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The Breaking of Bumbo (1970)

Approved | | Comedy | 21 September 1973 (Ireland)
The hilarious adventures of young Bumbo Bailey, who enlists in the Brigade of Guards and is based in the prestigious Wellington Barracks in London in the Swinging Sixties. He regards his social life as important as his military.



(based on the novel by),
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Richard Warwick ...
Natasha Pyne ...
John Bird ...
Donald Pickering ...
Derek Newark ...
C.S.M. Peters
Don McKillop ...
Peter Myers ...
George Janson ...
Robert Swann ...
Peter Whitting ...


The hilarious adventures of young Bumbo Bailey, who enlists in the Brigade of Guards and is based in the prestigious Wellington Barracks in London in the Swinging Sixties. He regards his social life as important as his military.

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Did You Know?


This film has had a most curious history. It was intended that it should be directed by the team of Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo, who had attracted attention with their amateur-made film "It Happened Here", which got cinema showings and general acclaim in 1966. But they left the project shortly before filming was due to begin and Andrew Sinclair, who had written the script from his own novel, was abruptly promoted to director. The film was made in the early summer of 1970 and was the opening-night attraction at the "Cinema City" exhibition at London's Round House in October of that year. (This exhibition, financed by the "Sunday Times" newspaper, was a celebration of 75 years of cinema). The film was very poorly received at this time, and plans to give it a cinema release were abruptly canceled. It went unseen in Britain until an isolated TV showing on the BBC five years later. Then it vanished again. See more »


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Bourgeois Fun-Revolutionaries in Swinging London
5 July 2016 | by (Tunbridge Wells, England) – See all my reviews

Ensign Bumbo Bailey is a young officer in the Fusilier Guards, a fictitious Guards regiment in the British Army. (In reality there are five regiments of Foot Guards; for the purposes of this film the number is increased to six). The regiment is mainly engaged in ceremonial duties, so Bumbo- presumably a nickname, although we never learn what his real name is- has plenty of time on his hands to enjoy the lifestyle of Swinging London. He meets, and falls in love with, Susie, a radical student who converts him to her cause and persuades him to lead his men in a mutiny.

Susie provided Joanna Lumley with her first starring role; she had previously had a small role as a Bond Girl in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service". The film, however, had a rather strange history. It was poorly received at its initial London premiere, and plans for a general cinema release were abandoned. It then seemed to disappear from sight altogether, apart from a TV screening five years later. These days it occasionally turns up on TV, but has never become well-known.

I have often wondered if this is the reason why the lovely Joanna's subsequent film career has been so patchy, even though she has become a major star on British television. In the cinema, however, she has often struggled to find roles in good films, despite her beauty and obvious talent. There have been occasional exceptions such as her cameo appearance in the excellent "Shirley Valentine", but too many of the films she has appeared in, from the likes of "Don't Just Lie There, Say Something!" and "The Satanic Rites of Dracula" in the seventies to the more recent "Prince Valiant" and "Poor Cow", have been quite dreadful. "The Breaking of Bumbo" didn't seem to do much for its young male star Richard Warwick either, as he never really became the big name he was once tipped to be.

Neither Warwick nor Lumley is particularly brilliant, but neither again is disastrously bad. Probably the best acting contribution comes from Donald Pickering as Jorum, Bumbo's pompous but curiously camp commanding officer. The main problem with the film, however, is its script. It would have been quite possible to make a serious drama about a young Army officer who undergoes a crisis of conscience when ordered to do something that he believes to be wrong. (In this case Bumbo fears that he and his men will be ordered to use force to put down student demonstrations). As the ridiculous nickname of the main character might suggest, however, this is not that film. It was made as a comedy rather than as a serious drama. At least, it is a comedy in the sense that it attempts to deal with its subject-matter in a light or satirical manner. It is not a comedy in the sense that it is hilarious or even particularly amusing.

The film's satire is occasionally effective when directed at Establishment pomposity and stuffiness; we learn, for example, that off- duty Guards officers are expected to carry an umbrella with them at all times, but only as a badge of rank; they are not permitted to use it for shelter from the rain. The film, however, misses the opportunity to satirise bourgeois fun-revolutionaries like Susie, who talk about revolution but who, if a real revolution were ever to break out, would doubtless try to flee the country in terror. It fails to say anything of interest about social and political divisions of the Britain of the 1970s, even though this is its ostensible subject. The distributors who withdrew it from general release in 1970 probably knew what they were doing. 4/10

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