Bulldog Drummond Comes Back (1937)

Bulldog Drummond Comes Back (1937)‘It’s a bit on the feathery side, isn’t it, sir?’

Bulldog Drummond is planning to marry his fiancé Phyllis when she is mysteriously kidnapped. The criminals send him a series of clues, which he has to solve in order to ensure her safety. But the villains are after revenge, not money, and plan to eliminate them both at the end of the game.

The second in the Drummond series starring John Howard from the U.K.’s Congress Pictures. Unlike most of the other entries there are no foreign spies or scientific McGuffins; just a fairly ordinary criminal gang for him to chase (although they are bally foreigners, what!) The formula is pretty much as before, but the personal angle in the plot does allow Howard to display moments of worry and urgency, rather than the suave (and sometimes) smug indifference he usually affected in the role.

Sadly, the swift pace and brief running time allow for little interaction between Howard and dim-witted sidekick Algy (Reginald Denny) and manservant Tenny (E E Clive). Fortunately, the producers realised that these two were the real stars of the series and they were allotted more screentime in the subsequent films. The script also betrays the project’s limited budget with our heroic trio forced to rush madly back and forth between what was presumably the only two main sets the production had.

Bulldog Drummond Comes Back (1937)

‘I say, Hugh, this is a top-hole cup of Rosie Lee, ain’t it?’

On the bright side, the rest of the supporting cast make the most of things with Louise Campbell proving a sparkier presence than usual as the love interest and J Carrol Naish memorable as the main villain’s thick-spectacled sidekick. We also get theatrical great John Barrymore (slumming it a little) as police chief Col. Nielsen. At one stage he uses a series of outrageous disguises, which don’t make an awful lot of sense plot-wise, but do provide what was probably a pleasing throwback to his glittering stage career.

This is fairly tepid stuff all told, with a limp climax, but the eccentric English characters do have a lasting appeal (albeit slight) and there were better Drummond movies to follow.

Oh, and as per usual, the title makes little sense. I didn’t even know he’d been away.

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