A Hard Day’s Night (1964) and Help! (1965) director Richard Lester recruited John Lennon in his first solo acting gig for this wildly surreal satire on war movies, featuring Michael Crawford – The Knack (1965) – as a blissfully unaware idiot charged with building a cricket pitch 100 miles behind enemy lines during World War II.
Crawford’s Lieutenant Ernest Goodbody has absolutely no idea how to lead his British regiment in the North African battlefield of WWII. But what he lacks in experience, he makes up for in gung-ho enthusiasm.
And when he’s ordered to build the cricket pitch, the bumbling officer is determined to succeed even if this means the majority of his small company are killed in the process.
But even those men killed due to Goodbody’s incompetence continue to march along, appearing as monochromatic ghosts.
Abandoned by his superiors, betrayed by his inferiors and finally captured by Nazis, it’s going to take more than his unrelenting optimism to win the day.
Goodbody relates his version of events in flashback to German officer Odlebog (Karl Michael Vogler), whilst the real version of events demonstrates his ineptitude.
Among the eight-man squad assigned to the Lieutenant are Private Gripweed (Lennon), whose aim in life is to be a faithful officer’s servant and crawling batman; Clapper (Roy Kinnear), whose war-long worry is the wife he left behind; Transom, a professional soldier and the team’s anchorman (Lee Montague); and Juniper (Jack MacGowran), the old soldier of the platoon, always ready to entertain the troops in the most surprising way in any place.
In a surrealistic war, the Musketeers tell the war as they saw it . . . and although set in the 1940s, How I Won The War couldn’t be more 60’s in tone. It features abrupt time shifts, jump-cutting and Lester’s patented brand of biting slapstick humour.
Lt Col Grapple
Karl Michel Vogler