Saturday, February 26, 2011

Mystery #5 Bulldog Drummond Comes Back

Mystery Movie #4

Bulldog Drummond Comes Back

From the DVD Sleeve: The Intrepid Captain Bulldog Drummond must try to rescue his kidnapped fiance, Phyllis Clavering, who is being held captive by Drummond's old advesary Mikhail Valdin. The evil valdin is wanted for the murder of an American tycoon in his native Paris. Drummond is aided in his search by his butler Tenny and his pal Algy Longsworth, as well as Scotland's Yard's Inspector neilson, a master of disguises.
Starring John Howard                                                                            (1937) B&W 56 Minutes Unrated



This is the second movie in the eight movie entry.

John Barrymore replaces Sir Guy Standing as Inspector Neilson
Louise Campbell replaces Heather Angel as Phyllis Clavering
John Howard replaces Ray Milland as Bulldog Drummond



Our first mystery: Where does Bulldog Drummond come back from? No mention in the first film that he left anywhere.

Anyway, Reginald Denny and E.E. Clive continue as Algy and Tenny and would keep those parts in all eight movies. In this installment we have J.Caroll nash playing bad guy Mikhail Valdin



As said before he played every villian in every 1930's movie. He was famous for playing Latins, Indians, Arabs, Chinese, almost any ethic needed.







Here he plays the brother-in-law of a man sentenced to death because of Bulldog Drummond. Let the revenge plot begin.

This movie also stars a femme fatale




That's Helen Freeman. She did stage and screen. Silents and talkies. She had lots of bit parts and uncredited roles, occasionally she was a main player. Here she plays the wife of the man sentenced to death. She is the main bad girl behind this elaborate plot of revenge.

Onward to the plot...

 Our villians kidnapp Phyllis to force Bulldog Drummond into playing a game of chase. They leave clues on grammaphone records and handwritten notes. They run Drummond and company in circles. They keep going to the same three places over and over. (saves on sets and keeps cost low that way) Drummond has been forbidden to involve Scotland yard so, Inspector Neilson plays dress up in several odd disguises to follow Drummond unnoticed.

Unfortunatly this print of the movie is quite blurry and worn. There also seems to be seven minutes missing from it. So, there is a bit of confusion as to what's happening especially as the chase winds down to its conclusion. If you don't get what's happening on screen (Mystery: how did Tenny get on a Bicycle when Algy and Drummond are in a car?) don't worry its due to missing footage.

It all ends up in a locked celler. Poison gas and a ticking time bomb are due to kill Bulldog Drummond, Phyllis and Algy. But in true Batman villian style (or James Bond if you like) the villians skeedaddle before the deed is done.

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Tenny saves the day by blowing the hinges off the locked door with his pistol. Drummond and company escape the explosion in the nick of time. The villians are caught by Inspector Neilson.

Lots of congratulations all around but one last bit of funny business. The wedding is delayed again by a run-away wedding licence. Poor Phyllis.

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In general since there was a wholesale cast change, it seems everyone is trying to get used to their parts. The video quality is fair to poor. The missing seven minutes makes this a questionable film to include. Why use this film when there were other Bulldog Drummond movies that were complete. Unfortunatly, Millcreek isn't interested in quality only quantity. They don't include the whole eight movie series, they don't bother to put them in order and they don't bother to hunt down a complete version of this one. (if it exist) What a shame a little effort would have gone a long way.

Want to watch it? See it here.




Movie Count: 5 down 245 to go

Monday, February 21, 2011

Mystery #4 Bulldog Drummond's Secret Police

Mystery Movie #4

Bulldog Drummond's Secret Police

From the DVD sleeve: Captian Hugh "Bulldog" Drummond is, yet again, all set to wed his long-suffering fiancee Phyllis Clavering. And, yet again, the wedding must wait when the eccentric Professor Downie appears. The Professor informs Bulldog that a fortune is burried on the Rockingham estate where he is to get married and he has the secret cipher that will lead them too it.

Starring John Howard                                                                            (1939) B&W 56 Minutes Unrated



Hail, Hail the gangs all here for series entry number seven. Same crew as from movie five and six.


Our two guest stars are Elizabeth Patterson



She was in 100+ productions. Seems she was always playing someone's aunt or grandmother. She's best remembered as Mrs. Trumbull the defacto babysitter on I Love Lucy



Here she plays Phyllis Clavering's aunt Blanche. Aunt Blanche isn't very fond of Hugh "Bulldog" Drummond and warns Phyllis that Bulldog will find some way to miss the wedding again.


