Monday, 14 December 2015

What Did You Do In The War, Daddy? (1966)

A comedy written by the author of The Exorcist, you say?  What could possibly go wrong?

Well in truth William Peter Blatty would not write his most famous work until five years after this film, and at the time this was made his output had overwhelmingly been in the comedic field: including several novels and four other movies before 1966.  One of those previous movies had been the second Pink Panther film, directed by Blake Edwards, with whom Blatty would reunite for this picture.

I wasn't a fan of Edwards' 1965 comedy The Great Race, which squandered a fine cast on a handful of jokes that started as mediocre and got steadily worse the more often Edwards reused them.  So I did not have high expectations for this film (which I only own because I inherited it somewhere along the line), and those expectations were more or less confirmed.

Captain Cash is a by-the-book US Army officer in Sicily in 1943.  He is appointed to command C Company with the mission of capturing a small but strategically important town.  He's keen to face up to the challenge, but he's entirely unready for the rascally nature of the soldiers he's supposed to command or for the unmilitary but passionate Italians with whom he must engage.

What Did You Do In The War, Daddy? shows every one of the 50 years that have passed since it was written, expecting us to find hysterical such tired old "gags" as "man must dress as a woman", and "drunk person can't stand up on his own".  It's a lazy script, rarely trying to actually earn a laugh, but assuming that it will get them, Pavlov's dog style, if it just gives us the same spots that dozens of other films have done.

If this is an example of Blatty's comedic chops, then it is definitely for the best that he branched out into horror.

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