Tuesday, January 13, 2015


I've reviewed films in the Bulldog Drummond series previously, but before the series became a Hollywood property with restless former soldier Drummond turned into a sleuth, this British entry, based directly one of the original novels by H.C. McNeile, presented a different Drummond, an adventurer and vigilante, and maybe a bit of a fascist. When the president of the World Peace Organization is assassinated, an underground group called the Black Clan vows to act against foreign agitators who the Clan believes are responsible for the death and for the spreading of pro-war propaganda. Drummond (Ralph Richardson) is secretly the leader of the Clan, and his usually useless and rather dandified buddy Algy (Claude Allister) is his very helpful right-hand man. Carl Peterson (Francis L. Sullivan), posing as a minister working for orphan relief, is actually the head of the warmongers. He whips up a poisonous gas that can paralyze its victims, kidnaps Drummond's wife (Ann Todd), and drugs Drummond and puts him in a car headed straight into a river. Of course, Drummond and Algy win in the end, but on our way there, this is a very entertaining thriller in the Boys' Own Adventure mold; I especially liked the black leather outfits and goggles that the Clan members wear (see the picture of Richardson at left). Richardson is quite good in the lead role, and Allister goes nicely against his usual effete persona—in fact, the middle of the film has a kind of Scarlet Pimpernel feel to it, perhaps crossed with the atmosphere of Joseph Conrad's novel The Secret Agent. Nice for something different, but probably not if you're in the mood for a more traditional Bulldog Drummond mystery. [Criterion streaming]

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