The proud ships of the Royal Navy sail calmly on blue seas under a blue sky, but bounced from ship to shore and post to post is Lieutenant Commander Robert “Artful Bodger” Badger, competent and effective but prone to offering salient knowledge and insight to superior officers which demonstrates their failings, making him unpopular and difficult to place in an organisation where the chain of command must be unquestionable.
His twelfth appointment in eighteen months, Badger eventually ends up as an instructor of new recruits at the Britannia Royal Navy College, among the intake the midshipmen Carson, intelligent and educated but naïve, Bowles, a fighter rather than a thinker, and Dewberry, son of the outspoken Member of Parliament George “Sink the Navy” Dewberry who seemingly intends to solve two bothersome problems at once, his career dependent on making the unlikely trio into officers.
Directed by Wendy Toye, We Joined the Navy was written by Howard Dimsdale, based on Lieutenant Commander John Winton’s 1959 novel of the same name, a frothy comedy of water, waves and mishaps starring Sink the Bismarck’s Kenneth More as Badger alongside Yes, Minister’s Derek Fowlds as Carson, The Curse of Fenric’s Dinsdale Landen as Bowles and Jeremy Lloyd, later the co-creator of ‘Allo, ‘Allo!, as Dewberry.
Positioned as a comedy in 1962 but badly dated and instead offering variations on the same tired setup and payoff, We Joined the Navy is a loosely connected string of antics now principally noted for what would now be regarded as star cameos, though most other than Dirk Bogarde would at the time have been only youthful rising stars, among them Alexis Kanner, Rodney Bewes and David Warner, though like Richard Vernon, Sid James was apparently born both old and with the ability to effortlessly steal any scene, though his supremacy challenged by Graham Crowden’s eyebrows.
Joan O’Brien the ostensible leading lady, as in Operation Petticoat she is little more than a prop for the men to dance around though fares better than Wanda Ventham, and Toye has done little to make the best of the shortcomings of the clumsy script where any action by privileged slackers of little aptitude or dedication, no matter how foolish or irresponsible, can be undertaken without repercussions so long as they have the right ally to sway the board of investigation.
The now standard warning of “historical attitudes” for once well-earned with all foreigners portrayed as illiterate fools or charlatans, StudioCanal’s new Vintage Classics edition of We Joined the Navy released in tandem with The Teckman Mystery completes the two-part examination of the career of Wendy Toye and also offers a 1984 documentary on Toye and Sally Potter and The King’s Breakfast, a 1963 whimsical short again most notable for the plethora of familiar faces, among them Worzel Gummidge’s Una Stubbs and Doctor Who’s Caroline John.
We Joined the Navy will be available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Download from StudioCanal from Monday 21st November