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July 2011

Owd Bob

cast: Will Fyffe, Margaret Lockwood, John Loder, Graham Moffatt, and Moore Marriott

director: Robert Stevenson

75 minutes (U) 1938
Odeon DVD Region 2

RATING: 7/10
review by J.C. Hartley

Owd Bob

This is a sexed-up version of One Man And His Dog, with sheep-killing, bar-room brawls, and not a Cumbrian accent to be heard, as a host of cockney yokels swill booze and struggle to organise a mob to punish irascible sot Adam McAdam (Will Fyffe) and his sheep slaughtering mutt 'Black Wull'. A grim spectre is stalking the fells, killing sheep and beating the shit out of the other dogs, and Black Wull is the chief suspect, probably because he is black.

Posh Southern sheep scientist David Moore (John Loder) fetches up on the Cumberland Fells for no good reason, and plays his part in local cultural life rather like Mrs Moore in A Passage To India. The variably accented locals, including Will Hay's old muckers Moore Marriott and Graham Moffatt, all of whom appear to be sheep farmers crammed into a relatively small valley, are at odds with transplanted Scot, McAdam, and his equally unpopular dog.

Fortunately for David Moore, McAdam has a bonny daughter Jeannie (the lovely Margaret Lockwood), and only a motion-picture illiterate would fail to see where this is going. More surprising is the revelation that Black Wull really is the sheep-killer, despite the fact of winning the local sheepdog trials two years running, or perhaps that's his secret. Anyway, Mr Moore's dog 'Owd Bob' wins this year but despite having the film named for him has less screen time than Orson Welles' Harry Lime.

David marries Jeannie, cue some novelty hand-bell ringing from Marriott and Moffatt, and McAdam moves in with the newly-weds, gawd help 'em. Black Wull pays the ultimate price, but having sown his seed with the bitch Moore bought as a reward for Owd Bob there will probably be a sheep-killer on the fells for years to come. The eagerness with which Fyffe's McAdam embraces the biteyest of Black Wull's bastard pups is a bit creepy. Still, authentic country ways and attitudes aren't the deal here, and Fyffe's scene-stealing turn makes it a fairly painless 60-odd minutes.



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