Private's Progress (1956)

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Released 13-Jul-2010

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy None
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1956
Running Time 95:32
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By John Boulting
Boulting Brothers
Madman Entertainment
Starring Richard Attenborough
Dennis Price
Ian Carmichael
Peter Jones
William Hartnell
Thorley Walters
Jill Adams
Ian Bannen
Victor Maddern
Kenneth Griffith
John Warren
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $19.95 Music John Addison

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 1.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

     In 1943 Stanley Windrush (Ian Carmichael) is at university when he is called up into the army. As an educated man he is placed into officer training; however he is a dismal failure as an officer and gentleman and is posted as a private soldier to a Holding Unit commanded by Major Hitchcock (Terry-Thomas). There he is surrounded by a group of slackers, work avoiders and scammers led by Pvt. Percival Cox (Richard Attenborough) who has a number of nice little earners going and from whom Stanley is taught many things, none of them legal. Meanwhile Stanley’s uncle, Brigadier Bertram Tracepurcel (Dennis Price), has a cosy posting in the War Office where he specialises in selling fake artworks to Generals. It seems that slackers and scammers are in all ranks of the army; the only difference is the scale of the criminal activity.

     When Stanley proves to be equally inept as a private soldier the army rises to the occasion and he is posted to Intelligence, where he learns Japanese and does become an officer. Becoming quite proficient at Japanese he is posted to a secret unit posing as foreign soldiers for a special mission – as Germans! Their secret mission, organised by Brigadier Tracepurcel, is to go behind German lines, capture a castle in which the Germans have stashed a massive horde of paintings and statues looted from France and other occupied countries, and to bring them to England for safekeeping. However, Tracepurcel and Cox (who have recognised each other as fellow travellers and have joined forces) have other plans for the looted artworks, and their idea of safekeeping differs from that of the British military.

     Private’s Progress is a very British film, replete with British sly humour that is very black at times. There are indeed sight gags, but the majority of the humour is derived from satire levelled at the British class system, civil servants, the British officer class and the British army generally. The film starts with the caption “the producers gratefully acknowledge the official co-operation of absolutely nobody”. This sets the tone as the film follows the fortunes of the naďve and incompetent Stanley as an innocent floundering in a mire of con-men, slackers and crooks; he really has no idea what is happening and Carmichael plays him absolutely straight, leaving the more robust performances to Richard Attenborough and Dennis Price who are both great. Terry-Thomas is more restrained than in many films of this era, but his facial expressions are always a treat (such as when he finds most of his men in a cinema when they should have been working) and the cast are rounded out by many familiar faces such as John Le Mesurier, Peter Jones and Ian Bannen

     If you like gross out humour, bad language or fart gags in your comedy, Private’s Progress will not be your cup of tea. However, if more subtle, sly British humour staring a wealth of British comedy talent appeals then Private’s Progress delivers. It is a funny, intelligent comedy. Go on, treat yourself.

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Transfer Quality


     Private’s Progress is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and is not 16x9 enhanced. The original ratio is 1.37:1.

     The print is quite poor. The film looks soft, the contrast and brightness vary quite considerably and while blacks are OK shadow detail can be quite indistinct. There are also frequent artefacts: white and black dirt marks, scratches as well as other things such as the line that runs up the screen at 3:53. There is also constant grain. However, while the scratches and artefacts are sometimes quite noticeable (the frame at 53:43 is perhaps the worst example), they are never so continuously distracting as to spoil one’s enjoyment of the film.

     There are no subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     Audio is English Dolby Digital 1.0 mono encoded at 224 Kbps. It has some distortion and sound pitch changes but generally the dialogue is clear. Effects are flat, as one might expect in a mono track, but it gets the job done in a film that is mostly dialogue. There is no surround or sub woofer use.

     Lip synchronisation was fine.

     The score by John Addison is light and breezy and suits the film without being memorable.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



R4 vs R1

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

     From reports, the Region 2 UK edition seems identical to our Region 4 with the artefacts, mono soundtrack and no extras. I could not find a Region 1 version of the film. There is no reason to go past our Region 4 version.


     Private’s Progress is a subtle, sly, funny, intelligent British comedy starting a wealth of British comedy talent. The video could be better, but is still on par with other releases, the audio is mono. There are no extras. Worth a look for lovers of British comedy.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Monday, September 20, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42inch Hi-Def LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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