A British scientist has invented a brand new super-explosive but news of his discovery has reached unfriendly powers. When he is murdered, his suitcase falls into the hands of Bulldog Drummond, who is supposed to be on his way to Geneva to get married.
Gentleman adventurer Bulldog Drummond was a global publishing phenomenon in the 1920s and 1930s making author H.C. ‘Sapper’ McNeile a wealthy man. Drummond was a war veteran and a patriot, an expert in jujitsu, boxing and poker. He was also a ‘crack shot’ and an excellent cricketer. Although physically pretty ugly, when it came to the movies, he was invariably played by handsome, sophisticated types like Ralph Richardson and Ronald Colman, who spent their time clashing with enemy agents and chasing various McGuffins.
Small, independent studio, Congress Pictures, began a series of eight Drummond pictures with this one, a fairly standard tale with the usual espionage and intrigue. In the lead is John Howard; a suave presence in the Colman mould, who went on to play in all but one of the series, where he was briefly replaced by a young Ray Milland. Love interest was provided by perennial fiancé Phyllis, who was played throughout the films on some kind of rota basis by Louise Campbell and Heather Angel. Here it’s Campbell and she struggles to make anything out of a thankless, underwritten role.
The main entertainment value when watching the series today rests with the ever present Reginald Denny and E E Clive, who play dimwitted sidekick Algy and Drummond’s manservant, Tenny. Denny is not quite on his game in this first entry, but then his is saddled with a very annoying girlfriend (Nydia Westman), which really doesn’t help. Clive is note perfect, though, and gets all the best lines.
Of more interest to film fans today will probably be the presence of great stage actor John Barrymore (grandfather of Drew), as Scotland Yard’s Col. Neilsen. Barrymore had enjoyed Hollywood success up to the 1930s but began losing the ability to remember lines and often used cue cards. A lack of big studio opportunities probably led to his appearance here and to reprising the role twice more before H B Warner took over.
This is an adequate programmer, where the lack of action betrays a lack of budget, but it was successful enough to kick start the series. The story development is completely predictable and the execution workmanlike. It’s a mildly entertaining outing but don’t expect it to leave much of an impression.
And the title makes absolutely no sense. Revenge? Revenge for what exactly?