Mark Lester (director)
BFI Film (studio)
20 May 2019 (released)
27 May 2019
Thanks to BFI Film, director Mark Lester's surreal-absurd 'anti-war' satire HOW I WON THE WAR (1967) is now available in Dual Format. The film is also known for the fact that it involved two greats from the world of music: Michael ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ Crawford and Beatle John Lennon who was required to wear NHS specs for his role, which became part of his trademark ‘look’.
Crawford is Lieutenant Goodbody, a simple-minded and dim-witted idealist who leads his troops through various adventures (though mostly misadventures) during WW2... Thanks to his clumsiness and ineptitude his efforts to ward off the enemy has deadly consequences for almost every man involved. They are: Gripweed (John Lennon), Clapper (Roy Kinnear), Juniper ( Jack McGowran), Grapple (Michael Hordern) and Sergeant Transom (Lee Montague). During the course of the film, Goodbody's world-philosophies turn out to be near-fascist, perhaps a reason as to why he befriends the German officer Odlebog (Karl Michael Vogler), who seems the only one who actually understands him. Whenever a member of Goodbody’s troop loses his life on the battlefield, the dean men then return as 'toy soldiers' (painted in red, blue, green, pink etc) to keep on fighting, thus encouraging Goodbody's theory that war is ultimately nothing more than a game. With its mixture of absurd satire and slapstick, the film (based on the novel by Patrick Ryan) somehow misses the intended target for it never comes across as bitingly cynical as Stanley Kubrick's ‘Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned to stop worrying and love the Bomb’ (1964) for example.
Michael Crawford already displayed his great talent for comedic roles two years earlier in the equally absurd farce ‘The Knack…and how to get it’ (also directed by Mark Lester). HOW I WON THE WAR offers a whole lot of Extras, including animated anti-war shorts and the hilarious and brilliant 20-minute short PLOD from 1971 - an abstract fusion of poetry and pop music by The Scaffold (member Mike McGear is Beatle Paul McCatney's brother), filmed in the streets of Liverpool. The plot concerns the misadventures of Police Constable Plod, a fictional character known through the ‘Noddy’ children's books by author Enid Blyton. PC Plod (portrayed by band member John Gorman) always claims to be on top of the situation and hot on the heels of criminals – only to usually fails in the end - almost like Lieutenant Goodybody! The Scaffold scored their biggest international hit in 1968 with 'Lily the Pink'.