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Our bad guy this time around is guest star Leo G. Carroll


He played lots of good guys, bad guys, butlers etc... I remember him as Marley's ghost in the 1938 MGM version of A Christmas Carol



He's most famous for playing the leader of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Alexander Waverly



Here he plays Henry Seaton/Albert Boulton



Onward to the plot...

In this seventh movie of the series.. (What happened to entries 2,4,and 6 ??? That must be the Mystery! "The Case of the Missing Even Numbered Series Entries") Bulldog is ready to marry again. The very absent minded Professor Downie shows up to start a treasure hunt.

Here's Forrester Harvey as the Professor



He is killed by his former assistant, Henry Seaton, who wants the treasure for himself. His former assistant has snuck onto the estate disguised as the butler Albert Boulton. (No Mystery here the butler did it!) Seaton kills the real butler, and the professor, and a police officer. He knocks out Bulldog and Tenny while stealing clues to the treasure's whereabouts. Seaton kidnaps Miss Clavering and drags her into the secret passages and underground chambers. Of course Bulldog and company give chase. Seaton finds the treasure but brave adventurous Phyllis proves to be a handful interfering with his plan to kill Bulldog Drummond.

There's a nice spike room trap for our heroes...

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The climax is a gunfight/fistfight. Seaton drowns in an underground river, Phyllis is saved and the wedding is still on time. The wedding get's postponed for the sixth time when a homemade bomb (Made by Algy) accidently explodes. Phyllis and aunt Blanch decide to leave and go to Africa to "Hunt lions where it will be safer."

Poor Bulldog his marriage foiled again.

Video and sound quality are good. Movie has a long dream/flashback sequence near the beginning. Plot is a little weak but a fair entry into the series. You just enjoy watching your old friends go through the paces.

Want to watch it? You can see it here





Movie Count: 4 down 246 to go

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Mystery #3 Bulldog Drummond in Africa

Mystery Movie #3

Bulldog Drummond in Africa

From the DVD Sleeve:Bulldog's wedding plans are put on hold when his fiancee Phyllis witnesses the violent kidnapping of long time pal and wedding guest Colonel Neilsen of Scotland yard. The chase leads to far away Morocco where a foreign spy ring headed by the ruthless Richard Lane holds the Colonel prisoner
Starring John Howard                                                                                (1938) B&W 58 Minutes Unrated




This is movie number five in the eight film Bulldog Drummong series from Paramount. Most the cast is in tact.



John Howard returns for his fourth time as Bulldog Drummond. Reginald Denny and E.E. Clive return for their fifth time as Algy and Tenny respectivly. Two changes in cast mark entry number five. Heather Angel returns as Phyllis. She appeared in the first Bulldog Drummond movie was replaced for the second, third and fourth movie and now returns here in the fith installment. Finally H.B. Warner replaces John Barrymore (Who replaced Sir Guy Standing in movies two, three and four) as Colonel Neilson.



H.B. Warner is one of those actors who has been in everything. Most people probly remember him as Mr Gower the pharmasist from Christmas perennial It's a Wonderful Life.


But long before that he was a well respected actor portraying Jesus the Christ in King of Kings



He had a long career making over a hundred+ movies. His last film would be the Cecil B. Demile extravaganza The Ten Commandments




Onward to the plot...

Bulldog Drummond is sequestered in his estate awaiting his wedding. To make sure there are no interuptions this time he is locked away without transportation, guns, money or pants. That explains the odd start to the movie when our hero and faithful butler appear pantsless.



But it isn't Bulldog's fault the wedding gets delayed this time. Phyllis witnesses Colonel Neilson being kidnapped by spy Richard Lane. (So much for the mystery...we know whodunit...on to the adventure)

The Colonel has been kidnapped for some valuable war information the spy ring wants. Phyllis summons Bulldog to the crime scene. A little comedy byplay as Algy chases Bulldog from scene to scene trying to reunite him with his pants.

The bad guy escapes to Morocco. Bulldog and crew follow. They are immediatly detained by authorities in Morroco and held in the local hotel. Bulldog and friends escape, track spy Richard Lane to his lair. The Colonel is being threatened for the secret information in a very nice polite British way. The Colonel not wanting to divulge the information politly insults his captors with a toast


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There's a gunfight and a fistfight with the bad guys and eventually top baddie Richard Lane is thrown to the lion. (Got to have a lion...how else will you know it's Africa)

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 The film moves at a slower pace than other entries in the series. The acting and dialogue both seem a little wooden. It feels like the actors are just going through their paces grinding out one more movie. Sound quality and video are watchable. Not a great entry in the series.

It's amazing the star power you can find in these early cheapies. Standing between H.B. Warner and J. Carrol Naish (Famous for being every bad guy in every movie from the 1930's) the tall dark handsome actor is...?



