Monday, July 27, 2015


A mysterious millionaire named Kalinsky is in London on what is advertised as a peace mission in conjunction with a pacifist group called the Key Club—though in private, we see Kalinsky, secretly a notorious arms merchant, chuckle at the use of the phrase "sacred mission of peace." Meanwhile, Kalinsky's thugs have kidnapped an inventor named Caldwell who is working on a new plane, the plans for which Kalinsky wants. Caldwell manages to escape long enough to throw a rock with a cryptic message through the window of an isolated cottage in the woods. When the thugs stop by, they find a rather doltish farmer who can't tell them anything—but after they leave, we see the dolt is actually Bulldog Drummond (John Lodge), ex-soldier and adventurer, who knows something's afoot. Sure enough the next morning, a lovely young woman named Doris (Dorothy Mackaill) comes to the cottage because her car has broken down, but Drummond catches her trying to drug his tea and search for the cryptic message. Soon Drummond and his sidekick Algy (Claud Allister) are in the thick of it, on the trail of Caldwell's kidnappers and trying to figure out whose side Doris is really on.

The British and American Bulldog Drummond movies are similar in tone—crime/spy stories with a light touch—but very different in specifics, with the British films hewing more closely to the character as embodied in the original novels by H.C. McNeile. Though the lead here is American actor John Lodge (brother of Richard Nixon's running mate in 1960 and a successful politician in his own right after WWII), this is a British production which means Drummond is a little less silly than he gets in the Paramount films of the same era, and the incessant "will he or won't he get married" plotline that runs through the Hollywood films is absent here, making this a tightly-paced B-thriller which is enjoyable even if the viewer has never seen a Drummond movie. Lodge is charming, Mackaill is a formidable match for him, Allister provides fine comic relief, and Victor Jory makes for a menacing villain. A superior entry in the series. Note: this is not to be confused, as my on-screen cable guide did, with a 1947 movie with the same title but a different plot and lead actor. The picture at top left is of Lodge, with his sidekick Allister mostly hidden behind a column; the picture at right is of  Mackaill and Lodge. [TCM]

No comments: