On the Beat (1962) Poster


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A Classic from the great days of British Cinema
alaneobrien29 September 2001
Although Norman is often disparaged in the land of his birth there can be no doubt that this is a very funny and original film. If you have not seen this film I would like to advise you that it contains one of the funniest scenes on celluloid: Norman has always been turned down for the Police because of his height; he is much too short. Following an epiphanic moment in the street he goes along to his next medical - in stilts! Gags abound in the doctor's room ending with a quite hilarious punchline from the doctor. These old b&w films can be picked up fairly cheaply on video now. If you see this one get it - that scene alone is worth the money.
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Whistle at the ready little man.
Spikeopath30 October 2010
On the Beat is a Norman Wisdom comedy film directed by Robert Asher. It's the tenth Wisdom picture where he was the lead actor. Plot sees Wisdom as Norman Pitkin who works at Scotland Yard as a car cleaner but harbours dreams of becoming a policeman like his late father. The problem Norman faces is that he is just too small to meet the height requirement to join the service. However, after managing to get himself fired from the car wash job, Norman is given a way into the force on account of his uncanny resemblance to a suspected Italian crime boss who is masquerading as a hair dresser. Thus Norman is required to go undercover as the crime boss. Can he pull it off?

Norman Wisdom, he's Marmite isn't he? On The Beat, to this reviewer at least, is one of Wisdom's best film's. Some of his main collaborators such as Edward Chapman & Jerry Desmonde may be absent, but On the Beat has a real zest for life, an action comedy where at its core is the emotive based dreams of one man.

On The Beat follows in the great traditions of British comedy film's involving the good old British Bobby. Trace a line from Will Hay's brilliant Ask A Policeman in 1939 to Hot Fuzz (2007) and you will find a number of "themed" movies involving the British copper. With film's such as On The Beat and Carry On Constable from two years previously, we get a glimpse of a time when respect and fear of the law was the order of the day. When the copper was there to aid and make the public feel safe, values that sadly today are ever diminishing. With that, as a Brit myself, it's hard not to get caught up with nostalgia; and maybe even feel those pangs of sadness of a time long past. My rating, in that context should be taken in to consideration.

On The Beat is a very British film, it's also a rank and file Norman Wisdom film. One that's filled with the standard set pieces full of vim, vigour and chaos. With one medical on stilts sequence as mirthful as it is near genius. It's, however, unlikely to win over any sceptical older viewers who didn't get Wisdom back in the day. Nor is it a safe recommendation to those venturing for the first time into the works of Marylebone's famous son. But this does hold appeal for those in need of a light hearted pick me up. A harmless piece that zips along, gets in there, and gets the job done. Something that Wisdom, just like his character Pitkin, was want to do. 7/10
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Quite simplistic in the story perhaps, but very entertaining
TheLittleSongbird1 April 2011
I have started to become very fond of Norman Wisdom and his work. He has a very endearing wide-eyed innocence about him and his films are funny and quirky. On the Beat I do like a lot. I do think though it runs a little too long, and the story is on the simplistic side of things. However, I loved the luscious black and white photography and well-constructed sets and scenery. The score is suitably quirky, and the script I think is sublime with a nice balance of humour and poignancy. The comedy is quite standard and not always original, but it succeeded in being funny, I especially liked the parts with the stilts and nosey neighbours. Norman Wisdom himself is great as he always is too. All in all, very entertaining film if not quite a favourite. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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One of Britain's finest comedys!
vinnienh19 December 2000
Norman Wisdom surely is one of the best comedians of the 20th century. In this film he plays a double role as a would-be policeman and a gangster-hairdresser. The way he handles the sublimely script is perfect. The music adds much to the fun of watching this wonderful comedy.
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Superb film from the days when comedies wern't filled with sex,violence and so on....
Hassard199422 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The year is 1962, Norman Wisdom is already a major star in the world of comedy and this movie just really shows how funny this man is!

In this Norman Wisdom outing, Norman is playing a police car washer who's life ambition is too become a policeman, but sadly doesn't meet the minimum height to become what he wants so he has to stick washing the cars, poor him :(

But Normans fate does not get in his way and so dawns his fathers uniform (yes, his father was a policeman!) modifies it to fit his height and roll on one of the best on foot chase scene you will probably ever see, after Norman is found out he is chased all around town, through gardens and even through Normans house!

He is finally cornered and sent to prison...

Then Norman thinks out a scheme and with the help of some stilts and his fathers old uniform, heads to the police station to apply for his life long dream, but is found out and told to leave and without his fathers uniform.

