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Bulldog Drummond Double Feature

Warner Archive // Unrated // April 5, 2016
List Price: $21.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted May 11, 2016 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

Warner Archives has released an interesting pair of movies featuring Hugh "Bulldog" Drummond, a British WWI vet who misses the excitement of the war and goes looking for adventure. Dubbed The Bulldog Drummond Double Feature, this disc included Bulldog Drummond (1929), MGM's first talking picture with Ronald Colman in the title role and included Calling Bulldog Drummond (1951) featuring Walter Pidgeon in the lead. There was a whole series of Drummond movies released between these two, seventeen to be exact, and the character in the first one bears little resemblance to the man in the latter, though both are good films.

Bulldog Drummond (1929): "Demobilized officer, finding peace unbearably tedious would welcome any excitement. Legitimate, if possible, but crime of humorous description, no objection." Such is the ad that Hugh "Bulldog" Drummond (Ronald Colman) places in the Times when he can stand the sedate pace of civilian life no longer. A wealthy man who spends his time in his club trying to ward off boredom, Drummond is inundated with offers of adventure. Along with his trusted companion from the war, Algy (Claude Allister) Hugh plows through the replies until he comes across one from Phyllis Benton (Joan Bennett of Dark Shadows fame, then only 19). Her rich uncle (Charles Sellon) is being held against his will in a private hospital by the evil Dr. Lakington (Lawrence Grant) and his two accomplices, Irma (wonderfully portrayed by Lilyan Tashman) and her 'brother,' Peterson (Montagu Love). Phyllis doesn't have any proof of course, or else she could go to the police, but Drummond believes her and sets out to rescue her suffering uncle.

While the film is a bit dated, it is an excellent early talkie. Coleman plays his role with a fresh, breezy style that makes the movie feel a bit like a Thin Man film. Drummond is a wise-cracking sleuth who has more than a little bit of Bugs Bunny in him: He never worries or seems unsure of himself, even when the villains have the drop on him.

The rest of the cast is a mixed bag. It was almost painful to watch Claude Allister play Algy. He was a comic relief, and he played the character as being so dense as to seem almost mentally handicapped. The same can be said for Lawrence Grant, who was still playing the villain as if he was in a silent movie... a bit too over the top for a talkie. Joan Bennett was beautiful, but wooden in this, her first movie roll. (She would get better.) Lilyan Tashman, by contrast did a wonderful job as the evil Irma. She lit up the screen every time she made an appearance.

It should be noted that Donald Novis, a name that old time radio fans will notice as a regular on the Fibber McGee and Molly show, sings a couple of songs in this movie. It was nice to put a face to the voice.

Calling Bulldog Drummond (1951): In this film Drummond (Walter Pidgeon, still a WWI hero but now a man well past his prime) has grown accustomed to the quite life. He's a pig farming out in the country and takes great pride in his breading program. When an old buddy from Scotland Yard makes the trip out to his farm to ask for his assistance on a case, Bulldog demurs at first. The inspector tells his old friend that a series of brazen robberies have been pulled off with split-second timing and The Yard needs him because of his military experience. (Apparently there were few people who had been in the service in Britain in the early 1950s.) The pep talk wins him over however, and agrees to go undercover.

The only clue they have to a series of crimes is some sand from the crooks shoes that was left at the crime scenes. From that they determine that the crooks must hide out near the docks, and that they could frequent a club in the area. Bulldog decides to pose as a crook and try to infiltrate the gang. They know that Arthur Gunns (Robert Beatty), the owner of the club, is a lady's man and so they assign Sergeant Helen Smith (Margaret Leighton) to act as Bulldog's wife and help to seduce Gunns. (Gunns just happens to be one of the crooks too. What a lucky break for Drummond!) This gives Hugh the chance to make a big speech on how women aren't cut out for that type of work and how it's too dangerous. Smith eventually convinces Drummond to give her a chance and the two set out to discover just who is behind the brazen robberies.

Snide comments about the plot aside, this was a fun and entertaining film... plot holes and all. There's a good amount of action, and the characters were all interesting. It was just a different animal than the first film on the disc. This Drummond is calm and cool, but a different type of character. The jokes are gone and so is the breezy pace. In their place is a convoluted story about Drummond cheating at cards and consequently having to go to Africa to hide from the shame. (His cover story of why he's gone when he's actually undercover.) A lot of the film seems overly complicated, Drummond and Smith communicate with Scotland Yard through a radio that is disguised as a camera and the antenna is hidden in the shaft of an umbrella. It would seem that a phone would be a bit easier.

Pidgeon was good in his role, and the same can be said of Margaret Leighton. David Tomlinson (Mr. Banks from Mary Poppins) plays Bulldog's pal Algy in this outing, and while he's not in the film much until the end, he plays the character as he should be played: competent and loyal, though more laid back that Drummond himself.

These were both good films, they were just very different interpretations of the character.

The DVD:

Both movies are included on a single DVD-R.


The original mono soundtrack is included and it sounds fine. The dialog is easy to make out and the musical numbers (in the first film) sound good. Bulldog Drummond does sound a bit tinny with a rather narrow dynamic range, but that is due to the recording technology employed in 1929 rather than the disc. Overall, there was nothing to complain about.


The full frame image looks very good for unrestored movies of this age. There are some occasional spots and scratches on the prints, but these are minor. The contrast is good the picture is clear and the image is very easy on the eyes. I was very pleased with the picture quality on both films.


The only extra is a trailer for Calling Bulldog Drummond.

Final Thoughts:

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