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Bulldog Jack (1935): Sapper He Ain’t

[I found a big cache of reviews–many of them music reviews–from my pre-Amazon days and first days on Amazon, so once I have compiled, reformatted, and tweaked them, expect the return of the Vault…!]

Bulldog Jack (Walter Forde, 1935)

 

photo credit: Wikipedia

You think my shoes are made of leather.

While Bulldog Drummond has faded into obscurity over the years, back in the day he was a sensation roughly akin to the X-Men in 2012. Herman C. McNeile’s original play not only spawned two film adaptations, one in 1922 and one in 1929 (a third is currently in development as I write this in 2013), but a series of novels (penned by McNeile), a number of which were also adapted into movies in the thirties and forties, all of which were immensely popular. Needless to say, there were the inevitable spinoffs as well. Probably the only one still remembered today is Alias Bulldog Drummond, also released as Bulldog Jack, for which McNeile was listed as a “screenplay collaborator”. It was actually written by Gerard Fairlie, who would make one of the final Drummond films (1951’s Calling Bulldog Drummond), as well as other series work, in collaboration with stage actor Jack Hulbert, the film’s star. It’s remembered for its female lead, the inimitable Fay Wray, but it’s not a bad little thing; certainly worth watching if you’re familiar with either the films or the novels.

 

photo credit: Mubi

“Well, I’ll do my doggedest, old thing, but I’m really a cricketer at heart.”

Plot: Jack Pennington (Hulbert), a well-known cricketer, finds himself sharing a hired car with noted detective Bulldog Drummond (Mixed Doubles‘ Atholl Fleming), and the two of them get on famously. The car is involved in an accident, and Drummond is injured enough that he needs to go to the hospital. He’s on his way to interview a new client, and he asks Pennington to go in his place—nothing to it but gathering information, really. Pennington, star-struck, agrees, and passes himself off as Drummond in the interview. And if that’s all there is to sleuthing, Pennington figures, he might as well try to solve the case…

The Bulldog Drummond movies, at least those I’ve seen, have all been relatively humorous, in that sort of pre-WW2 politically-incorrect manner. This one is no exception, though it almost feels as if Forde and Hulbert were attempting to come up with a straight action thriller and decided to add the humor as an afterthought. It does give the movie a weird, kind of outré quality that doesn’t make it fit well in the Drummond canon, but looked at seventy-odd years later, that’s less of a problem than it probably was in the thirties. Now all of the Bulldog Drummond movies have that quality. If you’ve just discovered the novels and are enchanted by them, or have a thing for pre-WW2 light thrillers, then this will fill the bill, but it’s not something you really need to go out of your way for. ** ½

 

No trailer that I could find on Youtube, anyway…

About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

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