A while later, Norman is called on by the police to resemble an Italian Jewel Theft (very well played by Norman Wisdom, yes he did play him!) but Norman doesn't like the idea as he won't get a permanent place at the police but after much haggling they finally decide to give Norman a permanent place with the police squad after the Jewel Theft problem.

After many hilarious things happening (Norman punching a mirror for example) he somehow manages to get his man and gets him put into custody, leaving the police station very happy and proud of Norman :D

So overall (as my score suggests) i really, really enjoyed this film and recommend it to anyone who's into comedy!
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"Wait for me!"
AndreiPavlov14 May 2009
Because I'm laughing behind and the reason is this little fella, known as Mr Pitkin...

Another hit by the maestro of comedy. I did not like it much when I saw it for the first time mostly due to the fact that I did not understand quite a lot, but later, as I watched it in my native language, I got amazed by Mr Norman Wisdom's genius again.

It's damn funny with tons of funny episodes Check out the one with those two nosey neighbours behind the door (the old lady jerks her head and hits the chin of the man - it sounds simply outstanding and looks totally stupid).

Great timing and performance... yes, 10 out of 10. No question.
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Britain's greatest ever comedy film?
morpheusatloppers4 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
It has become fashionable in recent years to belittle (sorry!) the talents of Norman Wisdom - and I can't think why. In his day, the slight talents of many "superstars" of today would have resulted in them being shown the door.

Back then, a "star" was expected to be multi-talented. And Norman WAS. If you don't believe me, check out the kinescope of the mid-sixties primetime live "Sunday Night At The London Palladium" where Norman and Bruce Forsyth wrote and did THE ENTIRE TWO-HOUR SHOW BY THEMSELVES.

Huh? Well, S.N.A.T.L.P. was HUGE then and because of a strike, it looked like it would be canceled - even though the strike had been settled, who could POSSIBLY put together a two-hour show in THREE DAYS? Brucie and Norman, that's who. They did songs, dance sequences, comedy sketches and various bits of business they had written and rehearsed in Bruce's HOUSE. The MILLIONS who watched said it was one of the BEST S.N.A.T.L.P.s EVER.

M'point is, in those days, to be a success you needed to be able to sing, dance, play instruments, act (comedy or straight) and it helped if you wrote - ALL of which Norman Wisdom DID.

And in "On The Beat", he demonstrated his talents to the full. It's a film of set-pieces - the opening, which satirises the British cop-shows of the time, the car-washing sequence, the "tube" sequence, him and Eric Barker as the Police Doctor (those eye-charts with the sharps and flats were put back into props and surfaced in other films of the time!) the "briefing" where he is "coached" in the mannerisms of "Julio Napolitani", the scenes with him AS the afore-mentioned Julio, the sequence where hundreds of coppers run round the streets of Herts - SURREAL! - and of course, the back-garden "steeplechase".

In its day, "On The Beat" was a tour-de-force, but today it stands as a work of GENIUS the like of which is rarely seen anymore.
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Profit without honour or prophet without honour?
ianlouisiana2 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Mr. Wisdom's pictures made a lot of money.In the 1950s he was England'smost popular entertainer,TV,movies,records,he did them all.Did he care that the critics hated him?Still do 50 years later and I daresay he probably still doesn't lose too much sleep over it. He is overdue for a reassessment.The concept of post-modern irony should see to that nicely."On the Beat" with it's moments of sublime stupidity and it's classic chase scene(Buster Keaton's "Cops" anyone?) is as good as anywhere to start. No sex,no violence,no obscene language - how come it was so funny. No sublety either,but lovely black and white photography,silly policemen,pomposity for Norman to burst and an accent for him to mangle. Bliss.
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A wacky Wisdom comedy
SimonJack13 November 2016
Movie fans who enjoy Jerry Lewis, Red Skelton and Abbott and Costello movies should like Norman Wisdom. This British comedy star of the mid- 20th century had a little bit of those comedians in his style. Yet, he had a character all his own.

"On the Beat" is a later film of his in which Wisdom plays Norman Pitkin, a wannabe Bobby. His father had been a policeman, but Norman can't get on the force because he's not tall enough to qualify. So, he has been working for Scotland Yard washing cars. He daydreams of being a crime- buster. Eventually, the right opportunity comes along and Norman impersonates an Italian underworld figure. He plays both roles and is very funny as Giulio Napolitani.

