Bumbo Bailey (Richard Warwick) has joined the Royal Guardsmen which means he gets to wear the bright red uniform and tall bearskin, and the importance of adhering to the rules, regulations and traditions of the regiment are supposed to be uppermost in his mind at all times. Fair enough, he thinks, but on being introduced to his fellow officers for the first time as an officer himself, he doesn't quite feel as though he fits in even if he does know some of them from the public school they attended. The only reason he opted to join up was because his best friend Billy (Jeremy Child) did the same, but is that good enough?
We can tell, in spite of Bumbo being dressed identically to the other soldiers, that he doesn't quite slot into this environment, and that will be the source of the dramatic tension for the rest of the movie. A different sort of dramatic tension met director Andrew Sinclair's efforts, here adapting his own book, for there was not much of an audience to greet the release of The Breaking of Bumbo what with it barely being released at the time, apparently only playing in one London cinema before consigned to the oblivion of occasional television broadcasts, though it did make it to DVD eventually; whether there was anyone clamouring for it was another matter (the title wouldn't have helped).
So what you had here was an anti-establishment yarn, very much arriving at the bitter end of the sixties and not much suiting the seventies, that ended up seemingly endorsing the establishment whether by accident or design. Were we intended to take away from this that the status quo in the United Kingdom was far more capable than the would-be revolutionaries would like to have us believe, or far more capable than they were at any rate? When our hero is introduced to the concept that if he were wily enough he could help to overthrow the powers that be from the inside it's as if a lightbulb has popped on above his head, but would he have been better off ignoring it entirely?
Partly his head is turned by love when he is at a debutante's ball, as ordered to by his superiors, and he meets face to face a couple of rabble rousers who set about vandalising the wax dummy displays of famous figures from historical warfare. One of those vandals is Jock (John Bird), a would-be actor who is actually a tutor, but Bumbo doesn't fall for him, he's far more interested in his companion which is understandable since she's played by Joanna Lumley in one of her first leading roles. She is Susie, a rich girl who wanted to drop out, and initially appears very accomodating with Bumbo's affections, though he is about to get a wake up call thanks to a broken heart.
Will he manage to change Susie's mind about him? She remains friendly, yet the sense that she's only interested because of the officer's position in the Army never leaves the plot, and the thrill of subverting such an individual is more attractive than actually becoming his life partner as he wishes her to. The trappings of the upper crust life are depicted in suspiciously loving detail, much as they would be in Sinclair's similarly concerned follow-up Blue Blood which was a little better seen, though more or less suffered the same fate of this as sparingly used late night television fodder. This means we get an abundance of sequences showing rugby, parading, the upper classes and the troops playing as hard as they work and so forth which leaves a rather monotonous experience, and as this is supposed to be a comedy you might have hoped for a few better jokes, or at least a few well-observed comic situations. As it was all you got was the odd arresting sequence, such as Bumbo collapsing on the parade ground when his revolution in the ranks fails utterly as the soldiers march around him. Music by Brian Gascoigne.