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  Tommy the Toreador Raging BullfighterBuy this film here.
Year: 1959
Director: John Paddy Carstairs
Stars: Tommy Steele, Janet Munro, Sid James, Bernard Cribbins, Noel Purcell, Virgilio Teixeira, José Nieto, Ferdy Mayne, Harold Kasket, Kenneth Williams, Eric Sykes, Manolo Blazquez, José Valero, Francis De Wolff, Tutte Lemkow, Warren Mitchell, Charles Gray
Genre: Musical, Comedy
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Tommy Tomkins (Tommy Steele) is a sailor who has just seen his ship dock in Spain, but as he is gearing up to revel in the sights and sounds of the country - and the senoritas, too, of course - he is told by his superior officer (Noel Purcell) that he will have to stay behind onboard as the rest of his fellow sailors enjoy their shore leave. Understandably miffed, Tommy spends the evening on deck, gazing mournfully at the nightlife he is not allowed to be a part of, that is until a Spanish official appears and asks him to give a message to the Captain...

Ah, but the Captain has gone ashore too, yet the official is insistent and thus begins Tommy's adventure in Spain as he gets mixed up in thieves and bullfighting and romance. This was made at a time where if you had a hit record or two under your belt, it was likely you would show up in a movie eventually, either as part of an ensemble or if you were lucky in the starring role. Tommy the Toreador was Steele's third leading part in his own film, and spawned the instantly catchy song Little White Bull, which here he underlines his family entertainer credentials by singing it to a bunch of Spanish kiddies.

On the subject of that Little White Bull song, it's worth noting its bloodless regard of bullfighting is pretty much what you get here: in fact, according to the lyrics what those who attend the fights go to see is how brave the bulls are, and any mention of the way the animals are subjected to protracted slaughter is glossed over. But you'd have to be seriously misguided to think that a Tommy Steele movie would see him getting all animal rights activist on us, so this effort has to be judged by its times and the audience it was aimed towards: the Bugs Bunny or Droopy cartoons that saw them in the bullring took a similar approach.

But actually most of this is not much to do with bloodsport and more to do with getting Tommy into various comedy scrapes while winning over frosty and harried nightclub dancer Amanda (the lovely and ill-fated Janet Munro). Plus providing enough songs for the soundtrack album, naturally, which presumably sold all the better for the inclusion of the white bull tune. As he goes to find the Captain, Tommy gets sidetracked by having a bullfighter land on him as he escaped from an irate husband, then ends up at the nightclub where he has been told to take the Captain's briefcase back to the ship.

Then two criminals stash their loot in the case and Tommy has to go on the run, with Amanda in tow. It's worth pointing out the array of Brit comedy thesps appearing, if only because when you see them listed in the opening credits you can't help but wonder which of them are going to be trying out their Spanish accents, or attempts at them at any rate. Among those unlikely Spaniards are Sid James and Bernard Cribbins as the baddies, looking shifty yet also getting to dance in a musical number with Steele, and there's a can't pay the bill at the hotel scene where the likes of Francis De Wolff and Warren Mitchell mangle their vowels too. Kenneth Williams only appears for a minute or two as an English consul, surely a missed opportunity, but overall this is bright, mild stuff even with the bullfighting and Steele proved perky as ever - no one wanted to see him stretched in this kind of thing, anyway. Music by Stanley Black.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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