9 August 1999 | acamera
Enormous fun, marvellous set-pieces, great humanity.
Norman Wisdom is- in all of his films- very human. The puppy-dog eagerness, willingness to do anything set before him, ability to make a mistake and then go on to make it worse- are, of course, the very stuff of the comic character that he sets up for us to laugh at. But his genius lies in the ability to make us identify with him, to 'live the life' with him, even as we guffaw.
In the Bulldog Breed there are stock characters aplenty, and the players act their roles accordingly, but Wisdom- like a wicked imp- seems to dodge and dart round the convention & hierarchy that still- in 1960- characterized much of the English way of doing things. He is like the benign counterpart of a poltergeist: causing disruption, certainly, but not as an alien or supernatural incursion, rather a human intervention into a stiff and inhuman environment. The sequence in which he gets a whole ship's crew into the water is an excellent example of this.
One thing that often goes unremarked in Wisdom's films is the sexual presence there. There is almost always some lubricious lovely in the line-up and, in this case, Wisdom (after some other amorous adventures) ends up on the beach with a girl in a grass skirt, being told to 'carry on'. By contemporary standards what is there is so laughably little that it seems distinctly odd to regard it as 'sex interest' but, in historical context, it is definitely that, and as much a part of the humour as 'dirty postcards' were a part of the English seaside holiday of the time.
Bear in mind, by the way, that in the years running up to the first moon-landing, this film is also a comment on Britain's presence in space!