Karl Wareham takes a look at an odd little British film, based on the Autobiographical work by Spike Milligan of the same title, the film is a flawed, yet interesting, look at Milligan’s experiences through his army training days. A good disc as far as picture quality and sound are concerned, but one with not a single extra.
‘Adolf Hitler – My Part In His Downfall’ is based upon Spike Milligan’s humorous autobiographical work which details his experiences when called up for active service at the start of World War 2. The inimitable Jim Dale plays ‘Spike’, a character that is the very definition of ‘a bit of a card’. He’s a likeable smartass, always ready with a quip or a joke usually at the expense of his commanding officers. The film follows his experiences in almost sketch form, each segment building into the whole and while this approach is occasionally effective, on the whole, it gives the film a truncated, patchy feel. It never quite flows properly and often feels very forced.
One thing that seems apparent when viewing the film is that there are a lot of details and characters that could do with expanding. One such plot element is the obvious love affair played out by two minor characters that takes place in the shadows of the film. It’s clear that there’s an affair going on, and, when they’re parted at the end of the film, the it’s very difficult to feel any sort of emotion as we’ve never really gotten to know them. That said, this is Spike’s film, and as such it works well if seen in that way. We’re seeing the experience through his eyes and if the film took a more objective approach, it would be a very different experience.
Jim Dale is wonderful as ‘Spike’ and plays the role with about as much carefree Joi De Vivre as can be imagined. There’s a wealth of talent in the support cast as well, especially the great Windsor Davies, who plays the role of world weary Sgt Major with great timing. Spike Milligan himself makes a cameo appearance as the film ‘Spike’s’ father and it’s a shame he doesn’t have much screen time, as he steals every scene he’s in, though perhaps it’s better that he didn’t, as this film really belongs to Dale.
There are occasions when the film is laugh out loud funny, but sometimes jokes tend to be a little overplayed. A great boxing ring joke is ruined by having it repeated three times in quick succession. It was hilarious the first time, but soon grows tiresome. It’s occasionally quite moving as well, such as the scene in which Spike’s platoon, whilst on maneuvers, witness the bombing of London from a hilltop. We don’t see any of the bombing, but we see the characters from behind in silhouette while they describe what they see and fall into stunned silence. It’s simple, but very effective.
On the whole, this is a film that rewards the time spent watching it, but is a long, long way from being a classic. It’s sketch-like form gives it a sort of ‘Carry On Seargent’ feel without the camp, no pun intended.
Excellent picture quality on the whole, but there is some print damage to contend with. Occasionally, it’s very grainy as well, but only in a few scenes, usually where there are large areas of sky or grass on the screen. Nothing really to complain about, though.
Good, clean soundtrack free from any hiss or distortion. Solid 2-channel stereo throughout.
None at all. It’s debatable whether this is laziness or the simple fact that there’s very little supplementary material available for this film, which is, after all, a minor part of British cinema. It would have been nice to have at least a trailer, though, or perhaps some information on the training troops would have received once they’d been called up. Perhaps that’s optimistic, but something, anything, would have been nice. That said, this is a budget release so you pays your money, you takes your choice.
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