Notes / Links
"There's been some marvelous advances in surgery, thanks to war!"
"What we want is more humane killers!"
"There have been far too many unwounded prisoners taken in this war!"
If You Think Richard Lester's 'How I Won The War' Is Just Another War Film, Forget It..
Among the first of the late 60s anti-war films that reflected growing concern over the Vietnam War, How I Won the War takes a cold, dark look at the Good War, World War II. In adapting Patrick Ryan's 1963 novel, screenwriter Charles Wood and director Richard Lester offered a narrative fractured by characters making side comments to the camera, stylized cinematography, inserts of newsreel war footage, and plenty of absurdist humor and slapstick. Ernest Goodbody (Michael Crawford) is a bumbling British officer who manages to get most of his small company of musketeers killed while on a mission in North Africa to set up a cricket pitch behind enemy lines for officers of the advancing British army. The rest of the company dies in an ensuing campaign in Europe near the war's end, but all of the men continue to march along, appearing as monochromatic ghosts. (Original prints of the film intercut real battle footage tinted to match the color of the soon-to-be ghost soldier. Some prints of the film, including one shown on Turner Classic Movies, present the newsreel shots in black and white, undercutting the stylized touch.) The story is framed as a flashback, with Goodbody relating his version of events to a German officer (Karl Michael Vogler), while the real version of events, demonstrating Goodbody's ineptitude, plays out on screen. Among the supporting players are John Lennon, who had worked with Lester on A Hard Day's Night and Help; Roy Kinnear, a Lester regular, as a fat soldier who is certain his wife is cheating on him; Jack MacGowran as the troop's designated fool, and Michael Hordern as a general almost as oblivious to his suffering men as Goodbody.
How I Won the War is a black comedy film directed by Richard Lester, released in 1967, based on a novel of the same name by Patrick Ryan. The film stars Michael Crawford as bungling British Army Officer Lieutenant Earnest Goodbody, with John Lennon (in his only non-musical role, as Musketeer Gripweed), Jack MacGowran (Musketeer Juniper), Roy Kinnear (Musketeer Clapper) and Lee Montague (Sergeant Transom) as soldiers under his command. The film uses an inconsistent variety of styles—vignette, straight–to–camera, and, extensively, parody of the war film genre, docu-drama, and popular war literature—to tell the story of 3rd Troop, the 4th Musketeers (a fictional regiment reminiscent of the Royal Fusiliers) and their misadventures in the Second World War. This is told in the comic/absurdist vein throughout, a central plot being the setting-up of an “Advanced Area Cricket Pitch” behind enemy lines in Tunisia, but it is all broadly based on the Allied landings in North Africa in 1942 to the crossing of the last intact bridge on the Rhine at Remagen in 1945. The film itself has never been critically well received.
Release Date: November 9, 1967
Distrib: United Artists