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  • andy-7826 September 2005
    I have to say this film is a big disappointment especially when you see the actors in it. Frankie Howerd was always better with a live audience to bounce catchphrases off (he could make three jokes last over half an hour like that). This film also features stalwarts of the British film scene such as Stanley Holloway, William Mervyn, Bill Fraser, Dora Bryan and Lance Percival with early bit parts for Bob Hoskins and Mike Grady. Madeline Smith provides the love interest for most of the film as Fanny, loved by both Lurk (Howerd) and Groping (Fraser). Zsa Zsa Gabor turns up as Mata Hari which says a lot about the film and the state of Gabor's career at the time. Jonathan Cecil gives one of his best performances as the twit son of the family who becomes a spy and Hermione Baddeley is marvellous as the brothel madame. Gertan Klauber and Stanley Lebor play almost exactly the same characters as they play in Soft Beds, Hard Battles as slightly sinister but ultimately comic heavies. The story is basically about the spy stealing the German master plan for the war and the efforts of the Germans to get it back while the Brits try to get it to the General at HQ. It ought to have been a lot better. I do have a big soft spot for this film despite its failings.

    Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

    Sound format: Mono

    During a series of unlikely misadventures, a First World War army recruit (Frankie Howerd) ends up with vital military information tattooed on his backside, and he struggles through enemy territory in a desperate attempt to reach the British forces.

    The third and least effective of the theatrical features inspired by TV's "Up Pompeii!" (1969-70), starring camp British comic Howerd, whose penchant for gossipy asides to camera was well-served by the first two films (UP POMPEII and UP THE CHASTITY BELT, both produced in 1971). However, whereas "...Pompeii" and "...Chastity Belt" loaned themselves to Howerd's brand of comedy by virtue of their colorful locations (ancient Rome and Medieval England, respectively), UP THE FRONT is scuttled by its resolutely unsexy wartime setting, which sits uneasily alongside the 'Carry On'-style bawdiness of Howerd's trademark humor. As a consequence, despite the star's best efforts (and a screenplay co-written by Eddie Braben, the celebrated scriptwriter for Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise, arguably the finest comedy double act in UK TV history), the movie falls decidedly flat. Bob Kellett directs with the same faceless efficiency that distinguished the first two movies, and Howerd is ably supported by guest stars Hermione Baddeley, Stanley Holloway and Zsa Zsa Gabor (as Mata Hari!), sharing screen space alongside Bill Fraser, Lance Percival, Madeline Smith, Peter Bull, Vernon Dobtcheff and many other familiar faces. Co-star Dora Bryan sings the jolly theme song, and there's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo from young Bob Hoskins! Despite the movie's many failings, Howerd makes the most of some riotous double entendres (his scene with Gabor is a delight, reworked from a similar routine in one of the best TV episodes of "Up Pompeii!"), and the pace remains busy throughout. The real star of the show, however, is art director Seamus Flannery (REPULSION, THE WICKER MAN, FLY AWAY HOME), who works miracles on a microscopic budget, from the vivid colors of Gabor's boudoir to the war-ravaged landscape of No Man's Land and the main square of an occupied French village. If nothing else, the movie is a visual treat!

    Unlike its predecessors, the movie wasn't a popular success, and Howerd - who favored stage work over any other medium - made only sporadic film appearances from this point onward, most notably THE HOUSE IN NIGHTMARE PARK (1973), an odd blend of comedy and horror, and SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND (1978). At the time of his death in 1992, he was slated to appear in the unhappy CARRY ON COLUMBUS, which opened later the same year.
  • Prismark1018 July 2016
    By the early 1980s Frankie Howerd's brand of comedy went into serious decline. He was frankly unfunny and it was only in the late 1980s he was re-discovered by young students as a cultish live comic.

    Up the Front is an inferior version of the Lurk-a-lot films, a boot boy who ends up fighting Harry Hun in the first world war and ends up having some secret plans tattooed on his butt. He ends up meeting Mata Hari who tries to seduce him for the plans.

    The film was co-written by the legendary Eddie Braben but it comes across as a low rent Carry On movie with regular amounts of bawdiness even when they are up the front.

