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Film / La Grande Vadrouille

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"Tea for Two and Two for Tea..."

La Grande Vadrouille ("The Great Stroll"; UK release title: Don't Look Now... We're Being Shot At!; international title: The Big Runaround) is a 1966 French war comedy directed by Gérard Oury, reuniting French comedy superstars Bourvil and Louis de Funès after The Sucker.

Summer 1942. Over German-occupied France, a Royal Air Force B17 Flying Fortress becomes lost after a mission and is shot down over Paris by German Flak. The crew, Sir Reginald Brook (Terry-Thomas), Peter Cunningham and Alan MacIntosh, parachutes out over the city, where they run into and are hidden by a house painter, Augustin Bouvet (Bourvil), and the grumbling conductor of the Opéra National de Paris, Stanislas Lefort (Louis de Funès).

Involuntarily, Lefort and Bouvet get themselves tangled up in the manhunt against the aviators led by Wehrmacht Major Achbach as the airmen try to reach the Free Zone with the help of Résistance fighters and sympathizers.

Don't Look Now... We're Being Troped At!:

  • 6 Is 9: Characters find themselves in wrong beds and wake up with a Bedmate Reveal when a 9 turns into a 6 at the hostel.
  • Absurdly-Spacious Sewer: The protagonists escape from the opera house through the sewer system. They seem to have a pleasant boat ride in there.
  • At the Opera Tonight: Augustin and Sir Reginald disguise themselves as German officers in order to infiltrate the opera during the night Faust is played and get the two hidden pilots out of it.
  • Attractive Bent-Gender: Alan MacIntosh is disguised as a woman at the opera. This comes in handy when the protagonists escape the opera in the sewers and end up in a Red Light District of Paris. They decide to set up a trap to get new clothes for disguise: MacIntosh goes out of the sewers first so men looking for prostitutes will come at him. Several of them fall into the trap, then are Bound and Gagged and stripped of their clothes.
  • Bedmate Reveal: Happens when Stanislas wakes up next to Major Achbach and then Augustin next to Lt. Stuermer.
  • Buddy Picture: The main two protagonists, Augustin and Stanislas, spent a hefty amount of time together and bicker.
  • Buzzing the Deck: A German airplane pilot is continuously strafing the heroes in the third act.
  • Chase Scene: Augustin, Stanislas and the pilots are helped by a nun, who tries to have them cross a German roadblock with her truck. When it doesn't work, they're chased by Germans on sidecars (the most persistent of them being played by Rémy Julienne). They fend off the Germans one by one by throwing whatever they can find inside the truck at them, including pumpkins.
  • Comically Cross-Eyed: One of the German soldiers is extremely cross-eyed and yet is the one manning the machine gun as the protagonists escape via gliders at the end of the film (the movie shows what he sees by defocusing the camera until there are two images of the plane). He ends up damaging the recon plane that was tailing the heroes, forcing its pilot to bail.
  • Disguised in Drag: Alan MacIntosh is hidden inside the opera this way.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Frequently used by the protagonists to walk around unnoticed by the German occupiers.
    • Augustin and Big Moustache dress up as German officers to pick up MacIntosh at the opera.
    • Augustin and Stanislas dress up as German soldiers to cross the demarcation line, guided by dogs.
    • In the Kommandantur, the three British pilots knock German soldiers out to steal their uniforms and escape discreetly.
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: Sir Reginald realizes that the bomber is not flying over Calais at the sight of the Eiffel Tower.
  • Emergency Cargo Dump: Two barrels of wine are dumped off a carriage as dead weight when the heroes escape from the Germans.
  • Everyone Loves Blondes: Juliette. Who wouldn't want to marry such a nice, courageous and lovely woman?
  • French Cuisine Is Haughty: Sir Reginald loves French wine.
  • Funny Foreigner:
    • The Brits. One of them sports a very large moustache that is described as typically English. They have poor command of French and a funny accent. There is even a scene where Stanislas imitates their way of talking.
    • Those Wacky Nazis are quite funny too. Their poor command of French is played for laughs as well (they do not understand some French expressions, like être à cheval which means "to be a stickler"). They are Neat Freak. They have funny customs (like singing and dancing astride on a chair). They respect the authority, even if said authority is a candy German officer on the top of a cake.
  • Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: Stanislas slaps Augustin in the face when the latter loses his composure at one point out in the woods.
  • Gratuitous English: When Augustin and Stanislas try to speak English, they do it with a heavy French accent and mix English words with French words.
  • Gratuitous German: Like in English above, Augustin and Stanislas try to speak German... and they do it with a heavy French accent and mix German with French words.
  • Hey, Wait!: At Stanislas' room at the theatre, Major Achbach acts like he found out about the hidden soldier but he pulls open the top-most drawer which reveals sausages from the black market while the compromising clothes were in the drawer below.
  • High-Class Glass: Sir Reginald uses the glass from his wristwatch as this in order to improve his disguise at the theatre.
  • Holding the Floor: Stanislas and Augustin spin a long tale when being interrogated by Major Achbach in order to buy time for the Brits to come up with an escape plan.
  • Idiot Ball: It's not very smart to let a squinting and ditzy soldier in charge of the machine gun.
  • Lightswitch Surprise: When Stanislas and Augustin arrives in the hotel, it is dark. Then they see a few floating candlelights. Finally, the light comes on and they find themselves in the middle of the birthday party of a German officer.
  • Mugged for Disguise:
