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This light, military comedy is an early hit from the Boulting brothers ("Brighton Rock," "Twisted Nerve," "The Family Way," "There's a Girl in My Soup," "Heavens Above!"). It may remind contemporary audiences of both "The Phil Silvers Show" (contraband deals and get-rich scheming) and "Stripes" (a misfit stumbles through basic training, then joins a mettle-testing mission involving a quick sneak over enemy lines). And of course, it overlaps with its more famous sequel, "I'm All Right Jack."
Peter Sellers is absent from "Private's Progress," but the film does star Ian Carmichael as the same privileged, clumsily apologetic twit seen in "Jack." Multiple other actors also play repeat roles, including Terry-Thomas, Dennis Price, Kenneth Griffith and Richard Attenborough (such a sharp presence, and always so hard to connect with his later persona as a prestigious director). Oddly, the cast also includes an uncredited Christopher Lee in a small part as a German officer.
The film could use a better villain -- the camp's ineffectual commanders are so wishy-washy that their dealings with the soldiers are short on comic sparks. The script also has less of the punchy social satire that distinguishes "Heavens Above!" and "I'm All Right Jack," which is unfortunate. It's mostly about gentle laughs and good fun, though a deadpan prologue about military bureaucracy scores some direct hits.
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