Dad’s Army: The Animations review – Don’t panic! There are moments of bliss in these Dad’s Army cartoons, writes CHRISTOPHER STEVENS
Dad’s Army: the Animations
Wife on Strike
Believe this, or don’t, as you please: one of my earliest telly memories is of a Dad’s Army episode that’s been lost for 54 years.
When I was not quite five years old, in 1969, watching my grandparents’ black-and-white set, I laughed myself silly at Private Walker (James Beck) jumping off a ladder again and again, to flatten his feet — while Lance Corporal Jones (Clive Dunn) egged him on.
My grandpa, a Desert Rat veteran, explained that Walker was trying to avoid wartime Army service. He seemed to disapprove, though I didn’t understand why at the time.
It’s one of countless Dad’s Army moments I treasure, but this one never crops up in the endless rolling repeats of the show. The Loneliness Of The Long-Distance Walker was one of three episodes from the second series to be wiped by the BBC, so that the videotape could be reused.
All three were remade in 2019, with Kevin McNally as Captain Mainwaring, Robert Bathurst as Sergeant Wilson, and Mathew Horne and Kevin Eldon as Walker and Jonesy. When it aired, I was staggered to recognise the ladder joke and realise how well I remembered it. Clearly, I was in training as a TV critic before I even started school.
Dad’s Army: the Animations is a partial remake using rediscovered audio of the episode with cartoons that are little more than sketches
One of Christopher Stevens’ earliest telly memories is of Dad’s Army
‘Perhaps one day, sooner than we expect, the episode will be remade using Artificial Intelligence to recreate the original actors’
Squeaky seat of the week
Matt Baker went mouse-hunting, on Travels With Mum And Dad (More4), at Kilburn church in Yorkshire. A century ago, artist Robert Thompson carved dozens of mice onto the pews. He did a crocodile too … a plea for snappy sermons perhaps?
It’s unlikely I’d have remembered it all my life if I’d seen Dad’s Army: The Animations (Gold), a partial remake using rediscovered audio of the episode with cartoons that are little more than sketches.
The likenesses are good, particularly of Arthur Lowe as Mainwaring and a beetle-browed John Laurie as Private Frazer. John Le Mesurier, as Wilson, appears to be suffering from a hangover that might prove fatal.
But all the sublime expressiveness of their faces is lost. When they talk, everything is motionless except for the mechanical open-and-shut of the jaw. It’s as though our beloved Home Guards are all botoxed rigid.
There are few reaction shots. Whichever character is talking, his face remains in frame, without cutaways to other members of the platoon. This robs each scene of its real joys — Wilson’s eye-rolls, Mainwaring’s choleric outrage, Walker’s sly insolence.
About a quarter of the lines are missing, perhaps because the sound was too damaged to be salvageable. And two of the characters have been redubbed, including Walker, who is voiced by David Benson (Jack Lane plays Private Pike).
‘This idea of a domestic strike is far from new: it’s the subject of the world’s oldest sitcom, by ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes’
‘This is good, old-fashioned War of the Sexes’, says Christopher Stevens about Wife on Strike
Despite all this, there are moments of bliss to delight any fan. Several scenes are two-handers between Lowe and Le Mesurier, with their unbeatable comic timing. Especially enjoyable is a section where Wilson has the upper hand, sitting on a committee and mocking Mainwaring’s pomposity.
Perhaps one day, sooner than we expect, the episode will be remade using Artificial Intelligence to recreate the original actors. By then, this column might be written by a robot programmed to be much funnier than me.
Robots to do the housework could be the solution for exhausted mums Laura and Claire, who downed tools in Wife On Strike (Ch5) and left their husbands to cope. This is good, old-fashioned War of the Sexes. But both Wassim and Sean, the abandoned spouses, didn’t play fair: one sent out for takeaways, the other delegated household duties to his teenage daughter.
Since neither man seemed to lift a finger in his wife’s absence, it’s a mystery how their homes were so pristine at the end. Perhaps the producers sent in a team of cleaners.
This idea of a domestic strike is far from new: it’s the subject of the world’s oldest sitcom, by ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes. In his story, the wives withheld all bedroom privileges. You’d think that might be effective, but it wasn’t mentioned here.
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