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Two Men Went To War

20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

This is the true story of two members of England's Army Dental Corps, Sgt. Peter King (Cranham), a World War I veteran looking to keep on fighting, and Private Leslie Cuthbertson (Bill), a wet-behind-the-ears trainee, whose dedication to helping the war effort during World War II inspired them to leave their posts and attempt to join the war effort in France. Sneaking into occupied territory in 1942 (long before D-Day), the two dentists find love, friendship and ultimately a German radar station. A good-hearted comic drama that shows that real heroes and true courage comes from the individual.


Few words can bayonet a film more effectively than "based on a true story." "Two Men Went to War" treads so nimbly around these mines, instead, we're treated to the sepia-toned whimsy of two World War II British army dentists who become heroes fighting in the trenches instead of fighting trench mouth. Sgt. Peter King (Kenneth Cranham) and Pvt. Leslie Cuthbertson (Leo Bill), parlay their frustration into a mission across the English Channel so reckless and ill-planned that it just might work. Perhaps it had better. In February 1942, the Allies' prospects for winning the war are not bright. "Two Men Went to War," pairing a gentle period score with an olive-green fervor that melts into the verdant hills of England and France, nonetheless assures us we needn't worry much. "God bless the lunatics," says an intelligence officer (Derek Jacobi), referring to King and Cuthbertson without yet knowing it. "You know, without them this war could be quite serious." An avuncular Winston Churchill (David Ryall), no less, sounds more like a shopkeeper pondering bankruptcy than a leader staring down the maw of the Nazi empire. "I don't know if this rabbit is going to come out of the hat," he says of the war. Our intrepid dentists are less concerned with ultimate victory than the chance to etch their names upon the battlefield. In explaining why, the film hews to its small ambitions by relying on scant back story and King's grim face and demeanor - etched more by middle-aged disappointment than actual battle. A sense of duty emerges, of course, but so does a boyish boredom inspired by slogans like "An army that can't bite, can't fight." Equipped with a few guns and grenades, the pair go AWOL, steal a boat and head to France. Germans, however, are in short supply when they finally arrive, leading Cuthbertson to yell at one point, "Hello? Anyone? We're here." At moments like these, a column of German troops or tanks will nonchalantly appear, prompting the dentists to take cartoonish cover behind a tree.In this and other ways, "Two Men Go to War" drops a pinch of "Catch-22" into its already rich stock of understated British absurdity. What emerges tastes faintly of "Stripes" and nothing like, say, "The Dirty Dozen." As admirable as King and Cuthbertson's ultimate heroics is the film's knack for smiling at the war without insulting its gravity. Director John Henderson's Germans do nothing more offensive than boil beef and endure the yappings of English biddies while monitoring radio transmissions - all the more useless because there are no real enemies in this endearing little film. --Vic Vogler, Denver Post

If whimsy isn't your mug of tea, then you may miss this gem "Two Men Went to War." You have to be in the mood for a little sweetness to enjoy this resolutely old- fashioned comedy about two British soldiers in 1942 who wage a private war against the Germans. That the heroes happen to be dentists and that their story is real only add to the movie's pleasantly quirky air. Sgt. King (Kenneth Cranham) and Pvt. Cuthbertson (Leo Bill) are stationed with the Royal Army Dental Corps in the Hampshire town of Aldershot, 40 miles southwest of London. But they dream of glory beyond casting dentures. A bluff, stocky sort, the sergeant is a patriot and a World War I veteran who's passed over for a combat assignment. The private is a wide-eyed, gawky kid pining for the front lines, enthusiastic but not terribly bright; early on he accidentally pulls the pin from a hand grenade while fantasizing about combat. Taken from Richard Foxall's book "Amateur Commandos," the story of how this odd couple slips off to Plymouth and heads for France in a stolen boat is played mostly for sentiment and gentle absurdism. There's nothing of the anti- war sting of "Paths of Glory," or the bitter irony of "Oh! What a Lovely War." The film is part of a long line of studies of British eccentrics, the two soldiers are daft, of course, but they make surprising headway in their self-appointed mission. After posting a letter of explanation to Winston Churchill, they pack up a couple of handguns and some grenades. Adventures and misadventures follow (including a flirtation between the younger man and a Plymouth girl played by Rosanna Lavelle) until the men stumble on a German radar installation in France, where they actually have a chance to inflict some damage. The characters grow under the pressures of their task. There are cutaways to the War Rooms in London, where an alternately fatigued and feisty Churchill (David Ryall) and his intelligence adviser (Derek Jacobi) work to hold the war effort together -- early 1942 was a dismal time for Britain -- as our heroes' letter wends its way through various hands. Most of director Henderson's work has been in TV, and he also acted in the popular BBC comedy "Dad's Army," a series that premiered in 1968 and concerned a British home-guard unit during World War II. This is a small film, in the good sense. The pluck and decency of the would-be warriors here make an impression that many more presumptuous films would be lucky to match. --Walter Addiego, San Francisco Chronicle

