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How I Won the War Reviews

Richard Lester, director of the hit Beatles movies A HARD DAY'S NIGHT and HELP!, intended this black comedy as a stinging condemnation of war, but occasionally he fails even as he succeeds, eliciting such plentiful laughs that he blunts the impact of his message. Revolving around the rose-colored reminiscences of a middle-aged British WWII veteran whose wartime career was actually a disaster, HOW I WON THE WAR follows the inept Lt. Goodbody (Michael Crawford) as he leads his men from North Africa to France. Among his unfortunate misfit charges are the overweight Clapper (Roy Kinnear), who is obsessed with his wife's infidelity; Juniper (Jack MacGowran), a music-hall comic; and Gripweed (then-Beatle John Lennon), whose billing is considerably more prominent than his presence in the film). Transom (Lee Montague), the only competent military man in the bunch, tries in vain to correct his superior's command blunders, but so ill-prepared to lead is Goodbody that he eventually causes the deaths of all of his men save one, the Melancholy Musketeer (Jack Hedley). Based on a novel by Patrick Ryan, Lester's film offers both hilarious moments of satire (of war and war movies) and grim, bloody depictions of the awful reality of combat. This seemingly incongruous mixture will work for some viewers, and, though the seriousness of Lester's intent may not be appreciated by everyone, most should at least find something here to make them laugh.