Movie company wants to shoot a science-fiction film using an Army barracks as location, and its soldiers as actors. Of course, the Commander doesn't like it a bit, and persuades the crew to use a nearby haunted house instead.
Somewhere on Leave is one of a serious of now-forgotten British comedies from the 1940s, starring Frank Randle, Harry Korris and Robbie Vincent. The series began with Somewhere in England in 1940 and ran until 1949 with Somewhere in Camp, Somewhere on Leave, Somewhere in Civvies and Somewhere in Politics. Although reasonably popular at the time, these films were scrappily made and probably don't hold much appeal beyond nostalgia for most viewers. As a result, they are very very rarely shown on television, unlike the contemporary films of, say, Will Hay or George Formby.
You might say these films have worn badly, but on the evidence available, they were never much good to begin with. Somewhere on Leave features the ageing stars as unlikely recruits in the army, getting involved in various slapstick sequences involving horses, a piano, a trampoline, etc, as well as the expected run-ins with the regiment's sergeant major. There are also a couple of irrelevant song and dance sequences, the opportunity for the actors to play a scene in drag, and the obligatory comedy drunk scene.
The writers intercut the comic scenes with a stilted romance between the two young leads, and even manage to shoehorn a propaganda message into the film about the breaking down of class barriers. There are a couple of old gags which almost work, but they are usually let down by the poor delivery and ham-fisted direction. The director (John E. Blakeley) has a penchant for placing his camera so that the actors are looking almost directly into it when they are supposed to be talking to each other, making the dialogue scenes even more stilted than they already are. I've seen some bad films over the years, but the opening scenes, between Toni Lupino and her friend, contain probably the worst acting I've ever seen on film. The actors are extraordinarily stilted, as they talk about Lupino's parent's death in an air raid, as if they are discussing which hat to wear tonight. The acting is bad enough to make it a strong contender for the most unintentionally funny scene in film history.
Running this scene a close second is one involving an anti-aircraft battery. The guns are shown shooting down a German bomber - cut to a shot of an open-cockpit First World War biplane being hit! In the next shot, the plane is a World War Two bomber again. You would think a 1942 audience would know the difference between a wood and string built 1915 biplane and a WWII bomber, but it's indicative of the film makers contempt for the audience, as if they think they'll accept any old rubbish.
Its tempting to make allowances and put the film's ineptitude down to the difficulties producing films in wartime. But then, the British industry also produced Thunder Rock, Colonel Blimp, Went the Day Well? and In Which We Serve within a year of this film, proving this film is more of an aberration than anything.
The fact that several reviews have now appeared for this film on IMDb suggests that the other viewers took the same opportunity to watch this as I did, on a very rare BBC2 showing. On this evidence, however, its easy to see why its shown so rarely, and I can't imagine there's much danger of another airing for quite a long time.
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