thu 30/05/2024

DVD: The Breaking of Bumbo | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: The Breaking of Bumbo

DVD: The Breaking of Bumbo

Bonkers anti-establishment satire which gave Joanna Lumley her first lead role

Joanna Lumley shows what she’s made of in a promotional still from the otherwise all-colour ‘The Breaking of Bumbo’

Although it’s impossible to make a case for The Breaking of Bumbo as a great film, it is a bizarre, compelling, hyper-real slice of Swinging Sixties nonsense as essential to the era as Privilege, What’s Good For the Goose and The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour. It gave Joanna Lumley her first proper role and pretends to be radical, but is in fact about as envelope-pushing as a Whitehall farce.

The makers were so out of touch with the mood of times that it was primed for release in September 1970, by which time the Sixties bloom had all-but withered and died.

After 15 minutes of dull scene-setting, forward-gear finally creaks in when newly commissioned guardsman Bumbo Bailey (Richard Warwick) encounters anti-establishment lass Susie (Joanna Lumley). In her red snakeskin trousers, she instantly beguiles Bumbo. Part of a pamphleteering, anti-war protest group, she’s given to saying things like "I’m a dropout from the affluent society, you can get just as hung up being rich as being poor”. Abbie Hofmann she is not. The besotted Bumbo falls in with the group and goes to pieces before inevitably falling in line.

This nonsensical crazy quilt is filled with amazing stuff: caricature protestors talking of communes; a brief appearance from Graham Bond, who provides the music for a party scene; posters from Paris’s Mai 1968 événements, and the delightful Natasha Pyne from TV sitcom Father Dear Father’s. Real footage dropped in includes skinheads at a Chelsea match and March 1968’s anti Viet-Nam protest at London’s US embassy in Grosvenor Square. Lumley’s acting is as forceful as that of a wind-up doll.

The Breaking of Bumbo was never released, but has cropped up on TV a couple of times. Its release on DVD is important and the image restoration is fantastic. The extras include the trailer and a file of the diverting original press book. But this is not the full version and misses moments of an unclothed Lumley seen in the BBC TV broadcast which has done the rounds on VHS. Nonetheless, this is a farrago to wallow in. “Miss Lumley’s kaftan” even gets a credit.

Visit Kieron Tyler’s blog

Overleaf: watch the trailer for The Breaking of Bumbo

Joanna Lumley’s acting is as forceful as that of a wind-up doll


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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