"An army that can't bite can't fight" served as a motivational slogan for most of the men in Britain's Army Dental Corps during World War II. But not for all of them. In the very amusing Two Men Went to War, a sergeant and a trainee dental mechanic decide to battle the Germans like a pair of commandos from The Dirty Dozen. Ridiculous as it sounds, they manage to do some serious damage -- in spite of their bumbling approach to warfare. The biggest surprise of all? This delightful movie is based on a true story.Yes. It actually happened. On a foggy April night in 1942, Sergeant Peter King and Private Leslie Cuthbertson, crossed the English Channel in a single-masted fishing boat and arrived in German-occupied France. They intended to destroy as many Nazis and Quislings as possible on this unofficial military outing. And they covered their absence from dental duty with letters to Prime Minister Winston Churchill requesting that he designate their endeavors as a "Special Mission." Now, that's what I call hutzpah!When playwright Richard Everett read about the adventures of King and Cuthbertson in Raymond Foxall's book Amateur Commandos, he realized the comedy potential of the story. He recruited Christopher Villiers as a co-writer, and the pair spent a year writing a screenplay about these two unlikely heroes. Happily, their witty adaptation emphasizes human interest over "war story" action. Two Men Went to War emerges as a tale of two men, frustrated at being stuck in jobs they hate, taking desperate steps to bring meaning into their lives. Fortunately, John Henderson (Spitting Image), who has worked in comedy for many years, signed on as director. His attention to the special timing needed in depicting humorous situations enriches the film considerably. The key roles of Sgt. King and Pvt. Cuthbertson are played by Kenneth Cranham (Gangster No. 1) and Leo Bill (28 Days Later), respectively. Each of these actors grew on me as the movie progressed. They made me believe how serious their characters were about their outrageous mission. Cranham doesn't say much, but his body language projects everything necessary to communicate his character's pride and frustration. Here's a man told he's too old to fight but burning with a passion to see active service. Bill endows his Private Cuthbertson with an easy-going demeanor that contrasts with the Sergeant's rigid manner. And, although he's not the typical handsome leading man, Bill manages to be quite convincing as the object of affection for two beautiful women.Excellent use of "oldies but goodies" background music adds to the pleasure of watching and listening to this splendid film. Having lived through World War II, I was reminded of many past feelings and events while viewing Two Men Went to War. Now, thanks to this movie, I've learned about a pair of unlikely heroes from that difficult time -- and I salute them. --Betty Jo Tucker, NY Daily News

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Kenneth Cranham, Leo Bill, Rosanna Lavelle, Phyllida Law, James Fleet
  • Directors: John Henderson
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Surround Sound, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Indican
  • DVD Release Date: June 1, 2006
  • Run Time: 109 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000B7MXFW
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #150,064 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Two Men Went To War" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Harold Kirkpatrick on October 30, 2009
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
A great movie -- I loved this -- both comic and thrilling. Two unlikely heroes -- dentists in the medical corps -- decide to "do their bit" by taking the war into their own hands. Many unlikely and comic surprises and the photography was excellent. It shows you can make thriller, and even a war movie, without a lot of gratuitous horror-movie type violence. The action takes place in 1942 at a low point in the war for France and England. Churchill's spirits are so low that his aides calm his spirits by offering to read to him from Kipling.

