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9 deliciously satirical movie takes on the futility of war



War! What Is It Good for? These military satires find the humor amidst the horror.

Enlightened movie makers have long realised the satirical value in the futility of war, the following 9 movies are definitely worthy of a 21 gun salute.

M*A*S*H (1970)
Yes we think Alan Alda is over rated too, but thankfully he was only in the long-running TV series and not the original movie. Robert Altman’s Vietnam-era take on the Korean conflict turned the war film on its ear and became a surprise hit. Corrosively funny and outrageously irreverent, this episodic look at army doctors’ unmilitary shenanigans set a standard for anti-establishment humor that has been imitated ever since.

war movies dr strange love

Kubrick directs Peter Sellers on the set of Dr Strangelove.

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
Peter Sellers takes on three roles — a milquetoast U.S. president, a stiff-upper-lipped British officer, and the ex-Nazi of the title — in this defining comedy that wrings wickedly funny laughs from the buildup to nuclear apocalypse. Sterling Hayden as a mad general obsessed with bodily fluids and Keenan Wynn as a colonel on the hunt for “preverts” round out a flawless cast. Undoubtedly one of the funniest films ever made and quite possibly Kubrick’s best.

Catch-22 (1970)
In the hands of director Mike Nichols and screenwriter Buck Henry, Joseph Heller’s classic novel became an ambitious misfire. The mammoth, eclectic cast (hey, any movie starring Orson Welles and Norman Fell can’t be all bad) does its best, but the movie lacks the brilliant blend of hilarity and horror that makes the book so unforgettable. Still, it remains an appropriately scathing attack on the insanity (and inanity) of war.

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Donald Sutherland, Clint Eastwood and Telly Savalas in Kelly’s Heroes.

Kelly’s Heroes (1970)
In this World War II action comedy, a group of GI’s led by Clint Eastwood plans a heist of German gold. Yes, it’s Three Kings minus the visual fireworks and political audacity — a sprawling, uneven, yet undeniably entertaining romp. While it’s not that insightful a satire, it does take a revisionist approach to WWII, filtering the conflict through an early-’70s sensibility that gives us Donald Sutherland as a stoned hippie aptly named Oddball.

war movies, how I won the war - john lennon

John Lennon in How I Won The War

How I Won the War (1967)
Known mainly for John Lennon’s performance (though his part is far smaller than his billing would indicate), this is one of those crazed ’60s comedies at which director Richard Lester excelled. Michael Crawford, 25 years before he became the Phantom of the Opera, plays the “I” of the title, an inept soldier who muddles his way through WWII. Surrealist touches abound as moments of outright hilarity contrast with grisly scenes of combat. Treated with disdain on its initial release, this is one of those films that is either a lost gem or an indulgent mess, depending on your taste.

war movies, the mouse that roared

Peter Sellers in The Mouse That Roared.

The Mouse That Roared (1959)
What do you do when you’re a tiny nation on the edge of bankruptcy? Simple: Declare war on the United States, lose, and then reap the benefits of U.S. foreign aid. That’s the plot of this somewhat dated Peter Sellers comedy in which an invasion force from the Duchy of Grand Fenwick lands in New York … armed with bows and arrows! As in Dr. Strangelove, Sellers pulls a hat trick by tackling three roles. Make sure not to miss the very beginning — the opening is priceless.

Oh! What a Lovely War (1969)
World War I is reinterpreted as a musical review in Richard Attenborough’s striking directorial debut. Filled with period songs, surreal humor, and that typical ’60s zaniness (see How I Won the War), this supremely weird film veers wildly between genius and tedium. It also features performances and cameos by, seemingly, every British actor of the day.

King of Hearts (1966)
A young Alan Bates plays a WWI soldier who finds himself in a French village occupied solely by residents of the local asylum. Yes, it’s one of those “Who are the real crazies?” films, but don’t worry: This gentle, charming comedy doesn’t hammer its theme to death. Also starring the stunning Genevieve Bujold, this quirky ’60s semi-classic has earned a substantial cult following.

Funny Dirty Little War (1983)
Critics raved over this Argentinian farce about a small town becoming the site of a violent siege between rabid right-wingers and allegedly Marxist guerrillas. Fast-paced, beautifully acted, and full of almost-painful insight into the murky nature of Argentina’s political history.



Kick-Ass TV Heroines: Xena – Warrior Princess




Xena Warrior Princess

What was not to love about Xena? As Lucy Lawless says: “Xena is a bad-ass, kick-ass, pre-Mycenaean girl.” Evildoers, clearly, must stand down, but not only bad guys (and girls) have Xena-phobia. Even heroes quake when she swings her broadsword.

Originally created as a syndicated complement to Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena pretty much kicked Herc to the curb. It was like when the Bionic Woman made us lose interest in the Six Million Dollar Man–only more so.

Unlike Lindsay Wagner’s early half-woman, half-machine, Xena wasn’t prone to frailty. Nor did she need robot parts. In fact, the Warrior Princess never lost. If she’s down, it’s not for long.

