Dad's Army-Complete First Series plus the 'Lost' Episodes of Series Two (1968)

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Released 10-Nov-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio
Featurette-Missing Presumed Wiped
Audio-Only Track-Three Episodes
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1968
Running Time 268:35 (Case: 270)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By David Croft
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Arthur Lowe
John Le Mesurier
Clive Dunn
Bill Pertwee
John Laurie
James Beck
Arnold Ridley
Ian Lavender
Janet Davies
Edward Sinclair
Barbara Windsor
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $39.95 Music Jimmy Perry


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.29:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    England, 1940. Hitler's armies have conquered France, and now he eyes Britain. But little does he know that the Local Defence Volunteers (soon to be called the Home Guard) will be there to greet him when he arrives. In the town of Walmington-on-Sea, bank manager Mr Mainwaring and his chief clerk Wilson organise the local volunteers into a crack fighting brigade.

    Except they're either too old or too young to be of much use to the war machine. This famous British comedy series debuted on television on July 31, 1968 and ran until 1975. After a year off it returned for a single series in 1977. It spawned a feature film, a stage show and a radio series, and made household names of actors who might otherwise have been forgotten.

    The series was written by Jimmy Croft and David Perry, and touched a nerve with a Britain that could look back fondly on one of the bleakest periods in its history, as it waited for an invasion that never came. The first two series, or what remains of them, are superb stuff. The scripts are clever and the first series features an excellent newsreel pastiche at the beginning of each episode, with wartime newsreel commentator E.V.H. Emmett contributing the wry narration.

    But it was the actors who made this series work. Arthur Lowe made himself into an overnight star at 53 as the pompous Captain Mainwaring and John Le Mesurier was a perfect foil as the too-polite Sergeant Wilson. Clive Dunn, made up to look thirty years older than his real age, often stole the show as the local butcher, and veteran of the 1884 Sudan campaign, Lance-Corporal Jones, with his signature phrases "Permission to speak, sir", "Don't panic! Don't panic!" and "It's the cold steel, sir. They don't like it up 'em, they do not like it up 'em." John Laurie plays the Scotsman Frazer. His character is a little different in these first two series, without his frequent pronouncements of doom and no mention of his job as an undertaker. Veteran actor and playwright Arnold Ridley (he wrote the often filmed play The Ghost Train) was the aged and bladder-challenged Mr. Godfrey. James Beck portrayed the quintessential spiv and black marketeer Walker, and Ian Lavender the soft, mummy's boy Pike. The widowed Mrs Pike (Janet Davies) and Wilson had a thing going, though we are never sure if Pike is really Wilson's son.

    By 1977 the series had run its course, and within a decade most of the principal cast would be dead. John Laurie died in 1980, Arthur Lowe in 1982, John Le Mesurier in 1983, Arnold Ridley the following year and Janet Davies in 1986. James Beck had succumbed to a perforated ulcer in 1973 aged just 44, and Edward Sinclair (the verger, he makes only one appearance in the first two series) died in 1977. That left Clive Dunn, Ian Lavender and Bill Pertwee, all of whom are still living at the time of writing and who are briefly seen in one of the extras made in 2001. The actor who played the Reverend is also still with us, though he does not appear in the first two series.

    It was surprising to me on viewing these episodes again after many years how well the comedy stands up. Considerable effort seems to have gone into getting the sense of what life must have been like during those days in 1940. The feeling of chaos and disorder at the beginning is well captured, and the depiction of the ensuing slow progress in getting equipment and training feels right. What also surprised me was that the characters come across as heroic, something which I do not recall from the later episodes when buffoonery took over. Despite the cheap sets, the obvious jokes and the black and white video, this series still raises some chuckles and if you have fond memories of this series, they will not be extinguished by seeing it again.

Series One (Disc One):

The Man And The Hour (29:46)

    The very first episode. The government calls for volunteers for local defence, and Mainwaring decides that he will lead the troop. Volunteers come to register.

Museum Piece (29:55)

    The LDV have yet to be supplied with weapons, so they decide to break into the local arms museum to get some equipment. But they did not reckon with the caretaker, who also happens to be Jones' ancient father.

Command Decision (29:43)

    The troops have still not been supplied with weapons. Colonel Square ret. has some rifles, but he wants to take over the running of the volunteers. The decision is Mainwaring's.

The Enemy Within The Gates (29:56)

    There's a ten pound bounty on captured enemy parachutists, so Walker gets to work. A Polish officer causes some concern.

The Showing Up Of Corporal Jones (29:58)

    Is Jones too old to be in the Home Guard? To prove he isn't, he must complete the assault course in 15 minutes.

Shooting Pains (29:41)

    In order to be the guard of honour for a visit by the PM, the troop has to win a shooting competition. Walker helps by calling in a sharpshooter from the local show. The only problem is: she's a woman (Barbara Windsor).

Series Two (Disc Two):

Operation Kilt (29:51)

    The troop are the defenders in an exercise where some Highlanders will attempt to capture their HQ. This gives Walker and Fraser an opportunity to dress up as a cow.

