How I Won the War

Overview

Among the first of the late 60s anti-war films that reflected growing concern over the Vietnam War, How I Won the War takes a cold, dark look at the Good War, World War II. In adapting Patrick Ryan's 1963 novel, screenwriter Charles Wood and director Richard Lester offered a narrative fractured by characters making side comments to the camera, stylized cinematography, inserts of newsreel war footage, and plenty of absurdist humor and slapstick. Ernest Goodbody Michael Crawford is a bumbling British officer who ...
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Overview

Among the first of the late 60s anti-war films that reflected growing concern over the Vietnam War, How I Won the War takes a cold, dark look at the Good War, World War II. In adapting Patrick Ryan's 1963 novel, screenwriter Charles Wood and director Richard Lester offered a narrative fractured by characters making side comments to the camera, stylized cinematography, inserts of newsreel war footage, and plenty of absurdist humor and slapstick. Ernest Goodbody Michael Crawford is a bumbling British officer who manages to get most of his small company of musketeers killed while on a mission in North Africa to set up a cricket pitch behind enemy lines for officers of the advancing British army. The rest of the company dies in an ensuing campaign in Europe near the war's end, but all of the men continue to march along, appearing as monochromatic ghosts. Original prints of the film intercut real battle footage tinted to match the color of the soon-to-be ghost soldier. Some prints of the film, including one shown on Turner Classic Movies, present the newsreel shots in black and white, undercutting the stylized touch. The story is framed as a flashback, with Goodbody relating his version of events to a German officer Karl Michael Vogler, while the real version of events, demonstrating Goodbody's ineptitude, plays out on screen. Among the supporting players are John Lennon, who had worked with Lester on A Hard Day's Night and Help; Roy Kinnear, a Lester regular, as a fat soldier who is certain his wife is cheating on him; Jack MacGowran as the troop's designated fool, and Michael Hordern as a general almost as oblivious to his suffering men as Goodbody.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Tom Wiener
Director Richard Lester's first "serious" film, coming after the successes of his two Beatles musical comedies, hearkens back to his association with The Goon Show, and his first short, The Running Jumping Standing Still Film. It's filled with literate, densely allusive dialogue and sight gags that leave no sacred cow alive. Lester and screenwriter Charles Wood not only take on the most holy of modern wars, World War II, but they also satirize the conventions of war movies (the diverse company of soldiers, the cultured German, the unfaithful wife back home). Wood's screenplay makes no concession to non-British audiences, with frequent inside jokes about the British class system and culture, but that's a minor irritant. Though the narrative is fragmented by frequent time shifts, asides to the camera, and self-conscious framing devices, the camerawork (by Michael Watkin) and editing are actually calmer than in Lester's previous film, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. As he demonstrated in that film, the limber Michael Crawford is a superb physical comedian, but this film owes its real bite to its ear for telling dialogue, as when Roy Kinnear's Clapper says bitterly of his commander, "War is a picnic if left to the right officers." Ultimately, How I Won the War makes an important statement about the illusions of memory, that a soldier like Goodbody ("I try to find good in everybody," he says after a German officer admits he has killed many Jews) can shape collective memory of a war simply by surviving it.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 3/22/2011
  • UPC: 883904243205
  • Original Release: 1967
  • Source: Mgm Mod
  • Presentation: Wide Screen
  • Language: English
  • Time: 1:51:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 14,246

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Michael Crawford Lt. Ernest Goodbody
John Lennon Gripweed
Roy Kinnear Clapper
Lee Montague Sgt. Transom
Jack MacGowran Juniper
Michael Hordern Grapple
Jack Hedley Melancholy Musketeer
Karl Michael Vogler Odlebog
Ronald Lacey Spool
James Cossins Drogue
Ewan Hooper Dooley
Alexander Knox American general
Robert Hardy British General
Sheila Hancock Mrs. Clapper's Friend
Charles Dyer Flappy-Trousered Man
Bill Dysart Paratrooper
Paul Daneman Skipper
Peter Graves Staff Officer
Jack May Toby
Richard Pearson Old Man at Alamein
Pauline Taylor Woman In Desert
John Ronane Operator
Norman Chappell Soldier at Alamein
Bryan Pringle Reporter
Fanny Carby Mrs. Clapper
Dandy Nichols 1st Old Lady
Gretchen Franklin Old Lady
John Junkin Large Child
John Trenaman Driver
Mick Dillon 1st Replacement
Kenneth Colley Replacement
Technical Credits
Richard Lester Director, Producer
Eddie Fowlie Special Effects
Dinah Greet Costumes/Costume Designer
Philip Harrison Art Director
Denis O'Dell Producer
John Victor Smith Editor
John Stoll Art Director
Ken Thorne Score Composer
David Watkin Cinematographer
Charels Wood Screenwriter
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2003

    Very Underrated

    This is really a classic anti-war movie. But the main complaint people have is that it isn't funny enough. Which, to be honest, is missing the point. Although there are quite a few humorous bits, it's a dark movie about war. And a good one, too. The cover exaggerates Lennon's role and screen time, but he's a fairly good actor. This is a good movie to watch when you're feeling strange or angry. The cast is very good, as is the writing. Lennon's death scene is harrowing, if only because of reality. True, this isn't your average fare, but give it time, it'll grow on you.

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