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Arms and the Man 1989
Description: First produced on the London scene in 1894, "Arms and the Man" instantly established Shaw's reputation as one of the best wits in London drama. This beautifully remastered BBC production brings to life an uproarious comedy that still resonates in its critique of warfare and romance.
Released: 16 Apr 1989 Director: James Cellan Jones Writers: George Bernard Shaw Actors: Helena Bonham Carter, Nicolas Chagrin, Mark Crowdy, Patsy Kensit Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance
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Arms and the Man Reviews:

Ironically for a enjoy unavailable on movie or video for so long, ARMS AND THE MAN has remained fairly constantly accessible on scene over the years since its debut in 1894 - in no tiny part because it has aged so well as a solid satire on the nature of heroism and the business of war. Whenever the globe sinks into strife, ARMS AND THE MAN seems to soar as ever more timely and relevant.This is the enjoy which Oscar Strauss converted (leaving out most of Shaw's greatest ideas) into the successful operetta, THE CHOCOLATE SOLDIER (when Hollywood got to *that,* they left out the last vestiges of Shaw rather than pay him for the rights - he was, by then, an Oscar champion in his own right). While the greatest of Shaw has everytime been his concepts and his dialogue rather than his bare plots, in ARMS AND THE MAN, the plot sparkles as well and the master manages satisfied endings for all concerned. Young Raina (Helena Bonham Carter), daughter of an officer and the wealthiest boy in her town, is betrothed to a dashing officer in the Bulgarian cavalry and all seems well until a bedraggled Swiss mercenary (Pip Torrens) from the another side climbs up her drainpipe fleeing from the war where his units has been routed. As usual in a Shaw satire, nothing is as it first appears and societal conventions are stood on their head in the light of easy - and not so easy reason. There are no "good guys" or "bad guys," just folks of a tons of classes getting by on the greatest of their wits - just like life only better - and naturally with Shaw, the wit is finely honed from all concerned.The early (1932) motion picture ver (from Shaw's own screenplay) of this most traditional and traditionally funny of Shaw's scene satires, and one of his first to create a true hit on this side of the Atlantic, has long been among the missing. Shaw didn't sell the screen-rights to his plays - only licensed them for 5 year periods, and it appeared that with rapidly evolving sound technology making 1932 movies look primitive only a several years later, Shaw did not renew the license to present it. Consequently, we're immensely in the BBC's debt for finally putting out their 1987 broadcast ver in a DVD box with nine another sparkling plays. (Somewhat sadly, PYGMALION, that many view as Shaw's best, comes off least well on this set in a production with Lynn Redgrave and James Villiers.)Even paired, as it is on its DVD, with the less impressive one act, A MAN OF DESTINY, ARMS AND THE MAN makes for a true treasure.Helena Bonham Carter went on, after cutting her teeth on televised roles like this, to a major movie career that will bring many viewers to this early role. They could not be disappointed, for Ms. Carter gives a performance in line with the layered innocence audiences have come to expect from her, but under James Cellan Jones' somewhat pedestrian direction (and despite the BBC's uniformly pretty and well observed physical production), the role's mischievous fire (and her outrage at being underestimated in the last act) is banked at only about 80% of it's potential. Much the same can be told of the true star of the piece, Pip Torrens, as Bluntschli the "Switzer." It's a fine, appealing performance, but doesn't go for the physical comedy implicit in the early stage where the young soldier can barely stay awake despite his mortal peril.These reservations notwithstanding, this is a solid production of a unbelievable enjoy transferred to the tiny screen with aplomb. It deserves to be seen widely and, ideally, prompt an even livelier large screen makeover with the style and zest of the newest makeover of Wilde's AN IDEAL HUSBAND. Virtually *any* ARMS AND THE MAN is to be cherished, and with a lot of luck perhaps we'll even eventually receive to see the original 1932 version. 'Till one or the another surfaces, this production will please anyone who loves nice Shaw.


'Arms and the Man' is one of Shaw's funniest plays if handled correctly, and this production does a nice enough job. Helena Bonham-Carter, pre-film stardom, is Raina, the daughter of a military family, who has a peacock of a fiancé (Patrick Ryecart), and who shelters a soldier from the opponent (Pip Torrens) during a raid on the town.Full of colour and energy, this production rips along at a nice pace, and if Bonham-Carter and Patsy Kensit as the maid are outshone a bit by the rest of the cast, they still keep their ground. Kika Markham and Dinsdale Landen as the parents are delightful, and the entire enjoy is generally a satisfied one.Highly recommended.


With several exceptions, most of George Bernard Shaw's plays have virtually disappeared from the theater these days. Too arch, too talky appears to be the general verdict. This BBC ver of one of Shaw's funniest plays doesn't refute that verdict. It is certainly arch and talky, but it is also wonderful. And because of the quality of British theater, it is perfectly cast with actors whom -- with the exception of Helena Bonham Carter -- most of us have probably never heard of. Carter is splendid as the Bulgarian woman who shelters the professional "chocolate soldier" (Pip Torrens) and soon falls in love with him. One might quarrel with the especially ridiculous interpretation of Sergius (Patrick Ryecart), the Bulgarian cavalry officer who led the charge into the enemy's lines and succeeded only because the opponent had the wrong ammunition for its machine guns. However, the role invites over-acting and Ryecart was obviously said to over-act. The another users are letter perfect. Carter as the self-dramatizing Bulgarian "aristocrat" and Torrens as the Swiss soldier-of-fortune are at the play's center, of course, and they are wonderful. Yes, "Arms and the Man" comes across as a filmed play. But you're unlikely ever to see a Shaw movie that doesn't betray its origin. The plots are generally clever. However, Shaw is all about the dialog. The action is minimal (even in St. Joan) and the sets are immaterial. Play this for what it is.



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