Pandemonium and hilarity break out from there on. I think this is one of his funniest films. It has one of the longest and funniest chases on foot ever filmed. "On the Beat" is sure to please anyone who enjoys just plain humor and crazy antics.
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Norman on the beat.
studioAT6 November 2011
Norman Wisdom's trademark comedy skill is showcased well in this 1962 film and reminds us how simple and effective comedy can be.

Although the film is not the strongest that Wisdom produced during his long career there are still lots of moments to enjoy including lots of the physical comedy that Wisdom so enjoyed.

No Mr Grimsdale or Jerry Desmonde cameo on this occasion but still lots of laughs as Pitkin stumbles and bumbles through numerous comedy mishaps.

Wisdom's films are timeless and effortlessly funny so are well worth watching regardless of whether you are a fan or just someone discovering Wisdom's work after his death.
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Why I have never heard of Norman Wisdom
jadedalex13 February 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I guess I just don't know my British film history. I have never heard of this guy, but I started watching him, and he struck me as quite funny. There is a Stan Laurel vacancy to Mr. Wisdom's face that is quite appealing. I thought he was excellent in his dual role as the mincing and lisping Italian hairdresser. A talented comedian, with a bit of Chaplin's pathos. Is 'On the Beat' biting satire? Is it 'outrageous comedy'? No. It's a pleasant little funny movie.

That Mr. Wisdom recalls to mind Stan Laurel is all in his favor. No doubt, the British public has all but forgotten Mr. Wisdom. This type of small, comic entertainment is decidedly 'dated', but that's part of the charm for me.

I immediately liked the comic, if familiar character of Norman Wisdom's clumsy, small nobody who is determined to become one of Scotland Yard's finest, just like his father before him. Perhaps Wisdom's work is forgotten because of the predominance of Peter Sellers, who was the reigning comic king of Britain. That's what made watching this film a bit of a nice surprise.
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Double the Wisdom, Double the Fun
dglink27 August 2012
"On the Beat" was among Norman Wisdom's later films and remains one of his best. In this outing, the ever-aspiring Norman Pitkin wants to be a policeman like his late father, but he is rejected for being too short. Undaunted, Norman goes for the police physical exam on a pair of stilts in one of the film's many hilarious skits. Still dreaming of a police career, Norman dons his dad's uniform and plays ball with a group of kids. During the game, he blows the police whistle, and mayhem not seen since the heydays of Mack Sennett and the Keystone Cops erupts throughout the town. The physical nature of Wisdom's comedy and the emphasis on visuals explain his broad appeal among non-English-speaking audiences, much like silent comedy attracted immigrant audiences in the United States.

As a bonus, "On the Beat" offers not one, but two Normans. Besides his on-screen persona, Pitkin, Wisdom also plays Giulio, an Italian gangster who poses as a hairdresser and uses his beauty salon as a front. Although the swishy mustached stereotype is dated and arguably offensive, Norman is too endearing and funny to be guilty of anything but going for a laugh. When Wisdom plays Norman the policeman impersonating Giulio the hairdresser the results are hysterical. Although Norman is nearly impossible to upstage, the pixie-like Esma Cannon as Norman's landlady, Mrs. Timms, manages to steal her scenes with delightful facial expressions and impish delivery. "On the Beat" is on the beat and strikes no false notes, providing a string of comic scenes that pay homage to silent comedy and generate tears of laughter.
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Just brilliant!
leavymusic-213 May 2019
Wisdom at his best, struggling to get into the police force proves his worth as a invaluable decoy to capture a ring of crooks. I am not sure why Wisdom often got a lot negative critical reviews, after speaking to so many people that loved his films it become apparent that he was indeed a true British treasure! (Even adored By our current monarch, HM Queen Elizabeth. Incredibly popular in the 50's to the early 60's when comedy-slapstick started to fade and the likes of Wisdom and Jerry Lewis style' antics was in decline. Still, this little gem of film came out close to his final run of 1960's films and it's without a doubt if not the best one of them, outrageously funny with great supporting cast; this is one film I can and have watched time and time again. Blu-ray version required! Come on ITV, release it on a format worthy of its class.
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A Bit Better Than Wisdom's Usual
JohnHowardReid9 June 2016
Warning: Spoilers
"On the Beat" (1962) has one really hilarious scene in which Norman Wisdom, Raymond Huntley and a chauffeur play footsies with a hose. There may have been other highlights, but the sequences in which Norman tries on his dad's uniform, referees a football game and applies on stilts for his medical examination have been deleted from the current TV print. This installment certainly benefits from the contributions of a more deft director than was usually employed for this series. There are quite a few chuckles and for once only a few of the gags wholly misfire, although Wisdom's deliberate, over-heavy playing still manages to smother some of them. The climax is also a bit disappointing and the comic possibilities inherent in two lookalike Wisdoms darting around in secret passages are by no means fully explored. Jennifer Jayne makes an attractively spirited heroine. Production values are ordinary, to say the least.
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Basic clowning
bob the moo31 August 2002
Norman Pitkin has dreams of being a police officer like his dear old dad. However he is too short to make the force and instead works as the parking attendant for the fleet. Despite repeating attempts hs can't make the force until it's noticed that he's the spitting image of a suspected criminal, Giulio Napolitani. Pitkin is recruited to infiltrate the gang and take evidence.