The Battle Of Godfrey's Cottage (30:17)

    The church bells ring, seemingly signalling an invasion. The lads' trip to the cinema must wait, as Captain Mainwaring holes up in Godfrey's cottage with a Lewis gun.

Sergeant Wilson's Little Secret (29:28)

    Mrs Pike arranges to take in a child evacuee from London. Wilson overhears and thinks she is pregnant, and Captain Mainwaring prevails on him to propose.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    The shows are presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.29:1 and are not 16x9 enhanced.

    The shows are in relatively good condition, all things considered. Most of these episodes would have been recorded on videotape and 16mm film, the latter for overseas distribution. I suspect that all of the transfers come from the 16mm material. Episode one looks worse than any of the others.

    You could not describe the video as sharp, but it looks a lot better than Doctor Who episodes from the same era. The video is relatively clean and clear. Detail generally is very soft, and shadow detail is not very good either. That being said, contrast is acceptable and I had no trouble watching the episodes despite some flaring and an overall grainy look.

    All the surviving episodes of the first two series are in black and white. There are neither solid blacks nor pure whites in evidence, and there is low level noise present.

    A couple of incidences of aliasing were the only film to video artefacts that I noticed. There are some small black spots visible on screen throughout almost the entire programme, but this would have been present in the source material used for the transfer. Film artefacts are surprisingly few, with some occasional spots but nothing of consequence. There are several shots fired during the two series, and most of these cause microphony, such as at 15:24 in episode 4 and 5:19 in episode 6.

    Both discs are dual-layered, but there are no layer changes during any of the episodes. The optional English subtitles are the same type as on all of these BBC comedy DVDs, relatively small but well-timed and grammatically correct. They do not always exactly match the dialogue, sometimes leaving words and phrases out and sometimes almost paraphrasing the dialogue.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The sole audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

    This is a reasonable audio track, but lacking dynamic range and seeming a little thin on top as well. Dialogue is clear throughout. Allowances need to be made for the age of the material, made during the "low-fi" period of television sound. The only problem I could detect was when the sound level takes a drop at 18:43 in Operation Kilt.

    The music from the series comes from three sources. The song "Who do you think you are kidding, Mr. Hitler?" was a pastiche created by Jimmy Perry for the series, and was sung by wartime entertainer and comedian Bud Flanagan, of Flanagan and Allen fame. He died shortly after Series One was first screened but his voice was heard on every episode.

    At the end of the show, a band of the Coldstream Guards is heard playing some marching music, which ends with an air-raid siren. Changes between scenes during the show are punctuated by short excerpts from popular songs of the wartime era.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio

    The music from the end credits is played under the static menu.

Featurette - Missing Presumed Wiped (29:22)

    This is a fascinating TV programme made by BBC Scotland in 2001, and shown on the night that the found episodes were screened.

    After an appeal by the BBC, a number of episodes of TV shows thought lost were recovered, including two episodes of the second series of Dad's Army. These were found in a garden shed. The show gives a background as to why so much TV history was lost, goes in to the circumstances which led to the two episodes being found, and also shows some of the restoration work that was done.

    Cast members Dunn, Lavender and Pertwee (whose cousin Jon was originally considered for the role of Mainwaring) are interviewed, albeit very briefly. More substantial interviews come from the two writers. The show includes an excerpt from the failed attempt at an American version of the show (which is absolutely terrible), plus some excerpts from other programmes recovered, such as a 1962 Benny Hill episode and the pilot and one episode of All Gas and Gaiters. This latter clip features Derek Nimmo, Robertson Hare and William Mervyn. Sadly, only 11 of the 33 episodes of this series survive. If you have any suspicious-looking cans of film in your garden shed, please contact the BBC...

    This extra is in 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

Audio-Only Episodes

    The radio series of Dad's Army was based on the original TV scripts. The three audio episodes included on this disc are the radio equivalent of the three missing TV episodes from Series Two, and are included in their entirety on this disc. The video is a static picture of the CD releases of the radio episodes. The audio is mono but very well recorded.

The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Walker (27:25)

    Walker gets called up, but seeing their supply of black market goods about to dry up, the platoon concocts a scheme to get Walker exempted. In this radio version the late James Beck was replaced by Graham Stark.

A Stripe For Frazer (27:25)

    The platoon is told that they can have a full corporal. Frazer seems the obvious choice for promotion amongst the ranks, and as a test he is promoted to Lance-Corporal so that he and Jones can compete for the vacant position. However, it seems they have created a monster.

Under Fire (27:25)

    Investigating a strange light, the troop discover what they think is a German spy. Oops, sorry.

Easter Eggs

    There is an Easter Egg on each disc. These can be accessed as follows: (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) On disc one, select Play All and you will see that the first episode starts about 12 seconds in. Search in fast-backward to see the countdown clock to the first episode, which was screened live. On disc two, highlight the Dad's Army banner that appears on the main menu. This gives 1:26 of the original shots of the actors from the end credits, without the backgrounds. An extended version of the theme song is also heard.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This is the same release as is available in the UK. It is not available in Region 1.

Summary

    Classic British comedy, which fans of the series will not want to be without.

    The video quality is pretty good all things considered.

    The audio quality is satisfactory.

    The extra material rounds out a good package.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Saturday, November 27, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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