Tuesday, February 16, 2016
The Bulldog Speaks!
While I've seen the later Bulldog Drummond movies a few times (produced for the most part in the late 30's and mostly in public domain) I've never ever seen the first talking Drummond movie starring Ronald Coleman which adapts the debut novel by Sapper.
It's a remarkable outing for a number of reasons. One is that it adapts the novel very rigorously, following the misadventures of Hugh "Bulldog" Drummond, a man who craves adventure and so puts out an ad to garner some interest. He's contacted by a desperate woman named Phyllis Benton who says her uncle is being held captive in a sanitarium by unsavory folks, some of whom keep a close watch on the girl herself. Drummond is at once intrigued by the girl and later by the mystery when the villains appear on his doorstep. He then goes about the business of bravely and brazenly rescuing all concerned. The story is a remarkable battle of brawn and wits as Drummond and his men match tactics with the villain Peterson, his moll Irma and a devilish doctor named Lakington who runs the sanitarium.
Ronald Coleman is splendid as Drummond, though he is small for the role as described by Sapper. Drummond is supposed to be a bear of a man, but Coleman though dynamic is hardly that. His charm though shines through in this, his first talking part and his distinctive voice adds luster to the proceedings. Claud Alister as Algy Longworth, Drummond's friend and lawyer is very funny in a part mostly for such relief. Wilson Benge as Danny, Drummond's reliable manservant is along for the ride and plays well of Algy's more absurd character. Phyllis is portrayed by a demure an lovely Joan Bennett and it's clear why Drummond falls for her so swiftly. Montagu Love is ideal as Peterson, the villain of the piece, properly menacing both in form and attitude. Irma played by Lilyan Trashman is all the vamp you'd want. Lawrence Grant as Dr. Lakington is downright macabre in how he portrays the evil physician, giving the movie a proper aroma of true horror. All in all this is a delightful cast in a very entertaining movie.
This one shows the proper romance of a hero and villain facing off with true danger, deceit, and even grudging respect between the opponents. It's easy to see why this was so very very successful.