I'm a big Wisdom fan – but not the extent that I can't see when he has a weak spell. This film is a rerun of a similar theme a few years before when Pitkin tried to join the army. However this is not as funny as that as it is mostly very basic clowning with only a couple of funny, clever routines. The plot relies on the old-lookalike chestnut but doesn't use it until the last 20 minutes or so. It's still funny but lacks energy and the wit of some of his better routines.

Wisdom is as good as always and does his best whether the material is limited or not. He is impressive as two characters despite the fact that they aren't very funny. The problem is that he doesn't have a good support cast. Sure there's a few faces that you'll recognise from other more famous films but where's the regulars? Jerry Desmonde and Mr Grimsdale are both great actors/characters and they make a Wisdom film better. Here the support cast can't lift the film at all.

Overall it's still enjoyable even if it is very basic clowning that will mainly please kids, but this is not one of Wisdom's best.
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ON THE BEAT (Robert Asher, 1962) **1/2
Bunuel197625 August 2006
Norman Wisdom tries his hand at yet another favorite environment with star comedians: police-work. On the whole, this is one of his better vehicles - with Norman once again in a dual role, as wannabe-policeman simpleton and Italian gangster covering as a hairstylist (whom, needless to say, the former ends up impersonating); the level of the gags is par for the course though the film is, ultimately, overlong (with the 'good' Norman predictably falling for - and sheltering - the gangster's fleeing moll and a tendency towards gay jokes in the hairdressing scenes!). Still, all things considered, the film isn't up to the standard of Laurel & Hardy's classic short THE MIDNIGHT PATROL (1933) - let alone the genius of Keaton's COPS (1922) or Chaplin's EASY STREET (1917)...
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Almost Bearable For Non Wisdom Fans
Theo Robertson5 February 2005
How could anyone hate the comedy capers of Norman Wisdom ? Me for a start . Just how much mileage is there in a man with an ill fitting suit falling over while screeching " Mr Grimsdale " in a silly voice ? I wouldn't say it was mileage I would say it was inch-age . You have to forgive the unsophisticated slapstick approach of Wisdom comedies because they were produced in a far less sophisticated not to mention less cynical era but I'm never in a forgiving mood where Sir Norman Wisdom is concerned

ON THE BEAT is - if not better than most of his comedies - certainly by no means Wisdom's worst comedy . Much of this may be down to the fact that Wisdom plays several roles : Tough , fearless Inspector Pitkin , criminal mastermind Giulio Napolitani and wannabe cop Norman Pitkin . Okay he's hardly going to win an Oscar but at least Wisdom doesn't pratfall about too much , and there is a sequence where Pitkin leads what must be the whole Lodon met on a wild goose chase which is almost charming in a surreal type of way . If we're going to be cynical then we have to ask when Pitkin applies to be a policeman why isn't he given a sarcasm test ?

No doubt Wisdom fans ( Yes both of them ) will love this movie while everyone else will merely dislike it
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poor by Norman Wisdoms high standards
stuartdevoy3 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
how Norman Wisdom could have made such a poor film is a mystery to me, maybe he'd started running out of ideas by this stage of his career, because his early films are excellent. There appears to be very little storyline or plot and even fewer laughs. His character in this film seems to have changed his persona slightly not being quite as dim as in previous films, the Italian hairdresser he also plays comes the closest to raising a smile, and as for the scenes where he is being chased by about a hundred policeman beggars belief, and goes on for about 10 minutes with absolutely no point to it and must have been put in to use up time. Such a shame when a hero of yours turns out such dross. If you wish to see one of Normans better films i would recommend Trouble in store or The square peg.
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