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  Somewhere on Leave On Manoeuvres
Year: 1943
Director: John E. Blakeley
Stars: Frank Randle, Harry Korris, Dan Young, Antoinette Lupino, Pat McGrath, Toni Edgar-Bruce, Percival Mackey, Noel Dainton
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Land Girl Toni (Antoinette Lupino) is by herself in a railway station awaiting the train to take her to her new base, and by chance she meets Maisie, an old friend who is pleased to see her but offers her condolences about the death of her parents in an air raid. However, Toni confides that after contacting the family lawyer, it turned out she was adopted so she has now joined the army. At the base, Toni's regiment apparently has a new recruit - but not really, as he's Private Randle (Frank Randle) fooling around and is soon sent packing...

There are those who would have you believe that significant British film before about 1960 was restricted to dramas and period pictures, but they reckon without the formidable amount of comedy that was presented to the public. Not all of it, indeed hardly any of it, is recalled fondly today mainly because it's so rarely seen outside of the odd George Formby or Will Hay movie, but there nevertheless were successful series starring comedians before Carry On was ever thought of.

The Somewhere... series was one of them, starring Lancashire comic Randle and his team of support, and at the time he was considered one of the most vulgar comedians Britain had ever produced, a claim that seems laughable today for the wrong reasons. On this evidence, his films were music hall routines strung together, but Randle and company are far more palatable than the dreary romance that is shoehorned into the flimsy story. In fact, the performances by the straight actors are incredibly stilted to modern eyes, just witness that opening scene.

If you're willing to overlook the fine oak of the romantic leads, who are presumably present because they can carry a tune in a couple of musical numbers, then you can savour the antics of the seasoned humourists. Sadly they haven't dated too well, but every so often you're surprised with a decent laugh. Oddly for a wartime comedy, there is very little mention of the conflict aside from an air raid which features stock footage of a German biplane being shot down - did they think no one would notice?!

Perhaps the writers, who included director John E. Blakeley under an alias, supposed the audience had had enough of the war and wanted some much needed escapism, although Dan Young sports a familiar-looking 'tache. So we're treated to business that might baffle today's audiences, like Randle bouncing around on a trampoline or manhandling a horse, and even his drunk act is not the kind of thing you see much anymore. Maybe the Somewhere... films act best as a time capsule of what tickled the funny bone of forties Britain due to its far remove from the comedy of decades later. One for the historians. Music by Albert W. Stanbury.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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