Thursday, June 02, 2016

Tonight's Movies: Bulldog Drummond (1929) and Calling Bulldog Drummond (1951) - Warner Archive DVD Reviews

BULLDOG DRUMMOND (1929) and CALLING BULLDOG DRUMMOND (1951) have been released on a Bulldog Drummond Double Feature disc from the Warner Archive.

Ronald Colman stars as Bulldog Drummond in the 1929 film, with Walter Pidgeon playing Drummond in the 1951 version.

My interest in Bulldog Drummond films was caught due to the screening of BULLDOG DRUMMOND STRIKES BACK (1934) at this year's TCM Classic Film Festival. Although I didn't get to see it, the sequel to BULLDOG DRUMMOND, starring Colman and Loretta Young, was quite a hit with many people I know. Although unfortunately it has never had an official DVD release, I do have a copy of the movie and plan to watch it soon.

Colman was nominated for Best Actor as Drummond, who places an ad in the paper saying "To the Editor, Personal Column, The Times, London. Demobilized officer, finding peace unbearably tedious, would welcome any excitement. Legitimate, if possible, but crime of humorous description, no objection."

He immediately receives many letters and chooses to answer one from Phyllis (Joan Bennett), whose uncle is being held prisoner. There's a mad scientist and a gang of crooks involved, and that's about all there is to it.

It's no surprise that Colman is wonderful, and he's well supported by Claude Allister as his friend Algy and Wilson Benge as his butler Danny.

The film has a promising opening, with Drummond bored to death in a club full of sleeping old gents, followed by receiving a deluge of answers to his ad, but unfortunately, this was a surprisingly dull 90 minutes.

The plot about the missing uncle struck me as a big nothing, with Drummond dealing with a variety of sinister characters in a phony sanitarium. It kind of goes on and on without much happening.

Joan Bennett is one of my favorite actresses, but she may as well be in a silent movie given how little dialogue she had. She was 18 or 19 when this was filmed, and she's a fairly traditional shrinking violet damsel in distress type.

There are some nice shots of shadows on the wall (filmed by Gregg Toland and George Barnes), but on the whole the movie's look and style is on the creaky side. (That said, William Cameron Menzies was Oscar-nominated for Best Art Direction.) The sound is just a bit rough in the manner of many early talkies.

BULLDOG DRUMMOND was directed by F. Richard Jones. The supporting cast includes Lilyan Tashman, Montagu Love, and Lawrence Grant.

Several other actors played Drummond over the years, including Ray Milland, John Howard, and Tom Conway. Jumping forward over two decades from BULLDOG DRUMMOND, affable Walter Pidgeon took on the role, with CALLING BULLDOG DRUMMOND filmed by MGM's British unit. It was Pidgeon's only time to play Drummond.

David Tomlinson (MARY POPPINS) plays Drummond's pal Algy in this go-round.

Drummond, who has been retired in the country -- where he's raising a prize pig! -- goes undercover with a female Scotland Yard agent (Margaret Leighton) to break up a criminal gang. They pretend to be a couple of crooks in order to nab the bad guys.

It's only so-so, nothing particularly exciting, but there's a nice noirish mood to the film at times, as well as some good shots of London.

Pidgeon might be a bit old in the role, but I've always liked him, and Leighton plays her role energetically. It's one of those films which isn't especially noteworthy but is pleasant enough company if, like me, one enjoys Walter Pidgeon and London.

CALLING BULLDOG DRUMMOND was directed by Victor Saville and filmed by F.A. Young. It runs 80 minutes. The supporting cast includes Bernard Lee (of 007 movies), Charles Victor, Peggy Evans, and Robert Beatty.

The prints are both good, although as mentioned above, BULLDOG DRUMMOND is clearly an older film from the early talkie era. The double feature set includes a trailer for CALLING BULLDOG DRUMMOND.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD set. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.


Blogger Maricatrin said...

Nice to find someone else in agreement with my opinion of the first Colman film (I feel like Maltin saw an entirely different picture!) The second Colman-Drummond film is everything the first was not, and I'm fairly certain you'll enjoy it:-)

I'm also a fan of the Drummond series starring John Howard (and Ray Milland, in the first film). And even though CALLING BULLDOG DRUMMOND was very different from the format and tone of the earlier movies, I quite enjoyed it too.

A sort of honorary Bulldog Drummond movie is the hilarious and good-natured parody BULLDOG JACK (1935), in which Bulldog Drummond appears briefly before an accident causes comedian Jack Hulbert to take his place in a classic thriller/melodrama storyline, Fay Wray is the lovely Damsel in Distress, Ralph Richardson is a hoot as the Master Criminal, and Hulbert's real-life brother Claude plays Algy Longworth.

8:41 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Maricatrin,

Great to hear from you! And how interesting I'm "not the only one" who was underwhelmed by Colman's first BULLDOG DRUMMOND film. Great to hear that you are very positive about the second film, combined with what I heard at the TCM Fest it sounds like it's going to be a lot of fun.

I recorded a bunch of DRUMMOND films from TCM a few months back and especially look forward to the one with Milland. Glad to hear you also liked the Howard ones as I have several of those. Wonder if the Warner Archive will be able to release any of those in the future? Not sure offhand of the studios.

Had never heard of BULLDOG JACK but always find Fay Wray fun so I'll keep my eyes out for that one.

Thanks for all the great info!!

Best wishes,

10:25 AM  

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