    The cast includes Zsa Zsa Gabor, Lance Percival, Dora Bryan, Derek Griffiths, Bill Fraser and they are all too good for this material. Bob Hoskins makes a short early appearance.
  • Well, we had UP POMPEII - a Roman comedy based on his popular television series, and its sequel UP THE CHASTITY BELT (which updated the format to the Middle Ages), so now comes UP THE FRONT, featuring the same kind of shenanigans except this time taking place during WW1.

    I was in two minds about this film before watching it, purely because I wasn't sure how a comedy set during one of the most tragic wars in history would play out. I needn't have worried; UP THE FRONT is as trivial and frivolous as ever, a series of lame gags just about held together by Howerd's front man.

    I like Howerd, but this material is definitely beneath him. When a running gang about a goat is the highlight of your movie, you know you're in trouble. He blusters and shams his way through a series of painful, originality-free gags while a series of supporting actors (Bill Fraser, Dora Bryan, Lance Percival and Stanley Holloway) mug shamelessly. Even Zsa Zsa Gabor shows up (playing Mata Hari!) along with a youthful Bob Hoskins in his first film outing.

    The paucity of both budget and imagination is evident in the uselessness of the script, which involves a secret map tattooed on Howerd's behind (interestingly, the idea was later borrowed for the spaghetti western, THE STRANGER AND THE GUNFIGHTER). At the end of the day, this is a comedy with unfunny jokes, so it's not really worth sitting through.
  • Lurk is working as a dogsbody in a rich English household when WW1 is declared. In order to impress a girl he accompanies his boss to a recruiting show where he is hypnotised to think he needs to save England. Before the spell can be lifted he recruits and is shipped out to the front. Once there he finds himself drawn into a plot involving the German's secret plan for the way and a tattoo.

    This is a very poor vehicle for a man of Frankie Howerd's talents. The first half of the film is the closest we get to his humour and even that isn't very funny. I'm a big fan of Howerd and think he's very funny but this doesn't do anything to use him. The plot is unimportant, but suffice to say it's very silly and doesn't hold the interest. That makes the comedy even more important and as I said already, in fails in that respect, with only a handful of funny lines and relies on smutting jokes and slapstick humour.

    Howerd doesn't look convinced by the material himself, he delivers it all in his own indomitable style but it's all below his usual quality. The other actors only mug along, all playing the straight men to Howerd's comments.

    Overall an unfunny, smutty comedy that wastes the talents of it's lead star.
  • During WW1, a London boot boy called Lurk (Howerd) is hypnotised to save Britain from the Germans and has their master plan tattooed on his buttocks in order to get the information back to the British.

    The second spin-off from the highly successful "UP POMPEII" sitcom is a truly ramshackle farce. It only ever provides faint amusement and the production values are strictly cardboard cut outs as is the direction of Bob Kellet who directed all three of the films spawned by the TV original. The best scene is where Dora Bryan dances with a German officer disguised as a doctor leaving him no choice but to join in with an English patriotic song much to his chagrin.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Up Pompeii was a classic series... 3 films were spawned and you'll watch this for Zsa Zsa, Patricia Quinn and Bob Hoskin cameos

    Its not a great script and Lance Percival is over strained role

    The idea isn't as funny as Chastity Belt
  • I read in the "Radio Times" magazine that this film was a WW1 comedy starring comedian Frankie Howerd, I thought it would be very funny, so I decided to sit up and watch it.

    Frankie Howerd had just finished playing the slave Lurcio in the comedy series "Up Pompeii", which I thought was very successful. I thought this film would have his usual humor and some good jokes.

    Unfortunatly, when it came to watching it, I was very disapointed. It totally wastes Frankie Howerd's comedy talent and even the performance by Zsa Zsa Gabor as Mata Hari couldn't save this.

    0 out of 10.
  • Cor blimey guv....worra plot. I'm underwhelmed.

    I don't care how long ago it was the people responsible for the main premise of this movie should be arrested. Honestly, it's criminal. Suffice to say the idea that Frankie has a "map" on his bottom filled me we dread from the off.