A British army camp in Occupied Germany, 1954. John McGrath's adaptation of his own play perfectly captures the tang of the barrack room in all its brutish, scarifyingly jocular destructiveness as he sets up a classic situation. A young National Serviceman (Warner), obvious officer material, nervously prepares to exercise authority for the first time as corporal of the guard; facing him are six old hands, eager to slope off, probing for signs of weakness. Basically, the conflict is between authority and responsibility. Warner is responsible, all right, but the authority is all in the hands of the drunken, totally irresponsible Irishman (Williamson) who goads his man like a matador tormenting a bull. If the explosive climax is a shade too melodramatic to be entirely convincing, the performances are first-rate, and Gold (his debut feature) directs with precise, self-effacing control.
Cast and crew