Don’t Panic! Don’t Panic! New Dad’s Army film but are remakes worth the risk?

One of the things I find being an avid cinema and television fan is that remakes are often ultimately disappointing.   I’d much rather watch a brand new idea rather than revisit an old one which is likely to be much less enjoyable than the memories, if slightly biased of older classics.

You can never be certain when a remake or re-imagining might turn into a real clunker.   As a huge Star Trek fan I was mightily relieved before I was thrilled that the recent movies though different to the originals are at least good.   But for every Star Trek there is a Star Wars prequel.   For every Daniel Craig James Bond there is a modern Halloween film, for every unexpectedly delightful Paddington there is the modern remake of the Wickerman.

One of my favourite TV shows ever is Dad’s Army.  It is a classic bit of BBC comedy from the 1970’s which if you’ve ever seen or liked programmes like Fawlty Towers, Black Adder or Are You Being Served then you will no doubt enjoy too.

Dad's Army

The original Dad’s Army

Like in many ways its 1980’s successor, ‘Allo ‘Allo  it takes a farcical look at WW2 and if anything pokes fun at ourselves much more than any French or German.  Dad’s Army is set in the peaceful world of Wilmington On Sea where the Home Guard stand ready for the imminent German invasion.  It is full of wonderful characters from all sorts of backgrounds which even today we can still relate to and whilst they themselves may not have been a very effective defence force, it still somehow plays tribute to all of those who were involved in the epic events of the time.

Most of the actors and writers in the show actually served in the war, some even in WW1 and it lends a lot of authenticity to the show.  Personally speaking as someone who first watched it in the late 1970’s as a child with my Grandparents  right up to today with my wife, there is something about it that feels a lot more familiar and homely than what 2015 is like.

Heading up Dad’s Army is Captain Mainwaring, a pompous, short and stout man who thinks he is a natural leader and yet in many ways is anything but (stand up almost every manager I’ve worked for) and he is always waging a class battle against his second in command, Sgt Wilson who is more handsome, sophisticated, richer and obviously in most ways a more likeable and talented individual.   Sgt Wilson almost always gets the better of  the Captain without even trying.

Possibly the biggest star of the show is Corporal Jones, the village butcher who fought even in the colonial wars of the 19th century.  He is full of get up and go and can’t wait to get at the Germans even though he spends half his time wondering around telling everyone “don’t panic” despite he being the only one panicking.

Another prominent character is Private Frazer, the Undertaker and one of the most dour Scotsman you could ever hope to meet.  I remember 35 years ago my Grandma laughing a lot at his expressive eyes and faces.  To him, we were “All doomed!”.

Mr Godfrey was the First Aider, a man so gentle, decrepit and possibly senile that you had to wonder if he could do anything about anything.   My wife always says that I am rather like him, I hope more for the gentle and slowness qualities I have rather than actually gone senile but then if I were, I guess I wouldn’t know much about it anyway.  I know my mother used to like him too but my Granddad used to call him a stupid old fool!

The only youthful member of the group is Private Pike, a young lad too young of unhealthy to fight in the actual Army and who is constantly molly-coddled by his mother.  Though I didn’t realise it when I was young, he is most likely the love-child of Sgt Wilson or Uncle Arthur as he calls him.  He is often looked at with total contempt by Captain Mainwaring and if he isn’t called “You Stupid Boy” at least once an episode then something is obviously not right.

Other characters include the ARP Warden Hodges whose authority regarding Air Raids often brings him to clash with the Home Guard.  There is also an unusual Vicar and Private Walker, a spiv and someone who used the war to make a bit of money on the side by selling luxury products such as alcohol and cigarettes.

Apart from the farcical situations the group find themselves in and their obvious inept characters and clashing personalities, the catchphrases of those in the show are still booming 40 years later.

We’re doomed!    You Stupid Boy!  Now look here Napoleon!   Don’t Panic.   They don’t like it up ’em.   Put that light out!  Permission to speak Sir? The Vicars not going to like this. Would you mind awfully…. Do you think that’s wise Sir?

So this morning I was both amused and slightly worried to see a film trailer for the upcoming Dad’s Army film in 2016.  The film is filled to the brim with so many talented and mostly ageing actors.

In many ways it looks the total part and is obviously a loving tribute to a classic show but as often happens when a big budget revamp takes place, there is an error right at the beginning of the movie trailer which any schoolboy should know.  In 1944 we were not on the brink of defeat.  That was 1940-41 by 1944 things were very much heading the other way.  Just a small thing but if they can’t get the most basic detail correct it does make you wonder.

New Dad's Army

Promo picture for the new Dad’s Army film…L-R. Toby Jones as Capt. Mainwaring, Bill Nighy as Sgt. Wilson, Tom Courtenay as Lance Corp. Jones, Bill Paterson as Pte Frazer, Michal Gambon as Pte. Godfrey, Blake Harrison as Pte. Pike and Danny Mays as Pte. Walker…..

Corporal Jones

Corporal Jones looking much as he did 40 years ago.

Hopefully the new movie will bring yet another generation to Dad’s Army which originally ran for 80 episodes and is still shown almost weekly on BBC2.  I’ve watched them all my life and there are countless hilarious scenes but without doubt the most famous and often quoted is from the episode 6 ‘The Deadly Attachment’.  Here our heroes are tasked with looking after a captured U-Boat crew until backup arrives.

A bad movie can forever tinge a successful show but if the worst comes to worst we always have the original shows and movies.  Let’s hope the new Dad’s Army doesn’t have its Jar Jar Binks moment.

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About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including a #1 seller, I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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4 Responses to Don’t Panic! Don’t Panic! New Dad’s Army film but are remakes worth the risk?

  1. Francis says:

    Great post as always. But wasn’t it spelt Walmington? I always enjoy d a and when I’m without TV I love the radio remake.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Top 10 movies of 2015 | Stephen Liddell

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