Don't blame you if you don't recognize him. Oscar winner Anthony "Zorba the Greek" Quinn.

Want to watch it? You can see it here




Movie Count: 3 down 247 to go

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mystery #2 Bulldog Drummond Escapes

Mystery Movie #2

Bulldog Drummond Escapes

From the DVD Sleeve: This is the only Bulldog Drummond film to star the fabulous Ray Milland as our heroic adventurer who must once more try to rescue his kidnapped fiance, Phyllis Clavering. She is being held prisoner on a country estate by a supposed friend who is scheming to steal her fortune. When her brother is killed, the perpetrators then stalk Bulldog and his pal Algy Longworth.
Starring Ray Milland                                                                              (1937) B&W 67 Minutes Unrated


This is the first movie in Paramount Pictures' eight movie Bulldog Drummond series. Why it's second on the disk makes no sense (Ah there's the mystery) To correct the DVD sleeve description, Bulldog doesn't "...Once more try to rescue his kidnapped fiancee, Phyllis Clavering." since he hadn't met her yet. He meets her for the first time when she jumps in front of his car forcing him to stop and then steals his car. She doesn't become his fiancee until the end of the movie when he pops the question.



 Ray Milland gets top billing as Bulldog Drummond.



Ray Milland like John Howard is a little too pretty to play the homely Capt. Bulldog Drummond.



Maybe in his later years he would fit the part better



Phyllis Clavering is played by Heather Angel for this first entry


and Inspector Neilson is played by Sir Guy Standing


Tenny and Algy would remain the same throughout the eight pictures but Bulldog, the inspector and Phyllis would change several times.

The plot is simple. Bulldog Drummond returns to England to help his friend Algy during the birth of his first child. He quickly becomes embroiled in a mystery/adventure. While driving home, Phyllis jumps out into the road and forces Bulldog to stop. He is distracted by gunshots and she steals his car. Later when Tenny picks him up to drive him back to his estate, he finds out the woman who stole his car is the lady in the next manor over, his new neighbor, Miss Clavering.


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Bulldog decides to check things out, meets the others staying at the estate. Hidden letters, break-ins, fistfights etc....

Guns are drawn and eventually both Bulldog and Miss Clavering are being held by the bad guys. Of course they escape, Bulldog saves the day, Algy's wife has their first child and the crooks are exposed as printing fake war bonds and "selling" them to Miss Clavering stealing her fortune. Most important, Bulldog proposes to Miss Clavering and for the seven following pictures will have their impending nuptials delayed by more mystery adventures.

Again this isn't so much of a whodunit as a howcatchem. We know who the bad guys are fairly quickly, we are just waiting to see how Bulldog will foil their vile plans and win the girl.

Ray Milland would only do one Bulldog Drummond picture. His star was rising quickly and he soon outgrew the B-film quickies. He would return to them later as his career started going downhill.

Behold "The Man with X-Ray Eyes"


 and "The Thing With Two Heads"




Bulldog Drummond Escapes (From the bad guys I guess)  moves at a slower pace than most people are used to. It has a few good action scenes and a little suspence.
There is a nice little bit of forensics work when Bulldog compares two bullets to prove they were fired from the same gun. (Nice work for 1937)


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Picture quality is fair (A restoration would be nice) and sound quality varies.  This series like all of the B-movie series begins to grow on you. You start to feel the characters are old friends and you look forward to seeing them in their next adventure.

Want to watch it? see it here




Movie Count: 2 down 248 to go

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mystery #1 Bulldog Drummond's Revenge

Mystery Movie #1
Bulldog Drummond’s Revenge
From the DVD Sleeve: Bulldog Drummond along with his pal Algy Longsworth and fiancée Phyllis Clavering, come upon a severed arm that is still attached to a valise filled with a new type of high explosive. Their investigation put them on the trail of the evil Draven Nogais, who has run off with the top secret formula for the high explosives.
Starring John Howard                                     (1937) B&W 57 minutes Unrated



Bulldog Drummond was one of many serials that featured detectives (Sherlock Holmes, Michael Shayne, Charlie Chan, etc…) or Slash detectives such as reporter/detective (Torchy Blain) adventurer/detectives,(The Saint, The Falcon) teacher/detective (Hildegarde Withers) 
Drummond wasn’t a detective as much as an adventurer/detective. In this case he’s a former WWI army captain, wealthy and bored, so, he takes up a life of adventuring with his pals from his former regiment against the wishes of his fiancée.
Bulldog Drummond’s Revenge was produced by Paramount Pictures which made eight entries in this series.
Bulldog Drummond Escapes
Bulldog Drummond Comes Back
Bulldog Drummond's Revenge
Bulldog Drummond's Peril
Bulldog Drummond in Africa
Arrest Bulldog Drummond
Bulldog Drummond's Secret Police
Bulldog Drummond's Bride

Other companies (Columbia Pictures, Associated British Corporation) were producing Bulldog Drummond movies as well.
In this series entry (The third entry) John Barrymore gets top billing playing Col. J.A. Nielson. Barrymore declining in his career still had enough star clout to receive top billing over the series star John Howard.


