Wednesday, April 21, 2010


This is an edited version (cut by almost 30 minutes) of a British film called THE WAY AHEAD, which despite coming out near the end of WWII, was mostly intended as a propaganda film about the training of the British soldier. First is a series of short vignettes showing how the run-up to the war inconveniences the average citizen. We then follow a group of men who answer the call to beef up the army in the early days of the war; we see them in their last days as civilians, going through an average day, and later making fun of a military man at a train station; then they're green recruits who discover that the guy they almost picked a fight with is their drill sergeant. After the men deliberately get themselves "killed" during war games so they can go back to the barracks and relax, they get a dressing-down from their generally good-natured lieutenant (David Niven), and they start to shape up, helped by the gentle attentions of the wife of their commanding officer who runs a canteen for the soldiers. When the battalion gets called into action, their trial by fire is literally that as their ship is torpedoed and catches on fire. We last see them fighting the Nazis in Egypt (with a young Peter Ustinov, who co-wrote the screenplay, as an unhappy French shopkeeper). As near as I could tell, none of the nine main characters gets killed, but the film ends in mid-battle. Some critics prefer the last half of this film, which admittedly has more action, but I found the first half to be compelling in its smaller moments, and the cast is quite good. Among the standouts are Stanley Holloway (crusty older guy), Jimmy Hanley (sweet young guy), Raymond Huntley (a sensitive type), and James Donald (the handsome one). This American version suffers from some abrupt edits, and a ponderous introductory narration. [TCM]

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