WHAT DID YOU DO IN THE WAR, DADDY?
(director/writer: Blake Edwards; screenwriters: William Peter Blatty/from the story by Maurice Richlin; cinematographer: Philip Lathrop; editor: Ralph E. Winters; music: Henry Mancini; cast: James Coburn (Lieutenant Christian), Dick Shawn (Captain Lionel Cash), Sergio Fantoni (Captain Oppo), Giovanna Ralli (Gina Romano), Aldo Ray (Sergeant Rizzo), Harry Morgan (Major Pott), Carroll O’Connor (General Bolt), Leon Askin (Colonel Kastorp), Henry Rico Cattani (Benedetto), Jay Novello (Mayor Romano), Vito Scotti (Frederico); Runtime: 115; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Blake Edwards; United Artists; 1966)
“War as fun in this service comedy by director Blake Edwards.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
War as fun in this service comedy by director Blake Edwards (“The Pink Panther”/”A Shot in the Dark”/”Breakfast at Tiffany’s”). Blake said he got the idea for the pic when his young son asked him that question. During World War II Blake served in the Coast Guard and that didn’t inspire much comedy, so he had it scripted by William Peter Blatty from a story by Maurice Richlin.
It’s set during the US invasion of Sicily in 1943. A company of world-weary American soldiers led by an inexperienced by-the-book Captain Cash (Dick Shawn), a West Point grad, who is ordered to take a Sicilian town with a large soldier contingent. The Italian commander, Captain Oppo (Sergio Fantoni), informs him that they wish to surrender, but insists that the village first be allowed to hold its annual wine festival. The puzzled captain is persuaded to agree to these terms by his more worldly Lieutenant Christian (James Coburn).
This leads to an all-night drunken orgy, lots of sight gags and comedy routines (the worst being Shawn dressed as a woman running from the Germans). Both the U. S. and the German commands mistake the partying for fighting, and the Nazis decide to help their Italian allies by sending in troops. Also, the American forces come on a rescue mission. In the meantime, the Italian captain calls off the surrender when he discovers his sultry girl (Giovanna Ralli) with the American captain. Inadvertently, Cash’s troops capture an entire Nazi unit crawling inside the catacombs under the town and become heroes.
It’s an unrealized, tasteless, tiresome and raucous movie, that hardly works (except for a few bits such as the mock battle between the drunken American and Italian troops, who have exchanged uniforms).
REVIEWED ON 8/8/2009 GRADE: C+