At War with the Army was already taken, so Jerry Lewis opts for purposeful disorientation for the title of his military goof, a lambent document on the trajectory from To Be or Not to Be to The Dirty Dozen, shot in M*A*S*H*'s year. Mephistophelically goateed, Lewis plays a fabulously wealthy industrialist surreptitiously sucking on a pacifier in the middle of a board meeting; he's bored, he's done it all, so the U.S. Army draft piques his interest. The mere mention of the word "rejection" sends him into Lewisian jabber-eruptions, yet there he is with nightclub shtick-slinger Jan Murray, nervous nellie Steve Franken and fleeing husband Dack Rambo, the Allied forces with no use for them in the war against Hitler. Jerry's got the solution, exclaimed right into the camera: "I'll make my own Army!" John Wood and Willie Davis join the platoon, decked in blue jumpsuits and taught the deadly arts by George Takei; drinks, caviar, and women are holstered aboard their yacht to Italy, where the plan is to replace the monocled SS strategist with guess-know. The main reference here is to The Great Dictator, Kaye Ballard allowed the Jack Oakie mozzarella role, amorous and suicidal -- prior to that, Lewis listens to "Music to Mein Kempf By" as preparation for his performance of Teutonic braying, welcomed to the Wolf's Lair with mock-lyricism by Sidney Miller's mincing Fuhrer. The year is allegedly 1943, though Lewis keeps things transparently late-'60s, swish-pans for transition and freeze-frames for punchlines, WWII stock footage used as seasoning for the masquerade. A personal statement, perhaps an account of Jewish retribution to match The Producers or The Man in the Glass Booth, and, who knows, a companion piece to The Day the Clown Cried. In any case, Lewis, having achieved complete control of the mise-en-scène, aims next to altering history -- a septuple-take over a Borscht Belt groaner paves the way, and democracy gets asserted by allowing every member of the force to contribute their interpretation of the enemy's limping gait. With Robert Middleton, Harold Stone, Paul Winchell, and Kathleen Freeman.
--- Fernando F. Croce