Christian-Jaque – Babette s’en va-t-en guerre AKA Babette Goes to War (1959)

It is June 1940. France has fallen and the Germans are posed to invade England. In this desperate hour, British Intelligence has recruited Babette, a pea-brained young woman who has just been evacuated from France. The dim blonde bears a striking resemblance to a former mistress of General von Arenberg, the man responsible for the feared invasion. The plan is that she will use her womanly charms to lure the General into an ambush. Things soon go wrong when Babette is separated from her handsome associate, Gérard de Crécy, and ends up in the hands of the infamous Gestapo chief Shultz. Coincidentally, the latter also wants to have von Arenberg out of the way, and realises that Babette is just the woman he needs…This good-humoured wartime comedy was directed by Christian-Jaque, who is probably best known for his historical adventure films Fanfan la Tulipe (1952) and La Tulipe noire (1964). Producer Raoul Lévy initially offered the directing job to Roger Vadim, but he declined when Martine Carol turned down the leading role and was replaced by Brigitte Bardot. The film was an enormous gamble, since it was the first time that a comic film about World War II was made in France. The film’s commercial success revealed a rich seam which other film makers were only too eager to tap into – the most successful being Gérard Oury with his 1966 film La Grande vadrouille (the most popular film ever made in France).

Having built a reputation as a sex temptress in such films as Roger Vadim’s Et Dieu… créa la femme (1956), Brigite Bardot makes a surprising return here to the innocent good girl persona of her earliest films. Babette s’en va-t-en guerre clearly does little to exploit either Bardot’s sex appeal or her acting ability, but it is a treat to see her appear alongside her real-life husband of the time, Jacques Charrier. The one member of the cast who stands out most is Francis Blanche, who is absolutely hilarious as the comically sadistic Gestapo chief. Admittedly, he does get all the best jokes – courtesy of ace screenwriter Michel Audiard – but Blanche’s rotund physique and larger-than-life personality (to say nothing of his energy and mad sense of fun) makes him the film’s greatest asset and arguably the best caricature of a fascistic madman since Chaplin’s The Great Dictator (1940).

771MB | 1 h 39 min | 640×480 | avi



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