I agree that the English dialect (not the king's English) was a little hard to understand at first, but sticking with it pays off. (My copy did have captions for the deaf, though we didn't use them).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jarvis Walstreet on March 22, 2006
Format: DVD
Two Men Went to War is like Gomer Pyle but with british humor. So it's a little more understated. The film is beautiful and looked great on my widescreen TV. Both the lead actors are great and Derek Jacobi is excellent too. Lot of fun this is the kind of film you'd see on A&E or Bravo. Definitely for the over 20 crowd.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Guitarista on December 8, 2007
Format: DVD
Well worth it. Wish it had subtitles...Some of the slang and accent are a bit hard to catch, but a fun little movie. Loved it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. Storchan on November 27, 2013
Format: DVD
Checking on this movie before I watched it, I found out it was based upon a true story. It was a belly buster for me, really funny, they they bungled across occupied France, and did a bunch of damage. The wanted to fight but belonged to the medical corp. They did a great job of character development, but I cannot believe these two people were that stupid. They crossed the English Channel in a borrowed boat.

Looking up the Sergeant, I cannot believe he was that old or that stupid, In reality he went through Ranger training and ended up a Major. The script writer added his imagination upon a true story and added some color in the characters. Very, very funny.
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Format: Amazon Instant Video Verified Purchase
There are not many movies that I want to see twice. I rented this film, and in that short period of time, I watched it twice, and then when it was erased from my Kindle I felt such a loss that I bought it so I can watch it again and again and again.

I was also curious to know if this really happened. And as incredible as it seems, the two characters in this film (Private Lesley Cuthbertson and Sargeant Peter King) really existed, and apparently they really did "invade" France in 1942. And they really did escape being captured and they really did cross back to England. They were both court martialled so there has to be a written record of this somewhere to prove that it happend, and if it had been up to me, I would have given them both some kind of medal for giving the British a small victory at a time when there were very few British victories... even if this was absolutely crazy, crazy, crazy....

Much of the charm of this film is due to the songs and newsreel clips which give us a feeling of those bad old days. The dialogue, I suppose, is the writer's imagination but it is very , very funny. Just imagine one old and brave but very crazy sargent leading another crazy but very young private, and both of them are impatient to go to war against Hitler... and so, they did.... that is what they did, they invaded France in order to fight the war.

There is also a young girl in England, who is attracted to the young boy, and another young girl in France who is also attracted to the young boy... which make the situation even funnier....

The ending is heartwarming, when these two crazy soldiers get punished for being A.W.O.L. but also applauded for their crazy adventure where they actually helped the cause and lived to tell about it...
Read more ›
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By Amazon Customer on February 21, 2014
Format: Amazon Instant Video Verified Purchase
My dad is a WW2 vet, so I am drawn to stories from that era, but I think I would have loved this movie anyway! The fact that it's based on a true story within a genuine historic setting was an added bonus.

Set in England and France, two soldiers, one a novice and the other a veteran of the conflict we know as WW1, are frustrated with their non-combat assignments and take matters into their own hands to get a piece of the action in the fight against Hitler and his forces. In their own bumbling way, they help the war effort and impact the British military all the way to Winston Churchill's office.

Not a comedy, but with great comedic elements, this film calls to the would-be hero in all of us. It displays in an engaging story how our best and courageous small efforts can make a big difference.

The story is the star here. The war elements are believable but not graphic, with loss of life implied. There are no gratuitous strings of epithets or steamy bedroom scenes mucking up the flow of a story with enough character in the characters to stand on its own.

I'm not strong on noticing production values, shot selection, lighting, etc. but there were no distracting, obvious flaws to jar one from the movie back to reality in midstream.
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By CyberJ on March 27, 2012
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I was excited by the promotion information of this video and awaited with baited breath. Was i disappointed, not really, nor was I given to being overwhelmed with joy at the start either. This movie starts out slow and for the first fifteen to twenty minutes it pushes on at a slow pace requiring some very attentive watching to keep abreast of the plot. I should say at this point that I did initially think that this was a comedy based upon a Home Guard type scenario AKA "Dads army". I was however pleasantly surprised to find out that this was in fact based upon factual information. This kept my interest level high as I am an avid Military History buff as well. The plot starts to liven up as the two intrepid Dentists actually begin to achieve some of their goals and the icing would have to be the escape and the end to the adventure.

Overall, after starting out mildly disappointed I found I was reasonably impressed and given the fact that this movie was based on factual information I would recommend it to any person who likes WWII movies.
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