Bulldog Drummond’s Secret Police (1939)

Bulldog_Drummond's_Secret_Police_(1939)‘Let’s go after the buggers, old boy!’

On the eve of his long delayed marriage to Phyllis, Bulldog Drummond arranges to take possession of his ancestral home of Rockingham Tower. With the ceremony just hours away, a local historian informs everyone that the house contains a fabulous hidden treasure. Unfortunately, he’s not the only one who knows about the secret…

Hugh and Phyllis’ nuptials take another back seat to murder, intrigue and adventure. l should imagine friends of the star-crossed lovers have given up sending presents by now. The good news is the gang’s all back; John Howard as Captain Drummond, Heather Angel as Phyllis and H B Warner as Scotland Yard’s Colonel Nielson. Best of all, dim witted Algy (Reginald Denny) and manservant Tenny (E. E. Clive) are still in on the fun; Clive in particular delivering a richly comic performance. Joining our regular cast is a young Leo G Carroll, best remembered now as Mr Waverley from ‘The Man from UNCLE’, but with a long history of varied supporting roles in films; here appearing to good effect as the sinister new butler.

This was the penultimate film in Congress Pictures series of eight Drummond pictures and, the lack of budget was really beginning to show. The film only runs 54 minutes and four of those are a ‘dream sequence’ that utilises clips from earlier in the series! Also the plot is simply a reworking of the old Conan Doyle tale ‘The Musgrave Ritual’ when it was down to Sherlock Holmes to find old King Charles’ treasure. The film’s title is justified by a line of Colonel Nielson’s dialogue, but it’s rather contrived at best.

Having said that, it’s still all breezy, undemanding fun; Algy juggles with a Ming Vase worth £200, Elizabeth Patterson makes barbed remarks as Aunt Blanche, Forrester Harvey gives good value as the eccentric historian and there are the usual appalling process shots when Drummond races his car against a train (for no good reason at all). The easy rapport of the regular players allows the film to coast on charm, rather than engage with the pretty thinly developed story.

Bulldog_Drummond's_Secret_Police_(1939)

‘Eh, try and be a bit more discrete in the future, Mr. Solo.’

Drummond and Phyllis had just one more chance to sort things out; ‘Bulldog Drummond’s Bride’ (1939) before Congress Pictures plugged the plug on the series. Howard went on to a career of leads in more ‘B’ pictures, Angel got to work with Hitchcock on ‘Lifeboat’ (1944) and Clive died shortly afterward, leaving a legacy of great comic performances in films such as ‘The Bride of Frankenstein’ (1935) and ‘The Invisible Man’ (1933) (‘Look! He’s all eaten away!’)

More intriguingly, Denny certainly had little in common with dumbbell Algy — in real life, he was a pioneer of drone technology! He opened a model aircraft shop in Hollywood in 1935, and included General Douglas MacArthur as one of his customers. In 1940, he formed a private company called Radioplane that supplied nearly 15,000 target drones to the U.S. Army in World War ll. This turned out to have some rather significant Hollywood consequences as well. Near the end of the conflict, he arranged for a publicity shoot at the plant. On the day, one of his young employees was quite a hit with the photographers and came to the attention of some people with connections in the movie world. lt was the first step on a long road for Norma Jeane Mortensen. You probably know her better as Marilyn Monroe.

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