    • The heroes set a trap on an evening Paris street. MacIntosh, dressed as a woman, strolls next to an open manhole, passers-by look at "her" and fall into the hole, where they are beaten and undressed. Bonus points for the speed of undressing and sorting the clothes and footwear. Minor subversion in the next scene: next morning Lefort realizes that he took too small shoes and forces Bouvet to give him his.
    • In the Kommandantur, the three British pilots knock German soldiers out to steal their uniforms and escape discreetly.
  • Odd Couple: Lefort is a pretentious and arrogant conductor. Bouvet is a simple house painter. They have to travel together to cross covertly the demarcation line. Bouvet saves Lefort's life several times. Lefort cheers up Bouvet when he is depressed.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Lefort falls for Augustin Bouvet and Sir Reginald's obliviously fake German disguises.
    Lefort: [when Augustin and Reginald are grabbing him] IT'S NOT ME! IT'S NOT ME!
    Bouvet: [showing his face] It's me.
    Sir Reginald: It's me.
    Lefort: Then it's me!
  • Parachute in a Tree: Peter Cunhingam's parachute snags on a roof just meters above Bouvet's dangling cradle. There's a SS military review beneath them.
  • The Perfectionist: It's De Funès as a Mean Boss, what did you expect?
    Lefort: I have a personal conception of the work! [The Damnation of Faust] It's not enough triumphant! Not proud enough! SOME PRIDE, DAMNIT! [...] It wasn't bad, IT WAS VERY BAD! Let's do it again at the 17...
  • Pressure Point: When Lefort and Bouvet are locked in a cell, they call a prison guard and shout "Heil Hitler!" raising arms in a Nazi salute. Turns out, the salute is a perfect position for neck chops from both sides, and a soldier answering "Sieg Heil!" isn't expecting it. Of course, they didn't care about the guard's survival.
  • Prima Donna Director: Stanislas Lefort's Establishing Character Moment is rehearsing an opera and while initially praising his musicians' performance, he quickly goes angry when one of them is chattering with one of his colleagues.
    Lefort: Thank you Gentlemen, it was very good! It was very good. [all musicians applause] You were really good [point out another group] You were a li'l bit... er... so-so [singles out a bassoon player] Tell me, we haven't heard you. We never hear you. YOU NEVER STOP TO CHATTER! WATCH OUT! BE VERY CAREFUL!
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Some of the Germans are pretty friendly to the heroes... until they find out that they are working for La Résistance.
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: In the French version, some of the English and German dialogues are subtitled in French (when it is necessary to understand the plot), but the rest is left untranslated.
  • La Résistance: A network of French people benevolently help the protagonists escape the Germans, which was considered as "passive resistance" and highly punishable back then. A more straight-up group of resistants try to blow up the opera room once it will be full of German officers.
  • Right Under Their Noses:
    • Augustin Bouvet acts as Juliette's husband to deceive the German squad that is looking for him and Peter Cunningham.
    • Similarly, Alan MacIntosh acts as Stanislas Lefort's harpist pupil to deceive Major Achbach.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Stanislas Lefort throws his conductor wig and baton with a sorrowful look as he realizes that he has lost everything.
    Bouvet: You are going to catch a cold with your baldness. Do you want my cap?
    Lefort: [angrily] YOU, LEAVE ME IN PEACE AND ROW!
    Bouvet: Hold on, tone down the basslines ...
  • Run for the Border: The protagonists' goal is to get to the French-controlled part of France before the Germans could seize them.
  • Running Gag: The Neat Freak SS officer who gets covered with paint and later with plaster dust.
  • Shoot Out the Lock: One of the British pilots shoots at the padlock to open the hangar of the gliders.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Faust, the opera by Hector Berlioz (which is an adaptation of Goethe's play), is played at the Palais Garnier. The opera is not showed, but we can hear some music from it (the Rákóczi March) and we also see the opera singers with their costumes (Mephistopheles, for example).
    • Juliette's grandfather is a puppeteer. A part of his show is showed in the film. Its protagonist is Guignol, a traditional French puppet character.
    • On the train, a German officer recites a poem by Charles Péguy.
  • Shrug Take: In his dressing room, Lefort pushes a needle into his wig (which is on a wig stand) and he feels a pain in his head. He does it again and he feels the same. Then he hits his wig with a hairbrush and he feels the blow on his head. Eventually he chooses to ignore completely this strange phenomenon and to go about his business.
  • Slobs Versus Snobs: Stanislas Lefort, the conductor of the Palais Garnier, and Augustin Bouvet, a simple house painter, constantly bickers. At some point, Bouvet tells that Lefort probably despises him because he is a manual worker. Lefort then confirms explicitly that Bouvet is right.
  • Those Wacky Nazis:
  • Too Important to Walk: Lefort considers himself as this. Hence the page's picture. A walk of some meters is enough for him to get foot pain with his tight shoes.
  • Trojan Prisoner: Big Moustache and Augustin, dressed up as German officers, take Stanislas "prisoner" to get out of the opera, which is full of German soldiers.
  • Undercover as Lovers: Augustin and Juliette pretend twice to be husband and wife, in order not to get caught by the Germans: firstly in her flat, when the Germans demand to search it; secondly in the hotel, when Augustin and Stanislas arrive in the hotel late at night. The second time, the hotel owner also pretends to be Stanislas's wife. Augustin likes very much the idea of impersonating Juliette's husband.
  • Vehicular Sabotage: The Brits let the air out of the tire of the German vehicles to impede the Germans' attempts to give chase after the escape.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: There were two members of the flight crew besides Sir Reginald, MacIntosh, and Cunningham. After a brief mention by Achbach that they had been captured, they're never mentioned again.