Privates on Parade

DirectorMichael Blakemore
Length120 mins
StarringJohn Cleese
Simon Jones
Dennis Quilley
Michael Elphick
Nicola Pagett
Based on a novel byPeter Nichols

John Cleese is the commanding officer in charge of an entertainment troupe in Singapore at the outbreak of the Emergency. The CO finds himself at odds with those under his command. His old fashioned straight-laced command style contrasts starkly to thowith an eye on se under him. They are mostly conscripts who are more at home in dresses than in a uniform. There main area of interest is in the local women! The senior NCO is not much more use, he is much more concerned with filling his back pocket than with any notions of patriotism or fighting for a greater cause.

Despite being a comedy, the film has decidedly dark undertones and an even bleaker conclusion. Race relations, homosexuality, mixed marriages and social exclusivity are all tackled head on in a refreshingly robust manner. The morals and values of an era from over 50 years ago can aggravate a modern audience. Hollywood generally prefers to airbrush over the more distasteful parts of history. Fortunately, the lampooning nature of this film means that it takes many of these taboos by the horns and suitably ridicules them.

This film is not a classic by any means, however it does have some genuinely funny scenes. John Cleese is on familiar territory as the overbearing, devout officer completely at odds with the soldiers he commands. His character pines for an Empire that is fast disappearing before his eyes. He cannot comprehend the mentality of the privates who could not care less about global politics. And as for homosexuality, the idea is completely beyond him. Much of the joking is a direct result of these social misunderstandings.

Not wishing to give the game away, I can say that the end is something of a surprise. If you are used to the happily ever after endings served out by most films, you may be left wondering about the ending. However, without reading too much into the story, the ending is oddly appropriate to the real life conclusion of the 'emergency'. This helps to make the film a surprisingly valuable addition to the imperial video library.

Buy this DVD at: Amazon

Media | Silver Screen


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by Stephen Luscombe