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LIGHT UP THE SKY! is one of those British WW2 comedies that acted as precursors to DAD'S ARMY and at times the similarities between the two productions are remarkable. This film's plot sees a constantly exasperated Ian Carmichael in charge of a searchlight squad whose job is to literally light up the sky whenever an enemy plane approaches. It sounds like a relatively straightforward job but of course in a comedy like this almost everything goes wrong.
Given the limited nature of the men's mission, a lot of this film is padded out with endless comedy scenes and character work. Some characters are homesick, others are in love, and the arguments are endless. Sadly, this didn't make very satisfying viewing for me, even though the cast is exemplary, featuring a mix of straight and comic actors. Victor Maddern is the depressed corporal, Tommy Steele and Johnny Briggs the fresh recruits, and the reliable Sydney Tafler one of the men. Benny Hill stands out as a soldier with a stand-up routine. There are also cameos from Dick Emery, Sheila Hancock, and Cardew Robinson.
I found Carmichael a bit of a distraction in this film as it looks like he's wearing false eyebrows, although I could be wrong. The bookend scenes in which he breaks the fourth wall to address the viewer directly are fun. LIGHT UP THE SKY! is an odd mix of character drama and humour, and the tragic moments of the story sit uncomfortably with the belly laughs elsewhere. I've seen better British war comedies from the era, for example CARRY ON SERGEANT.
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