Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Scrounger’s Cheapjack Mystery Movie! #1: Bulldog Drummond’s Revenge

And yes, I know I said “this weekend”, but come on, it’s somebody’s weekend right now…

Released by CONGRESS FILMS! Lots of talk that ultimately means nothing!

Our Feature Presentation: Bulldog Drummond’s Revenge (1937), starring John Howard as Capt. Hugh “Bulldog” Drummond, Louise Campbell as Phyllis Clavering, Reginald Denny as Algy Longworth, and John Barrymore (top-billed, because hey, why the hell not) as Colonel Nielson of Scotland Yard. Based on characters created by Herman Cyril “Sapper” McNeile.

It’s a jolly day because Capt. Drummond is going to marry his fiancée Phyllis Claverling. His chum Algy is coming along, as well as Colonel Nielson of Scotland Yard.

Putting a kink into the plans, Nielson has just been warned of a nasty bit of espionage going down against Sir John Haxton, creator of an experimental explosive he very humbly named after himself. A satchelful of Haxtonite, he assures Nielson, can bring down Westminster Abbey, and who wouldn’t want their name smeared all over that?

By the way, this is how science used to look before computers ruined everything.

Because of—or rather, in spite of—the stuff having a conveniently random level of volatility, he refuses a military escort, flying a suitcase load of the boom-boom powder in his single engine private plane (yeah, because those are much safer than military transport) with his personal secretary, a man who bears the not-at-all-ominous name Draven Nogais. Once they’re airborne, Nogais shoots Sir John and grabs the suitcase. Then—and here’s where things get interesting—he pulls out a severed forearm that was wrapped in some newspaper behind the passenger seat, drops the suitcase by parachute from the plane for his confederates, steers the plane into a nosedive, and parachutes himself out before the moment of ultimate destiny so that his gang can sell powdered exploding death to the highest bidder.

See? He’s perfectly armless! AHAHAHAHAHAokayI’llstopnow…

Unfortunately for the villains, all of this happens directly over the same country road that Drummond, his valet Tenny, and Algy are using as a shortcut to rendezvous with Phyllis. Not only do they almost run over the Suitcase of Potential Exploding Doom, but then the plane crashes right in front of them. The severed arm was part of a master plan to make it look like Nogais died in the crash, but Drummond doesn’t buy it for a second since the arm is stone cold and a freshly-severed arm doesn’t lose heat that quickly.

Drummond, having a sense that something bizarre is going on, takes the suitcase with him, and for some odd reason (having a sense of the bizarre?) grabs the arm, too. How’s that wedding rhyme go? Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue from rigor mortis? That’s three out of four right there.

Unfortunately, Nogais and company follow Drummond to the lodge where he’s meeting Phyllis and the group steals the suitcase back. In another one of those unfortunate coincidences, he makes a break for the continent on the same train to Dover that Drummond, Tenny, Algy, and Phyllis are using—in the next compartment, for that matter. Even more unfortunately, for a large chunk of the second half, the film is confined to those two rooms and the strip of corridor in between them. But the supreme bit of unfortunateness is that Nogais chooses to evade detection by disguising himself in women’s clothes. Frankly, Eddie Izzard with the beard is a more convincing crossdresser.

How long is he going to keep wearing the dress? Until he stops feeling pretty.

Still, the film’s not that bad, as these things go. Sure, Phyllis’s anti-adventuring complaints go on for a bit too long (“You must choose, Hugh. Marry me or save the world from fiery death. Just don’t expect me to stick around while you’re buckling your swash.”) and severed arm or no, she faints way too often (hey, it was olden times!), but the film does have a certain snap to it in places, and even massive twit Algy comes through when the chips are down. And like a lot of the B-pictures on this set, even if it starts wearing you down, it’s over in about an hour. You can’t say that about Transformers.

The Real Mystery: Okay, forgetting that Drummond decided to run with a severed arm, where did Nogais find it? Good ol’ fashioned grave robbing? Dine and dash at the morgue? Explosion at the Soylent Green factory? People want to know!

But Don’t Take My Word For It: Here’s the whole thing, via Internet Archive.

Extra Credit: Thanks to Silent Matt, here are a few other possible mottos for Congress Pictures:

  • Congress Films: The Opposite of Progress!
  • Congress Films: Superficial, Bloated and Pointless!
  • Congress Films: Aging, Irrelevant, and at least 90% White!

Oddly enough, all of those fit late ‘30s B-movies perfectly.

Next Time: Bulldog Drummond Escapes! It’ll happen sooner or later, promise. Watch this space…

1 comment:

Eric said...

For those of you who have somehow chosen to keep following: the rest of the series is still coming, promise. April wasn't as cozy as I was hoping for, but a return to normalcy is in the works.