Wednesday, October 28, 2015


In an earlier blog post, I mentioned the differences between the British and American Bulldog Drummond movies. This is an example of an American series entry. These are more frivolous, with less ambitious criminals, a slightly higher quotient of comic relief, and a silly running subplot about the constant thwarting of Drummond's wedding plans. In fact, this one begins on the night before Drummond's planned nuptials with his eternal fiancée Phyllis. They're opening up the family castle in preparation for the event when an absent-minded researcher arrives, asking about the existence of secret tunnels under the castle where a long-hidden treasure chest might be buried. Drummond (John Howard) sees no problem letting the man stay the night to go over his maps and charts and figure out where the loot might be, but just as the visitor discovers where it is, he's murdered, and an adventure again threatens to derail the wedding. But this time, Phyllis (Heather Angel) is all for it, and she and Drummond and his buffoonish sidekick Algy (Reginald Denny) and faithful butler Tenny (E. E. Clive) and Scotland Yard Inspector Neilson (H. B Warner) are soon on the trail of the mysterious figure who is willing to murder to get his hands on the treasure.

This is basically an old-dark-house movie; the entire film takes place in the castle and its subterranean passages, though there are no supernatural elements involved. The "whodunit" aspect is dispelled quickly—it's the new butler (Leo G. Carroll) who turns out to be an ex-con—so the film can focus on the shadowy chases and the gunplay and the hostage-taking.  Howard is fine as the hero—second only to Ronald Colman in the 1929 version—and Angel is just as good. Comic relief figures are sometimes major irritants, but Reginald Denny (pictured, with Howard beneath) is always a delight with his slapstickish antics, and he is aided here by Elizabeth Patterson as Phyllis's old-maid aunt. The final sequence, a long chase through the tunnels, has an exciting scene in a chamber of spikes that wouldn't be out of place in an Indiana Jones movie, or at least in one of the B-movie serials that helped inspire the Indy films. Another highlight is a bizarre dream sequence which consists of clips from previous Drummond films which starred Howard. Highly recommended. [TCM]

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