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Film / Wake Me When It's Over

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"You've heard of Hell? Well, when it first got started, it was a new idea, so they hadda test it out. This here island is the place they picked."
Hap Cosgrove, describing Shima

Wake Me When It's Over is a 1960 comedy film directed by Mervyn LeRoy and starring Dick Shawn, Ernie Kovacs, Margo Moore, and Jack Warden.

The movie follows what is cryptically referred to as the "Brubaker Case", a U.S. military investigation which has gained national attention. Said investigation centers around Gus Brubaker (Shawn), a draftee who had spent World War II in the European theater and was more than willing to leave the U.S. Air Force at the earliest possible moment. In an attempt to collect on his G.I. insurance, Gus accidentally re-enlists in the Air Force and is sent to Shima, a backwater island off the coast of Japan with a reputation for driving airmen insane with boredom. Gus fears slowly losing his own mind when the discovery of a nearby hot spring inspires him to partner with Capt. Charlie Stark (Kovacs) in building a hotel on Shima.

Things then start going downhill when nosy brass start getting wind of Shima turning into a tourist attraction almost overnight, and the Air Force decides that there is only one man responsible: Gus.

Wake Me When It's Over contains examples of:

  • Backhanded Compliment: After Gus is declared not guilty by the court martial board, the presiding general, on his way out, turns and commends Gus's actions and explains that he can think of only one other man with a comparable record. Then he gets the dig by mentioning that that man is Baron von Richtofen.
  • Battle Trophy: A beer mug from Plymouth, which Stark won after a bar brawl with five (or seven, depending on who you believe) Canadian marines.
  • Blackmail: Colonel Hollingsworth demands Stark be arrested after parachuting to Shima for being AWOL. Doc stops this by threatening to explain to the court martial board that the colonel's wife received a sample of the very fabric that is part of the evidence against Brubaker. On top of all the king crab the colonel purchased. The colonel's demotion later in the movie hints that this still might have gotten out.
  • Brick Joke: Gus hears about how the previous morale officer was trying to swim back to the States from Shima. Later on, after being demoted from colonel to sergeant, Gus encounters Hollingsworth disembarking from the launch to report for duty as the base's new morale officer.
  • Buzzing the Deck: Stark all the way. Even when he stops acting like himself, he can't resist buzzing the hotel a couple of times. The second time, he bails out so that he can testify at the court martial. He reveals that this habit is the reason he found himself on Shima; he buzzed the Supreme Court!
  • Catchphrase: "Ah, sou." Translates roughly to "oh, really", although its use is abused by a number of people.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Zero, which the villagers burn later on as a show of friendship for the Americans stationed on Shima.
    • The fact that Gus has two serial numbers. The first one, his original number, was listed as KIA when Gus was blown from his plane and declared dead. When the Air Force found out that he was alive and only had one day to go on his enlistment, they issued him the second number to shortcut through the red tape required to take him off the KIA list. Gus has to use the second one to get his G.I. insurance and is forced to re-enlist due to only having been in service under the second number for a single day. During the court martial, Gus realizes that the board is prosecuting him with the first number, giving Doc some leeway since the board can't prosecute a dead man.
  • Chekhov's Skill: While some of the men are sick of the base's "art club", it comes in handy for designing advertisement posters later on.
  • Courtroom Antics: The peculiarity of Shima, the situation, and the locals makes for a few spectacles in Gus's favor. By the end of the film, the presiding general has the hotel/courtroom cleared to keep from having to deal with any more shenanigans. It doesn't help.
  • Crazy Enough to Work: Or rather, "This idea isn't logical enough for failure", spoken of the hotel before they start building.
  • Culture Clash: Natural for American soldiers in Japan (which is still an issue today). This winds up working against Brubaker since, in order to hire some local girls as maids, McKay buys them from their families (seen as enslavement) and labels Brubaker as "Papa-san" with the instructions that they do whatever he tells them. They were only supposed to act as maids, but the explanations behind their "employment" leaves room for some very negative interpretations.
  • Genre Savvy: The all-female maid staff of native Japanese at the hotel was "purchased" from their families for Gus and calls him "Papa-san". Gus quickly points out how it sounds to Nora only for her to dismiss it as a necessity. And, indeed, the prosecution for the court martial board latches onto this.
  • Gratuitous Japanese: Invoked by "Mushy", who can't speak Japanese (but knows a lot of Yiddish). He only learns how to count to ten in Japanese (probably the extent that the locals would teach him) and uses that to greet customers just to make the hotel seem more exotic.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The U.S. Air Force. By forcing Gus to re-enlist in order to collect his G.I. insurance, the Air Force inadvertently set themselves up for the attention-getting "Brubaker Case". Further compounding on this is the fact that, when the court martial board sent to Washington, D.C., for Gus's service record, the higher-ups sent back Gus's information under his first serial number. Gus was declared dead on this number and was issued the second in order to fast-track him through his single remaining day in the service. This jacks up the court martial board since Doc can now declare a mistrial and complicate things further for the board. They must either A) redo the entire process again and suffer the same batch of shenanigans once more or B) find Gus innocent in spite of their convictions that Gus violated regulations.
  • In Medias Res: The movie starts with a meeting of Congress and a news report discussing the "Brubaker" case. Then we meet Gus.
  • Loophole Abuse: The general premise of the movie is founded on a regulation that a soldier can work a second job during their off-duty hours.
