A recruitment promotion film for the Fleet Air Arm, which capitalised on The Archers' friendship with Ralph Richardson, already serving as a pilot, and contrasted to comic, almost surreal, effect his prewar life as an actor with active service on an aircraft carrier.
The Volunteer carries the Archers' eccentricity to remarkable lengths: Ralph Richardson appears as himself, recalling in flashback how his dresser chose the Fleet Air Arm, as does Richardson himself. The opening backstage sequence has Richardson about to play Othello; a later scene has him at Denham studios, dressed as a Beefeater for some Korda-style historical romp; the film ends aboard an aircraft carrier. Over this short meditation on the dramatic upheavals of war hangs a splendid Pressburger line: “The end of one world and the beginning of another”. To the Archers' surprise, the Fleet Air Arm reported its gratitude - and a rise in recruitment levels!
Ian Christie (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger: Arrows of Desire)