I had heard of this series, but I had never seen any episodes. Apparently, although in a different spirit of production, DAD'S ARMY had a popularity in England similar to it's near contemporary M.A.S.H. in the U.S. But the situations in both series are not quite the same. Arthur Lowe's Mainwaring (for Americans: it is pronounced "Mannering") is the head of the local civil defense group of elderly or middle aged or physically incapable misfits who are protecting the home front in the period of World War II. It is not a real picnic, as they are experiencing the Nazi Blitz (and later the buzz bombs) but the problems of these local heroes are shown with some care and gentleness. Lowe (who I best knew from his elderly, left-of-center butler in THE RULING CLASS) is a bank manager, and is somewhat pompous - but he is actually quite intelligent, frequently seeing the idiocy of assignments he and his forces have to perform. He is abetted by Wilson (John Le Messurier) who has a calming effect on everyone, but can be reduced to terror if his wife is mentioned.
You Tube had this on in three sections. Mainwaring's men are ordered to assist in a morale boosting film that is being shot: they are to appear as Nazi soldiers. Although this is not what the men would have liked (they would have liked to be British soldiers) they get to the idea of being in a film with Cecile Courtleigh. But Mainwaring's feelings take a downturn when he finds he can't be fitted with a pair of boots (his feet are too small - and they have to be Nazi style uniform boots). He still remains to watch the men in their work with the film people.
A week later they are to be shooting on an open field set. The men are driven in a truck that is closed (and the weather is very hot - this is in the days when air conditioning was non-existent). Mainwaring is the only one who is dressed as a British soldier, so he is driving. The men learn the shooting has been postponed for a week, and they return to their camp. But Mainwaring has to call his superior to explain what happened. He parks the car in front of a local pub, and while on the pay phone the men go into the pub for something to drink. Naturally soon rumors circulate that England has been invaded, and that the Nazis are led by a Quistling British army Captain.
The truck reaches the headquarters of Mainwaring's Unit - a church. Word has just reached the locals about the Nazis led by the Quistling. They see Mainwaring addressing the Nazi troops, and run to the Church's bells to start giving a signal to call the locals together for defense. This is the "Ring Dem Bells" of the title.
The storyline is obvious - once the men are in those uniforms and we hear they are not to reveal their moonlighting as actors playing Nazis to anyone, we know the misunderstanding will occur. No great surprise there. But what is fun is the interactions of the characters. John Laurie's Scotsman (Frazer) complains about how hot the uniform are to wear (and stiff too). When he asks someone about whether he agrees about his complaints about the German helmet, he's told it does make his fierce eyed face look like an eagle (hardly a negative comment). Another member tells how in an earlier war (one does not know if the earlier war is World War I or the Boer War) Lord Kitchener hated German helmets, thinking they looked like pots to boil food in. And then there are the two members of the unit who are to play Nazi officers (Le Messurier and Ian Lavender as his nephew Pike). Le Messurier does note the Nazi uniforms do look smart, but Lavender lets his role go to his head - he starts staring out of his monocle, and he insists on not standing with the enlisted men when Mainwaring calls the men to order (Mainwaring quickly puts that back to normal). Later, when the truck is driving along a deserted road, Pike is standing through a vent in the top, "heiling" imaginary crowds!
It was a good episode to catch to get into knowing this series. Hopefully more will be available soon.
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