Friday, October 21, 2016


Someone who calls himself "the Earl of Destiny" has been sending letters to the press and to Scotland Yard commissioner Nielsen, claiming that he has the answer to all the world's problems. Meanwhile, on the day before his long-delayed wedding to his fiancée Phyllis (Heather Angel), Bulldog Drummond (John Howard, at left) gets a strange letter from his scientist friend Richard Gannett saying he can't attend as he's too busy saving mankind from future wars, and after his signature, he signs "Earl of Destiny." We find out that Gannett has created a death and destruction ray (actually, two rays fired up together); he wants to use it for peaceful ends, but Rolf Alverson (George Zucco) and his henchmen kill Gannett and steal the device for nefarious purposes. When Drummond finds the dying Gannett, his last words are "Look out for the stinger!" and oddly, it turns out that Gannett died from stingray venom, despite being nowhere near water. Once again, Drummond postpones his wedding to investigate with his good friend Algy (Reginald Denny), bring the killer to justice, and get the death ray back before it wrecks havoc.

I'm not typically a film buff completist—I don't need to see every movie in a series—but I have enjoyed tracking down the Bulldog Drummond films, most of which are in the public domain and fairly easily available, though often in somewhat tattered prints (I found this one on the Criterion streaming channel through Hulu and it was in very good shape). Even though Drummond was played by Ronald Colman, Ray Milland, John Lodge and Ralph Richardson (among others), I think I like Howard best of all. He may not be a great actor or cut the butchest figure, but he has an easygoing manner, approaching danger as though it's just another aspect of a playboy's lifestyle. Howard is helped by the antics of the reliable Denny, and the presence of other regulars in the series (Angel as Phyllis, H.B. Warner as the commissioner, E.E. Clive as the resourceful butler—who seems to me to be a model for Woodhouse, the much-suffering butler on TV's Archer). Zucco is, as always, a gem as the madman villain. There is a cute running gag involving Drummond's inability to tie his tie. Though I find the constant stalled wedding antics tiresome, they aren't too intrusive here. A strong entry in the series. [Streaming]

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