Eye For Film >> Movies >> It Ain't Half Hot, Mum: Series 3 (1976) Film Review
In this period sitcom, we are treated to the exploits of an army concert party, stuck at the artillery depot in Deolali - geddit? Doo Laly! - in India during World War II.
Michael Bates is a white guy in black face playing an Indian. His Hindi is pretty good, though. It does show just how far society has moved (I won't say moved on...) The actual Indian actors are relegated to smaller roles, or guest roles. Apart from the obvious race humour, Ranji (Bates) insisting that he is "British" and above the natives, whom he kicks about more than the British do, the film is not overtly racist, as the natives often come out on top. However, there are about 10 poofta jokes per episode and this does stick out a bit, in a you-just-couldn't-make-that-today kind of way, which is a shame, as this show is excellently written and so very funny.
It is an ensemble comedy, character based. Nosher (Mike Kinsey), always with a bun in hand, speaking with his mouth full, spraying crumbs like confetti, and Mackintosh (Stuart McGugan), a big brawny Scotsman, the foil of Gloria (Melvyn Hayes), the sensitive artiste and transvestite, and Lofty (Don Estelle), the diminutive Gunner Sugden, "with the high, high voice and low low head," and Gunner "La Di Da" Graham (John Clegg) are all under the thumb (heel?) of Sgt. Maj. Shut UP! (Windsor Davies), who has to deal with the incompetent officers, public school idiots, such as Ashwood (Michael Knowles), and feebleminded colonels, like Reynolds (Donald Hewlett).
The DVD has six episodes: The Supremo Show when the concert party must perform to a visiting bigwig. Mind My Maharaja and Bang Goes The Maharaja, a double bill two-parter. The Grand Illusion, probably my favourite, featuring an Indian magician/hypnotist. Pale Hands I Love, in which the Sgt. Maj. falls in love, and the finale, Don't Take The Mickey, in which we might loose the piano playing of Gunner Graham.
Like Bilko, which must have been an influence on the development of the show, the situations that the characters are dropped into make the humour run easily, almost on auto pilot, and it is this cosy familiarity that gives It Ain't Half its charm. Admittedly, by the time of Hi Di Hi and certainly by the era of You Rang, M'Lord, the formula had become tired and threadbare. However, these latter follies should not detract from the sheer brilliance of the earlier works, this and the other David Croft/Jimmy Perry gem, Dad's Army.Reviewed on: 18 Feb 2006