June 2005

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Robert looks at the DVD release of The Army Game and the cinematic release of The League Of Gentleman:Apocalypse.

Here we are again…and they said it would never last.  Following an extremely unsubtle heads up from Anne-Marie that this column was now over-due, I’m settled at my desk pounding at me P.C.

As promised last time, first and foremost I have fully details about a classic comedy coming to DVD for the first time.  Those dedicated followers of shows out of fashion, Network, unleash the first of two volumes of The Army Game on 6 June.  In this year that will see over-kill celebration of 50 years of ITV it’s very satisfying to welcome back The Army Game, ITV’s first situation comedy success.  Sadly only fifty one, under a third, of the episodes from this fifties gem, survive.  In this first volume original stars Charles Hawtrey, Bernard Bresslaw and William Hartnell are showcased, alongside Bill Fraser and Alfie Bass whose Bootsie and Snudge became a nationally popular double act.  A second and final volume of episodes is scheduled for later in the year.

Historically The Army Game started a trend that reached its zenith in the 1970s…the sitcom spin-off movie.  When Hammer Films made I Only Arsked in 1958 they opened the floodgates on a sub genre to British film comedy history.

Now, in 2005, The League of Gentlemen have wisely resurrected the form with their highly original Apocalypse.  Unlike Monty Python, who opened their film account with And Now For Something Completely Different, a re-filmed greatest hits package, the League have taken the inspired idea of pitting their Royston Vasey grotesques against their own writing/acting alto-egos.It’s high concept and works brilliantly.  Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith are all superb throughout and in various disguises (Reece’s Geoff getting some cracking lines), while Michael Sheen, cast as the wild-haired non-acting League scribe, Jeremy Dyson, starts the film with real gusto.  Look out for an extraordinary cameo from David Ryall as Tom Tit and the real Jeremy Dyson with a cracking ‘tail-end’ appearance.

The film knowingly tackles the spin-off films that proceed it, tossing in largely affectionate parody of Rowan Atkinson’s Bean, Are You Being Served? and Only Fools And Horses: Miami Twice.  A real cinematic treat, it opens nationwide on Friday 3 June.  Oh and the poster is a retro delight.  Somewhere between Dracula A.D. 1972 and The Land That Time Forgot.

The National Film Theatre preview, which took place on Tuesday 31 May, was attended by all the League, as well as comedy hero David Walliams and a certain TimeLord-in-Waiting David Tennant.  It seems impossible to think that just a year ago David was playing Daft Jamie in my first Dr Who audio, Medicinal Purposes.  And now he’s the good Doctor himself.  He’s done very well for himself that lad and deservedly so.  A lovely chap and a superb actor.  Roll on Christmas!

Ta Ta For Now
Robert Ross

Page Last Updated Wednesday, July 05, 2006 at 21:01:44