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René Artois runs a small café in France during World War II. He always seems to have his hands full: He's having affairs with most of his waitresses, he's keeping his wife happy, he's trying to please the German soldiers who frequent his café, and he's running a major underground operation for the Resistance. Quite often, the Germans' incompetence itself is what nearly lands René and his cohorts in hot water; they are not helped either by the locals, who are dreadfully keen to get rid of the Germans, but their blatant and theatrical attempts at espionage and secrecy often create problems that René must solve quickly. Written by
Murray Chapman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
''Listen very careful, I will say this only once''
listen very careful, I shall write this only once: simply the best!
Somewhere in France, in Nouvion to be exactly, lives René Artois (played by Gordon Kaye). He owns a cafe, Café René, and his life is going as usual: He cheats his wife Edith (Carmen Silvera) with his two waitresses Yvette and Maria (Vicky Michelle and Francesca Gonshaw) and business goes as usual. The life of Frenchman René is going like he wants it to go, nice and steady. Nothing should change. But one detail will foil this from happening: The second World War. (Or as it is said brilliantly in the series more than once 'There is a war on, you know.') Before he knows what has happened René Artois is hiding two British airman, Fairfax and Carstairs (John D. Collins and Nicolas Frankau) from the nazi's, is he the helper of the French resistant, he has to stay friends with the Germans (they are good for business and for staying alive) and avoid interfering with the Gestapo while he's breaking almost all of the nazi rules and his life is totally disturbed. In the very first episode of the series this is all shown. For the fans of ''Allo 'Allo' this first episode is a must-see.
From now on René has got to do the most crazy, stupid, embarrassing and funny things to try to get the airman back to Britain, with the help of Michelle ''Listen very careful, I will say this only once'' of the resistance (Kirsten Cooke) who always comes up with a plan to avoid the Nazi's in the attempt to get the airman back home. Of course these plans always fail to happen on the most strange and remarkable ways, what keeps Fairfax and Carstairs at 'Café René' in the most miraculous and dumb hiding places.
Luckily the Nazi's aren't the smartest and hardest people in the town of Nouvion. Colonel Von Strohm (Richard Marner) and his assistant Captain Hans Geering (Sam Kelly, later replaced by Captain Alberto Bertorelli, played by Gavin Richards), for instance, never seem to see Michelle of the resistance when she comes in the café 'nondescript', probably 'cause they're to busy having a good time whit waitresses Yvette and Maria (and later on in the series when Maria is gone little Mimi, played by Sue Hodge). Luckily for René he is in a plot with the colonel and the captain about the painting 'The Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies' by Van Klomp. The men want to sell it after the war instead of giving it to Hitler and René has to hide the painting in his sausages. So, the colonel and the captain need René.
One of the other nazi's in the little town is Lieutenant Herbert Gruber (Guy Siner).The reason René and his wife and waitresses don't get caught by him is because he fancies René. That's why Gruber is always willing to lend a hand (or more) to help out the café owner. Needless to say the situation between René and Lieutenant Gruber creates a lot of memorable funny scenes, for instance when René, who's always nervous with Gruber around, is dressed like a woman (all part of a plan from Michelle to get the airman back to Britain) and the Lieutenant comes in the café, or when René had just got back from a hospital (again because of a plan from Michelle) late at night and has only a hospital nighty on, one without a back and the lieutenant enters the café. Von Strohm, Geering and Gruber aren't such a problem for the café owner, but the Gestapo on the other hand is something timid René Artois fears even more than he fears his wife Edith finding out about his affairs with the waitresses. Not without reason; Herr Flick (Richard Gibson, in the last season played by David Janson) and his little helper Von Smallhousen (John Louise Mansi) are working all the time to rule out the resistance in Nouvion with René as the prime suspect. They also have a female assistant 'a woman of the opposite sex' named Private Helga Geerhard (Kim Hartman), but what Flick and Von Smallhousen don't know is that she double-crosses the two Gestapo-officers. She helps the colonel and the captain because she knows about their plan with the painting and also wants a part of the money from the 'Fallen Madonna with the big boobies' by Van Klomp. Besides enemy's René also has a lot of friends who are also against the nazi's. The already mentioned Michelle and the two airmen, but there are more: For Instance there is the undertaker Monsieur Alphonse (Kenneth Connor) who fancies Madame Edith but has to much admiration for the brave resistance hero René Artois to take her away from him, Monsieur 'It is I Leqlerc' Leqlerc (Jack Haig) who helps Michelle getting the messages to René. He always has the stupidest disguises to fool the nazi's. Or as René once said it so truly : 'Leqlerc, the man with a thousand faces and they're all the same.' And last but definitely not least there is officer 'Good moaning' Crabtree (Arthur Bostrom), or as Yvette once said: 'That British agent who thinks he speaks our language.' He too is a message-bringing helper from Michelle.
Overall viewed René is in a tight spot with dumb plans, evil enemies, a wife he cheats which she may not find out, naturally, a painting in a sausage, dumb helpers and a nazi who fancies him. In an other film or series this all could be ingredients for a very dramatic story, but not in 'Allo 'Allo, where everything is idiotic or at least odd.
For instance, in the series there is a big difference between English with a French accent (this is spoken by René, Edith and the waitresses and all the other French people) and English spoken with a British accent (spoken by the Fairfax and Carstairs). So when the two airman want to say something to for instance René they don't understand each other, even though they are all speaking English for the public understands. This might look very unfunny, but it's actually quite good and always good for a little smile.
Also the whole storyline about the painting in a sausage provides a lot of funny (sometimes to predictable, but always enthusiast played) scenes. This also counts for the scenes between Gruber and René, always played with passion by Guy Siner and a kind of caution by Gordon Kaye. A little bit overacted, but that is in the whole series, that's one of the reasons it's such delight to watch, I think.
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