24 September 2007 | robert-temple-1
A lost world of real people and real dogs
This is one of the finest British films of the 1930s. The film is dominated by the magnificent character performance of the elderly Will Fyffe, who sweeps all before him like a Cumberland King Lear, raging and commanding all around him, hoodwinking people, drinking like ten troopers, bullying, swaggering, and loving his dog. No one in the film can hate him, no matter how hard they try. The charming Margaret Lockwood, as fresh as a virginal dairymaid, plays his daughter, and keeps him in order most of the time, whilst bewitching the viewers and John Loder, who marries her. The film is about country characters in the fells, and their sheepdogs. Three dogs get starring roles, and deserve Dog Oscars. This is a dog-lover's dream, a film which is not a sloppy overly-sentimental dog picture made in Hollywood, but a real film about genuine working dogs who earn their love and respect. Graham Moffatt and Marriott Moore are in there amongst the farm characters, to full and hilarious effect. Never was such a gathering of such superb rough countrymen brought together in a single film. Thomas Hardy would have felt right at home, got out his pipe, and joined them for a whisky in the pub, when it wasn't being wrecked in a fight. The most striking thing of all about this wonderful evocation of a lost era is that, despite the fact that so many of the characters are slightly and affectionately caricatured for purposes of fun, they are all such perfectly defined individuals. This film was made before everybody was the same. Do you remember, are you old enough, when people differed and had actual personalities? The very last of such people are dying off now, and in ten or at most twenty years, there will not be a single such country character left alive anywhere. To those of us who have known plenty of them, this film is their splendid epitaph. The pity is that, of future generations, all who might see this film as a museum piece one day will assume it to be invented and preposterous, something that was just made up for entertainment. They will not realise that people just like this really existed once, and they were just as funny, outrageous, impossible, infuriating, and delightful as in this amazing film. But at least there are still dogs to remind us of the lost and forgotten masters who once loved them and worked with them as we see here.