Sunday, 14 February 2016

We’re Doomed: The Dad’s Army Story

Dad’s Army, which ran on BBC from 1968 to 1977, is one of the most iconic and loved sitcoms in the history of TV. With its endless catchphrases, memorable characters and iconic opening credits; Dad’s Army is quite simply legendary television. But like all good things that are ahead of their time, it was a big battle getting it made. Just as with The Beatles and the Harry Potter books, the powers-that-be were nay-sayers who wanted nothing to do with it. Now, almost 50 years on, Dad’s Army is beloved by all, and a big-screen remake has been released this year for both old fans and newcomers alike. So how did mismatched pair Jimmy Perry and David Croft bring the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard to life?

Steve Bendelack’s We’re Doomed: The Dad’s Army Story, which is out now on DVD, is a dramatization of the events that led to Dad’s Army’s production, and the hurdles that were overcome to bring these now-legendary characters to life. The heroes of the story aren’t necessarily the actors, though. Firstly, we have creator Jimmy Perry (Paul Ritter), a somewhat flamboyant struggling actor who only wrote the show so he could play the role of Private Walker – which he didn’t. And secondly we have David Croft (Richard Dormer), a BBC-man who teams up with Perry on Dad’s Army as his co-writer and, eventually, his friend. Ritter and Dormer are both incredible as the odd couple who gave us so many laughs with Dad’s Army and later It Ain’t Half Hot Mum and Hi-De-Hi. Their differences that made them work so well as a writing team works incredibly well on screen. And the pair have an advantage against the majority of the cast – they’re playing men whose appearance, voices and mannerisms aren’t so firmly lodged in viewers’ hearts. 

The first half of this hour-long film shows the creation of Dad’s Army – originally titled Fighting Tigers – and how Perry & Croft had to fight producers to even get the permission to make it. Once they have that, they begin to cast the series and film it – this is where We’re Doomed shines. The casting is first-rate throughout, with a highly believable set of performances taking the daunting task of portraying these iconic characters. The film belongs to John Sessions, a fantastic actor who brings a lot of character to Arthur Lowe – the man who would be the pompous Captain Mainwaring. Yes, he doesn’t look exactly like him. But it’s not a documentary. You can tell who everyone is supposed to be before it is announced to the audience. That said, some casual viewers might be confused by Mark Heap who is playing Clive Dunn, the 47-year old stage actor disillusioned by the fact he must play another ‘old codger’, the fan-favourite Corporal Jones – one of the youngest actors in Dad’s Army playing one of the most convincing old men! Ralph Riach plays John Laurie, the old Scotsman who played Frazer – and his resemblance to the actor is quite uncanny in some scenes. But frankly, we don’t spend a huge amount of time on the incredibly faithfully recreated Dad’s Army set.

We’re Doomed spends more time in the offices of the BBC, with the nay-sayers in power almost acting as the pantomime villains of the story. Keith Allen portrays Paul Fox, the then-controller of the BBC who was Perry & Croft’s biggest adversary. He’s portrayed as a cold bastard with no sense of humour who wants absolutely nothing to do with Dad’s Army. Very brave then that this is a completely BBC production, almost feeling like they’re holding their hands up and saying “yep, we were idiots” and making one of their own ex-controllers out to be a tosser. Much like Disney’s Saving Mr Banks wasn’t exactly complimentary of Walt Disney, this production makes a villain out of one of their own. Very brave indeed. On the technical side, I’ve no complaints with We’re Doomed. Visuals are strong throughout, the soundtrack is brilliantly era-authentic and as the film clocks in at only one hour, there’s no time for meaningless filler or padding – the pacing is spot-on, and the story flows perfectly although I feel like they missed a few bits that would’ve been interesting to see.

We’re Doomed is an extremely solid biographical behind-the-scenes film about passion, and overcoming hurdles to bring your vision to life. Dad’s Army went on to run for 9 seasons and often hit the dizzying heights of 18 million viewers, and is still frequently re-run on BBC today. And with an all-star big screen reboot released this year, it’s clear that England – and the world – aren’t yet fed up of Perry & Croft’s iconic creation. The film ends with The Kinks’ beautiful song Days. Thank you for the days, indeed. Thank you Jimmy Perry, and thank you David Croft.

Don’t panic! We’re Doomed is a loving tribute to an iconic show, as well as a highly informative and inspiring tale of bringing your vision to life no matter what. 4/5.


Sam Love

We’re Doomed: The Dad’s Army Story at CeX

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