Plus, she was in touch with the dark side: This big-boned bruiser had definite moments of blood lust, as well as lust of some other varieties. Garbed in a leather miniskirt and armed with her trademark razor-edged, boomerang-action chakram, we watched Xena single-leggedly kick down entire platoons of Roman soldiers.

Sure, there were murmurings about Xena and her softer female sidekick, Gabrielle (actress Renée O’Connor). So what if they liked to conserve bathwater by doubling up? And what’s wrong with close friends frenching once in a while?

Then again, maybe it was true–and there’s anything wrong with that.

Actress: Lucy Lawless
Show: Xena: Warrior Princess
Character: Xena

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Classic TV Revisited: McMillan And Wife




McMillan And Wife

Starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, McMillan and Wife was a super cute crime-solving saga from the 1970s made for the NBC’s Mystery Movie series.

Who were they?
Hubby was the debonair San Francisco police commissioner Stewart McMillan.

And wifey?
Sally was a foxy, rather scatterbrained dame with a knack for finding corpses.

Worked down the morgue did she?
Hardly. Sally’s finds were usually in some glitzy mansion which the couple were frequenting for a weekend cocktail party. She also had a habit of getting her life threatened or being kidnapped.

Who was in it?
Tragic Hollywood star Rock Hudson no less. He took on Stewart McMillan in his first TV role, after years as a matinee idol with movies such as Giant.

Fans of the lantern-jawed star were dismayed when he went public about having Aids. He had long kept his homosexuality secret. He carried on working in ’80s glam drama Dynasty, but make-up could not disguise the deterioration of this once-statuesque man. He died in 1985, aged 59.

What about Sally?
That role fell to raven-locked Susan Saint James. The Ali MacGraw lookalike was previously in shows such as Alias Smith And Jones and The Name of the Game.

Other characters
A vital ingredient to McMillan And Wife was sharp-tongued housekeeper Mildred, played by Nancy Walker. Somebody needed to keep the place tidy while they gallivanted about solving crime.

Famous guest stars?
Kim Basinger

The couple’s conception?
Like Hart To Hart, the idea was borrowed from Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man books of the ’30s.

Gritty crime drama?
Hardly. These were cosy whodunnit cases, where the brutality of murder was never portrayed. The show was more about the interplay between McMillan and Sally.

Had viewers arrested?
Certainly in the US. It was the fifth highest-rated show in 1972 and 1973.

Fate of the golden couple?
Susan Saint James quit in 1976 over a contractual dispute. Nancy Walker also packed away her duster as housekeeper Mildred.

The dame’s exit was a fatal blow?
Certainly for the character of Sally – she was killed off in a plane crash. But Rock soldiered on with new assistant Sgt Steve DiMaggio (Richard Gilliland). The show became McMillan.

A winner?
Audiences dwindled and the plug was pulled.

Distinguishing features?
Cosy pillow talk, cocktail parties, Rock Hudson, pyjamas and numerous corpses.

Do say
Let’s go to bed. Turn the light out, darling.

Don’t say
Must you eat toast in bed, darling. Apologies, but I’ve got terrible flatulence. Separate bedrooms.

Not to be confused with
My Wife Next Door, Harold Macmillan, The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Mr And Mrs.

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Classic TV Revisited: The Royal




The Royal

The Royal was an ITV drama commission and was inspired by its sister programme Heartbeat.

The lowdown: This nostalgic family drama is set in the swinging 1960s and centres on the staff of a cottage hospital in Yorkshire. Newly qualified doctor David Cheriton (Julian Ovenden) is determined to make a difference to the world and arrives at St Aidan’s Royal Free Hospital in Elinsby full of big ideas. But he clashes with the hospital’s secretary TJ Middleditch (Ian Carmichael) who is determined to run things his way. Then there is the Matron (Wendy Craig) who rules her nurses with a rod of iron and tries in vain to stop them being distracted by the handsome arrival.

Memorable moments: Watch out for former Heartbeat favourite Bill Maynard who crosses dramas and continents as Claude Jeremiah Greengrass. Greengrass has returned from a Caribbean holiday with a mystery illness but that doesn’t stop him trying to earn a fast buck. It doesn’t take long before Claude attracts Matron’s ire.

Trivia: The Royal is a family affair for real life husband and wife Robert Daws (Ormerod) and Amy Robbins (Weatherill). No fewer than seven members of their clan have appeared in the series including their daughters and stepson.

Michelle Hardwick, who played receptionist Lizzie, says her favourite moment in the whole series didn’t come on screen but in the actors’ green room. She says: “I was sitting in there with Wendy Craig and Honor Blackman and we were having a lovely conversation. I sat back and thought ‘Wow, this is great, I can’t wait to tell my gran’.”

A modern day set version called The Royal Today aired 7 January – 14 March 2008.

First broadcast: 2003

Starred: Wendy Craig, Ian Carmichael, Michael Starke, Robert Daws and Julian Ovenden

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