John Howard was a handsome utility player who starred in dozens of movies and TV shows.


However he seems to be a little too pretty to play Bulldog Drummond. Drummond is described in Otto Penzler’s book Detectionary  as the following “Drummond... has the appearance of an English gentleman: a man who fights hard, plays hard and lives clean... His best friend would not call him good-looking but he possesses that cheerful type of ugliness which inspires immediate confidence ... Only his eyes redeem his face. Deep-set and steady, with eyelashes that many women envy, they show him to be a sportsman and an adventurer. Drummond goes outside the law when he feels the ends justify the means.”
Well maybe John Howard has the pretty eyelashes.
Louise Campbell plays his fiancee who has the wedding delayed movie after movie


The movie isn’t so much a mystery in the classic whodunit sense it’s more of a howcatchem. We know who the bad guy is and we wonder if his evil plans will be thwarted.
The plot is standard early thirties wartime fare. New secret weapon is stolen and will be sold to enemies. Hero discovers the plot and sets out to stop it.
In this case, the new secret weapon is “haxonite” a high explosive. The villain is the assistant, Draven Nogais, to haxonite inventor John Haxton.
The movie begins with a bit of comedy between Bulldog and his very English butler, Tenny. Seems they dropped a package down a street grate and can’t figure out how to get it.
Bulldog has the bright idea to use some of that new fangled chewing gum stuff. If only there were an uncouth gum chewing American around to provide it. Bulldog puts out an SOS for one of his “American Cousins” and sure enough a gum smacking American steps forth.  With the help of a walking stick and chewing gum he retrieves the package, carrying his wedding rings, out of the grate.

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We are treated to a further piece of comedy as Tenny, the very English butler tries chewing gum and is befuddled as to how to dispose of it.
“When one is through with it,what does one do with it ?”

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Like many of the serials from the 1930's mysteries added a little adventure, a little comedy and sometimes even a musical number.
Bulldog Drummond is on his way to Switzerland to get married to his fiancee Phyllis Clavering. He stops by Scotland yard to make sure Col. Neilson will make his wedding. While there, a Chinese diplomat/spy warns that England's new high explosive is in danger of being stolen.
Bulldog is told to stay out of the case. Inspector/Col. Neilson warns the inventor of this new explosive "haxonite" to be careful. John Haxton the inventor says he's flying the haxionite by plane himself with his secretary/assistant Draven Nogais to the testing site.
We see the plane in the air and Draven Nogais kill the inventor and drop the suitcase of haxonite out the plane window. He then parachutes out himself and allows the plane to crash.
Bulldog Drummond on the way to his fiancee home, spots the dropped suitcase and picks it up.(What a credibility straining coincidence!) He sees the downed plane and finds a severed hand with a ring on it. The ring has the initials DN. Through a series of brillant deductions he figures out the suitcase has the new explosive haxonite, the hand doesn't belong to Draven Nogais but was planted as a ruse. He proceeds to his fiancee's house where the suitcase with haxonite is promptly stolen.
Drummond reports all this to Col. Neilson who drops by Phyllis Claverings house to confirm the wedding time. Drummond is told to stay out of it.

Drummond and his fiancee board a train for Dover. Drummond's friend Algy spots the sabatour on the train and informs Drummond. The evil Draven Nogais is hidding on the train in drag.



Several killings later the train boards a ferry to cross over to the continent. Drummond figures out Draven Nogais is in drag. The villian takes Tynny the butler and Phyllis hostage. Nogais steals one of drummond's suits and takes Drummond hostage. Drummond manages to get a gun from his friend Algy.

A fist fight and a chase later, Draven Nogais is killed in the cargo hold.

As I said before no great mystery, we know whodunit.

But there are a few mysteries that are never cleared up:
1) Who is Bulldog Drummond getting revenge against?
2) Nogais had a boss and two assistants. He kills one assistant and the other just vanishes. What happened to him? Who was Nogais' boss?
3) Why start with the third entry in the series when the next movie on the DVD is the first entry?

Film quality is watchable, the film can go very dark and hard to see. Sound quality is good.

Solid "B" flick. it reminded me of the old films shown on Saturday local stations during my youth. The characters grow on you especially as the series progresses.

Want to watch it? See it here.


 

Movie Count: 1 down 249 to go