27 August 2012 | dglink
Double the Wisdom, Double the Fun
"On the Beat" was among Norman Wisdom's later films and remains one of his best. In this outing, the ever-aspiring Norman Pitkin wants to be a policeman like his late father, but he is rejected for being too short. Undaunted, Norman goes for the police physical exam on a pair of stilts in one of the film's many hilarious skits. Still dreaming of a police career, Norman dons his dad's uniform and plays ball with a group of kids. During the game, he blows the police whistle, and mayhem not seen since the heydays of Mack Sennett and the Keystone Cops erupts throughout the town. The physical nature of Wisdom's comedy and the emphasis on visuals explain his broad appeal among non-English-speaking audiences, much like silent comedy attracted immigrant audiences in the United States.
As a bonus, "On the Beat" offers not one, but two Normans. Besides his on-screen persona, Pitkin, Wisdom also plays Giulio, an Italian gangster who poses as a hairdresser and uses his beauty salon as a front. Although the swishy mustached stereotype is dated and arguably offensive, Norman is too endearing and funny to be guilty of anything but going for a laugh. When Wisdom plays Norman the policeman impersonating Giulio the hairdresser the results are hysterical. Although Norman is nearly impossible to upstage, the pixie-like Esma Cannon as Norman's landlady, Mrs. Timms, manages to steal her scenes with delightful facial expressions and impish delivery. "On the Beat" is on the beat and strikes no false notes, providing a string of comic scenes that pay homage to silent comedy and generate tears of laughter.