    • The material used for the hotel, despite being U.S. government property, is all junk and used. This is countered by the fact that, during a court martial process, stolen items are considered to have the same monetary value no matter their condition. The officers overseeing the court martial agree with the former, especially after it is pointed out that a used parachute can't save a man's life again.
    • One of the charges against Gus is damaging morale. Doc quickly points out that, until Gus came along, conditions on the base were lousy and the locals in the village hated them. The board returns this charge not guilty, notably without having to deal with the serial number fiasco.
      • The prosecution needed the Zero shrine to prove the damage to morale and demands that someone stop the villagers from burning it. No one stops them because the plane belongs to the villagers.
    • In order to prevent Stark from testifying as to the participation of his command in the hotel's operation, Colonel Hollingsworth transfers him to Kyushu.
      • Following Stark showing up AWOL, Colonel Hollingsworth demands Stark be arrested after Stark parachutes down to the hotel during the court martial. Doc points out that Stark, hanging from his parachute on a flagpole, can't be arrested because he's technically not on the island yet.
    • Doc's final argument is that, instead of stealing used government property, Gus put the old junk to use as opposed to leaving it lying around. The board agrees with this interpretation with the stipulation that Gus no longer "owns" the hotel.
  • Lovable Sex Maniac: At Gus's court martial, the prosecution just happened to find the one local girl who happens to act like this and uses her to further their case of damaging morale by taking the local girls as sex slaves.
  • Love Makes You Crazy: Stark, in response to Lieutenant McKay. It should be noted that Stark begins acting less crazy when McKay is around, although it's still alarming to the rest of Stark's men.
    • To a lesser extent, the rest of the base when McKay shows up. Like Stark, they actually act less crazy, quitting their usual slobbing around and start behaving like proper military personnel once they realize how straight-laced she is.
  • MacGyvering: Many of the hotel's features come from scrapped or stolen materials that the Air Force isn't using. The curtains and tents are old and damaged parachutes, the chairs came out of junked airplanes, some of the wall decorations are used or disarmed ordnance or pieces of thrown-out airframes, etc.
  • Mildly Military: The entirety of the outpost on Shima. At first.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Gus's view of his military service, which included being shot out of a plane and having to survive a German PoW camp. He calls this being a "schnook", and he's not done being one by the beginning of the movie.
  • Off on a Technicality: The final argument against Gus's court martial is that the board is prosecuting the wrong man. The prosecution is using Gus's first serial number, which means that the Air Force is trying to prosecute a man who was declared dead. Doc then moves to declare a mistrial and forces the board to take matters up with the Air Force. This doesn't help, as the Air Force's response is "take the bull by the horns". The board declares him not guilty after Doc reasons with them further, downplaying the technicality and negotiating with the court instead.
  • Oh, Crap!: Presented to Gus in rapid-fire format, starting with accidentally re-enlisting in the U.S. Air Force.
  • Parachute in a Tree: Although Stark was reassigned before he could add testimony to Gus's court martial, Stark goes AWOL and flies back to Shima. He parachutes down, likely because he would be arrested if he landed at the air base, and gets caught on a flagpole outside the hotel. This gives Doc a moment to ensure that Hollingsworth can't arrest him since Stark isn't technically AWOL unless he sets foot on the island.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Stark, for unknowingly buzzing the Supreme Court. Considering the miserable conditions on Shima, it's likely that some of the other Air Force personnel had similar run-ins.
  • Reveille: Played the first morning after McKay shows up.
  • The Scapegoat: The Air Force is looking for someone to take responsibility for the hotel. They find Brubaker in spite of the fact that Stark and his men try to explain that it was the entire base that participated. This is still overlooked by the Air Force for the simple fact that Gus's name is on every form regarding the operation of the hotel, from procuring old and unused Air Force materials to the maid staff's employment (which looks more like ownership).
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: The bank and the mayor both reject funding the hotel simply because they hate the Americans on their island. It isn't until Ume, who turns out to be the mayor's daughter, gets involved that things start happening.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: The boat pilot that Gus talks to tell him about picking up an officer who was trying to swim back to the States. Gus mentions that there's a screwball in every outfit but is deeply concerned when the pilot mentions that the man was the base's morale officer. Stark and his staff tell Gus about a number of guys who, using absurd claims, tried just as hard to get transferred.
  • Shrine to the Fallen: A downed Zero near the base is made a shrine to its deceased pilot. This is primarily a method of giving the U.S. the finger since, as a shrine, the Air Force cannot remove it. The villagers burn it later as a show of friendship with the Americans.
  • Skewed Priorities: Stark parachutes down and gets hung up on a flagpole. His first demand is for a match because his cigar went out. It might have been a delaying tactic since Colonel Hollingsworth was geared up to arrest him should he set foot on the island.
  • Spice Rack Panacea: Doc gets the idea to advertise the hot spring water as a fake Fountain of Youth in order to attract people to the hotel. Strangely enough, this claim is never disputed during Gus's court martial.
  • Take Me to Your Leader: Spoofed. The attitudes of the men stationed on Shima are so bizarre that Gus can only communicate his need to see the CO using this phrase.
  • You No Take Candle: Most of Ume's dialogue. This comes with the unfortunate side-effect of getting Gus into hot water, as her explanation of the staff's situation is riddled with poor choices of words.