Page last updated at 19:44 GMT, Friday, 25 April 2008 20:44 UK

Making 'Allo 'Allo! into Guten Tag

By Steven Rosenberg
BBC News, Berlin

Edith and Rene Artois
The comedy revolved around Edith and Rene Artois and their cafe

In a Berlin dubbing studio, actress Irina von Bentheim is getting rather excited. Her long blond hair is waving about all over the place, her arms are flying up and down.

"Ah! Rene! Rene!" she cries into the microphone.

To Germans, Irina is better known as the dubbed voice of Carrie from Sex in the City.

But today she is voicing the character of Yvette from 'Allo 'Allo!. And she is enjoying every minute.

"Her voice comes from deep down, like a wild tiger," smiles Irina, pointing to her own stomach.

It is 25 years since 'Allo 'Allo! first aired in Britain. The sitcom set in Nazi-occupied France became a smash hit.

Translation woes

It has been sold on to 40 countries. But only now has a German TV channel bought the series and it is doing all it can to make sure that nothing is lost translation.

"In this comedy there are many jokes with words," script editor Katrin Kabbathas explains. "Words which have two meanings in English - one normal meaning and one dirty. And I have many difficulties finding words in German that mean the same thing, where one meaning is normal and the other dirty."

In the German version, the famous catchphrase "Good Moaning" becomes "Guten Magen" (which means 'Good Stomach' in German).

I think it's a very good way of dealing with this time because now it's so long ago. We have to forgive ourselves and we have to forgive each other
Irina von Bentheim
German actress

Oh, and the "Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies" - well that is "Die gefallene Madonna mit den prallen Moepsen".

I'm introduced to the actor who does the voiceover for Herr Otto Flick - the grotesque Gestapo officer in 'Allo 'Allo!. (I'm told he also does the voice Leonardo di Caprio).

What will Germans make of all of this?

People here are not used to seeing comedy shows about the war. But von Bentheim believes 'Allo 'Allo! will have a positive effect on the German audience.

"I think for Germans it is very hard to laugh about the Second World War. It's obvious why, because we all feel as if we were the bad ones. I grew up with this thought. But I think it's a very good way of dealing with this time because now it's so long ago. We have to forgive ourselves and we have to forgive each other."

Mixed reactions

That is all very well, but will Germans find it funny? To find out, we conducted a little experiment.

We invited a group of Germans to watch the first episode of 'Allo 'Allo! and tell us what they thought of it. Reaction was decidedly mixed.


'I will say this only once' in German

"I feel it is very British humour, but I can't say why!" one man tells me.

"From the story and the structure, I don't think it was very amusing," says a woman.

Well, they did only watch one show.

Perhaps once German viewers have sat through all 85 episodes of 'Allo 'Allo!, they'll be laughing just as loud as the rest of us.

Germans to see sitcom 'Allo 'Allo
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'Allo 'Allo due for screen return
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'Allo 'Allo sitcom star mourned
18 Mar 04 |  TV and Radio
'Allo 'Allo star dies
04 Aug 02 |  Showbiz
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14 Dec 03 |  TV and Radio


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