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Oh! What a Lovely War: The Special Collector's Edition [DVD] 
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Collection of inspired and poignant vignettes on World War I.
It's a product of its Vietnam era just as surely as Robert Altman's M*A*S*H, and like that film Oh! What a Lovely War is ostensibly about a different war. Based on a celebrated anti-war stage piece produced by Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop, the film chronicles the various madnesses of the First World War. Along with vignettes involving the members of the fictional Smith family, the movie lands its punches with a two-pronged attack: by using the songs of the war, mostly patriotic; and by using the real-life words of various figures from WWI. You can see how this would have fit a stylised stage show; in the more literal, realistic realm of film, it mostly comes across as heavy-handed pretentiousness. Richard Attenborough, who would later explore the lives of Gandhi and Chaplin, first made his way to the director's chair here, and he enlisted a staggering who's who of his fellow British actors for roles in the large ensemble: Olivier, Gielgud, and Richardson among them. John Mills plays the most bull-headed of the generals, blithely measuring out yards of territory gained by the thousands of casualties involved. The songs are a historically fascinating lot, mostly given an ironic or sinister treatment in this incarnation, as jolly patriotic tunes that mask the utter carnage at the front. Among the high points is Maggie Smith singing (well, declaiming) an ode to recruitment, promising war as a grand adventure. The blending of arch content with Attenborough's realistic staging of trench warfare just doesn't take, but what does hit home are the actual quotes and the statistics of killing; World War I set a bloody standard for sheer, blind slaughter. --Robert Horton
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Top Customer Reviews
The print is simply wonderful - widescreen never looked better, and it's far more bright and clean than anyone will have seen for years. It has be one of the highest quality pictures I have seen for a long time.
As a film experience, it has everything to recommend it - all those huge stars, the beautiful cinematography, and those remarkably touching (and witty) songs. You could say this is a musical for people who normally don't watch musicals, because these are all authentic WW1 songs, popular, sacred and profane.
The whole film is dotted with poignant moments, but the definitive one is right at the end, and truly breathtaking. Especially when you learn that it was filmed for real! A real pleasure to own this reinstated masterpiece.
It's silly to compare or measure this against most other war films, because it is so unlike any other, but it stands out as a dramatic, cinematic, narrative gem. A serious musical about the horrors of war: sounds as likely as a serious musical about living in Nazi Germany. Oh, wait...someone did that too. Cabaret must owe quite a bit to this film, not least in the "tomorrow belongs to me" scene, although they wrote their songs from scratch for Cabaret.
The songs here are real, some the official versions from popular music hall, and some the unofficial versions sung by the troops, with considerably darker lyrics (though they omitted the rudest of the unofficial lyrics). The humour is black and dry as a tomb, and you don't quite know whether to laugh or wince in a lot of places (just do both). But the real beauty of the film is in the settings, which are sparse, only partly realistic, and sometimes subject to extraordinary changes. The most impressive are slow 360 degree pans, during which everything changes behind the camera's back, so that when you get back the character you started with, they are in a completely different situation. These and other rapid scene shifts are part of whole film's unreal, nightmarish quality that matches the subject matter perfectly.
If you haven't seen it, make sure you do.Read more ›
And what a film. It struck me that many people will never have even seen this masterpiece (and there are very few films I would call that) before. For those who haven't, be aware that the title is ironic. This movie shows how most of Europe, then other continents, were drawn into the carnage of World War 1 by old alliances. And then, how the slaughter went on, and on... But also be aware that it's a musical, where the musical numbers comment on the madness of the war, and underline the black humour necessary to keep everyone going. Songs like 'When This Lousy War is Over', 'Good-bye-ee' and 'We Don't Want to Lose You ( but think you ought to go)' stick in the mind long after seeing the film.
The cast is like a Who's Who of British acting: John Gielgud, John Mills, Kenneth More, Vanessa Redgrave, Jack Hawkins, Dirk Bogarde.... Much of the film was made on location in, and near, Brighton; the famous pier is used to great effect, as, amongst other things, the control centre for the British generals. In one memorable scene the ever-growing casualty figures are displayed in enormous numbers whilst Field Marshall Haig (John Mills) decides to send yet more men over the top. In fact the film is arguably more a series of set pieces than a running narrative.
And that incredible final shot!!! What a treat for those who haven't seen the film before. I saw this on first release in 1969 at the Lounge Cinema, Headingley, Leeds, and can still remember watching as the entire screen filled with...ahh, wait and see.
For me, this is the most anticipated DVD ever; I just hope that loving care has been taken over the transfer of this, one of the most extraordinary films of all time.
I've seen Oh What A Lovely war as a stage play and I have to say that this film is one of the most imaginative transfers to screen I have ever seen. The film uses the highly original technique of blending theatre with live action, often cutting immediately from one to the other to create tremendous visual impact. The use of music hall and popular songs as a backdrop to the events creates a tremendous impact, as for example, when we watch one of the main characters live out his last moments in a field hospital while a beautiful rendition of "Keep The Home Fires Burning" plays in the background.
The real genius of the film is that after 138 minutes you feel as though you have been through 4 years of war. There is a real feeling of the passage of time as well as the passage of an era from the innocence of 1914 to the brutality of 1918.
This was Richard Attenborough's first attempt as a director and I have say probably his best. Apart from enrolling the leading British theatrical talent of the day (John Mills, Larry Oilivier, Dirk Bogarde, John Gieldgud, Jack Hawkinsand so on) he also chose complete unknowns for the parts of the soldiers, thereby underlining how it was the common man who bore the brunt of the war.
John Mills in particular turns in an outstanding performance as Field Marshall Haig. Maggie Smith also turns in a stunning cameo as a music hall songstress using her feminine wiles to encourage men to join up on stage.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
How can you say a film about war is fun? It is but it is sobering fun!!Published 3 days ago by Keith Taylor
Beautifully made and directed film about the tragical
Beautifully made and directed film about the Second World War. Read more
Bloody Sky. Showed it on Greatest Films in Sky Cinema then not able to get it on demand. But the music u did catch was good to listen to. Therefore the purchase. Read morePublished 2 months ago by TEMPRAMENTAL