The adapted play by Spike Milligan and John Antrobus serves as an ideal springboard for this offbeat anti-war film by Richard Lester which, miraculously, manages to convey its grim message with surreal humour.
The episodic sketches offer glimpses and comments of the 20-odd holocaust survivors of a London shredded by a World War III A-bomb as they dig out of their holes to try and cope with the grey new world.
Some of the survivors ride on an endlessly circling Underground train (powered by an earnest young man peddling a bicycle). Others roam through the debris above.
In the manner of vaudeville blackouts, they soon meld into a general mosaic of stiff-upper-lip acceptance of new conditions, some fizzers but others very amusing.
Highlights include Arthur Lowe turning into a parrot, Mona Washbourne becoming a cupboard and Rita Tushingham announcing that she’s 17 months pregnant.
Peter Cook and Dudley Moore are side-splittingly funny as police officers who float around the country in a dilapidated squad car suspended underneath a hot air balloon urging everyone to “keep moving!”.
A carefully-chosen roster of British character thespians contributes stellar bits in almost impossibly difficult roles.
It was a total disaster at the box office. So great was its failure, indeed, that Dick Lester didn’t get another directing assignment until 1974 and The Three Musketeers.
Lord Fortnum of Alamein
Captain Dr Bules Martin
Plastic mac/Rubber man
Mrs Ethel Shroake