentary.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Second viewing made sense!, 5 Jun 2009
By 
A. J. Thorne "Created4Life" (Kent, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Oh! What a Lovely War: The Special Collector's Edition [DVD] [1969] (DVD)
My parents took me to see the new release of this film at a cinema in Gloucester. It was 1969, I was eleven or twelve. I didn't understand a thing! As we left, I recall my mother's lament, "He's too young to understand." I was very pleased to obtain the DVD version recently. Superb film! The interviews with some of the cast was enlightening. I'd like to show my sons, but will they understand? They need to.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique little gem, 27 April 2008
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M. J. Bailey (Nottingham United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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A musical about WW1 ?
Very hard to believe, and I can't imagine how they managed to 'sell' the idea to whoever financed it, but thank goodness they did.

Although this concept should never have worked, it breaks every rule in the book to successfully convey the shift from eager anticipation of a walkover victory, to the anguish and futility of mass slaughter.

Just don't expect 'Saving Private Ryan'. It's not about guns and bloodshed, but about how people actually felt as the fight dragged on and the horrors mounted. And because you associate with the characters, you care about them.

On the off-chance you don't like this film, can I suggest you fast-forward to the final five minutes. The closing shots are amongst the most moving scenes you will ever see. As the camera pans out I guarantee you will be just a little shocked...and just a little wiser.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 5 July 2014
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L. Carpenter - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Oh! What a Lovely War: The Special Collector's Edition [DVD] [1969] (DVD)
Great buy
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5.0 out of 5 stars A cast of the greatest, a brilliant director and a script second to ..., 4 July 2014
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This review is from: Oh! What a Lovely War: The Special Collector's Edition [DVD] [1969] (DVD)
A cast of the greatest, a brilliant director and a script second to none enhanced by catchy songs which stay with you for ever. I love this film but then I was in a stage production many years ago and my son followed my lead. I am now showing it to 11/12 year old students to illustrate how humour and sadness work effectively together. Who will ever forget the heart rending final scene. A triumph of cinematography.
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