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  It's a Grand Life Gerroff Me Foot
Year: 1953
Director: John E. Blakeley
Stars: Frank Randle, Diana Dors, Dan Young, Michael Brennan, Jennifer Jayne, John Blythe, Anthony Hulme, Charles Peters, Arthur White, Jack Pye, Winifred Atwell
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Private Randle (Frank Randle) is dozing in his jeep when he is awoken by Private Young (Dan Young) accompanied by two others. They are escorting a prisoner to his jail and ask Randle if he will drive them there, so he agrees, but on the way feels a powerful thirst and inquires if anyone would care to join him in a drink before they reach their destination. This seems like a very good idea, but after couple of pints each the prisoner is allowed to visit the gents' on his own and makes a run for it. Can't Randle do anything right? Well, he can, as it turns out...

It's a Grand Life was Frank Randle's only film outside of the nineteen-forties, and his last film of any kind. He was most popular in music hall, but his films had found their biggest audience in his native Northern England, which is where most of them were distributed by the aptly-named Mancunian Films. Nowadays you're lucky to meet anyone who has even heard of him, and in truth his humour has not lasted well, especially in this film which saw scene after scene of fluffed lines, rambling and a lack of ability to get to the comedic point.

It probably helps to have seen one of Randle's forties films, which were largely forces-based comedies, to understand where he was coming from; although there was still National Service, this film looks ancient compared to Carry On Sergeant, for example, which would arrive a few short years later and eclipse Randle's efforts at army humour. Perhaps the funniest aspect for modern audiences here is that it opens with a disclaimer that the film is not intended to be derogatory to the actual armed forces, a mark of respect that looks ridiculous these days.

Randle isn't alone in his antics, he has the backup of Young who assists with his routines, and a motley collection of misfits he helps recruit, including a comedy Welshman (guess which village he hails from?) and a comedy Jewish man, which might not be as offensive as it sounds but makes this all look positively prehistoric. The glamour is provided by a young Diana Dors as Captain Paula Clements, pouting, platinum blonde and obviously on her way to bigger things than this.

To accuse It's a Grand Life of a lack of story is to miss the point, as it's merely an excuse to string a few sketches together with Randle at the centre of the chaos. After attempting to explain why the prisoner got away, we are treated to his efforts to fix a car engine or drill the troops, neither of which are successful. Or particularly funny, for that matter. But there is a plot, and it has Irish Sergeant Major O'Reilly (Michael Brennan) badgering Paula to go out with him, even resorting to blackmail. To call the resolution of this storyline - an attempted rape - misjudged is an understatement, but it does allow Randle to save the day in time for Winifred Atwell to regale us with her piano skills at the end. A curiosity, then, and of interest to a diminishing number of viewers as the years go by, but worth being aware of nevertheless.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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