The BBC had a bit of a thing about the Second World-War during the 70’s. I’m guessing it was generational; the commissioners and writers having grown up or served during the war, the audience at a point where the memories turn to nostalgia rather looking-back-in-horror.
Anyway, they did loads of shows. Maybe they’d just bought a job-lot of German uniforms or Clifford Rose had incriminating pictures of the Director General. There was Colditz, Secret Army, Kessler, Tenko. ITV had A Family At War and Danger UXB. And David Croft, who presumably spent the whole of World War II giggling like a loon whilst jotting things down in his notebook, wrote far too many episodes of Dad’s Army, It Ain’t Half Hot Mum and Allo Allo.
But this blog isn’t about any of those, its about Private Schulz, as lent to me by my chum Simon. It’s what now would be called a ‘comedy drama’ but which then would merely have been described as a ‘bloody good idea for a story’. It concerns a petty German criminal, Schulz, who – in search of a quiet life – accidentally ends up working for the SS, masterminding a scheme to bring down the British economy by forging millions of five pound notes.
That’s the starting point. It gets complicated as it takes us through the whole of the war. Apparently it’s all based on stuff that really happened.
Although it was recorded in the early 80’s, back when the BBC had no money, it still holds up today. Mainly because the two leads – Michael Elphick as Schulz and Ian Richardson as his boss, Major Neuheim, both of whom are exceptional, and because it’s has a script by the great Jack Pulman. One of those writers who it is impossible not to prefix with the word ‘great’.