22 September 2005 | JoeytheBrit
A Couple of Yanks in the RAF
The Brylcreem Boys takes as its subject matter a fascinating true situation but doesn't really seem to know what to do with it. Set in the neutral Republic of Ireland during WWII the story revolves around a group of British and German servicemen who find themselves interned in the same POW camp, separated by only a thin strip of land between two fortified fences through which they trade insults. And that's pretty much it, really. There's an unremarkable romance between a Canadian serving in the British RAF (Bill Campbell) and a comely local lass (Jean Butler), and a predictably resolved rivalry between him and German officer Count Rudolph von Stegenbek (Angus McFadyen), but for most of the movie you get the impression that the writers didn't really know what to do with the subject matter.
The basic premise would seem to lend itself to a comedy in the vein of an old Ealing production: a prison camp from which none of the allied forces wish to escape, where their pay slips are received monthly, from which they receive day-passes to visit the local race meetings, and in which the only bars are the type that serve pints of beer. The comic possibilities would seem endless but the humour here is almost non-existent, as are any elements of suspense or tension, and the writers seem to approach certain aspects that could be of interest the effect on Stegenbek of learning that his comrades slaughtered a French farming family who shielded Keogh (Campbell) for example only to back off once the ground work is complete. The inevitable escape attempt, when it finally arrives, is glossed over in a few scenes, and the fate of the principals announced by a voice-over. All in all, while the film has some entertainment value, it's a big disappointment. And for my money any film about British POWs that casts a couple of actors from Charlottesville, Virginia and Dallas, Texas as the lead RAF characters has irreparably compromised itself from the outset.