Bulldog Drummond in Africa


60m 1938
Bulldog Drummond in Africa

Brief Synopsis

Drummond, his girlfriend and his butler try to free an high post of Scotland Yard who has been kidnapped.

Film Details

Genre
Adventure
Mystery
Adaptation
Release Date
Aug 5, 1938
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Challenge by H. C. "Sapper" McNeile (Garden City, NY, 1937).

Technical Specs

Duration
60m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
6 reels

Synopsis

Captain Hugh "Bulldog" Drummond is about to marry his fiancée Phyllisd Clavering, and has sequestered himself in his house with his faithful servant Tenny, cutting the cord to the telephone, so that nothing will interfere with his wedding plans. Colonel Nielson of Scotland Yard, meanwhile, comes home to find Richard Lane, a former nemesis, waiting for him. Lane demands to know about the Radio Signal Disintegrator, a new British spy device, but Nielson refuses to divulge information, so Lane holds him at gunpoint. Later, Phyllis arrives to pick up Colonel Nielson. After Lane tells her he is the new tenant of Greystone Manor, Phyllis pretends to leave, then hides and watches as Lane kidnaps the colonel. Phyllis picks up Hugh and Tenny, and Hugh's friend, Algy Longworth, follows them to Greystone Manor, where they learn from the reviving butler that the colonel has been taken to Morocco. Even though Scotland Yard tries to prevent their interference, Hugh and his friends take Hugh's private plane to Arbi, Morocco, where they are greeted by British consul Major Gray and his assistant, Deane Fordine. At the consulate, Hugh recognizes Lane, but Lane is using the pseudonym of Charles Mega. Hugh and his friends are ordered to fly back to England, but Hugh turns back and heads for Lane's estate in the jungle, landing just one minute before the bomb planted on their plane is scheduled to explode. Hugh and Algy infiltrate Lane's estate, just in time to rescue the colonel, who has been tied to a tree in front of a ravenous lion. There is a shoot-out, and during a struggle, Hugh pushes Lane off a balcony. Lane falls and is mauled by his own lion. Hugh, his friends and the colonel then fly safely back to England.

Film Details

Genre
Adventure
Mystery
Adaptation
Release Date
Aug 5, 1938
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Challenge by H. C. "Sapper" McNeile (Garden City, NY, 1937).

Technical Specs

Duration
60m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
6 reels

Articles

Bulldog Drummond in Africa


Something like the Jack Ryan or James Bond of an earlier, less cynical day, Bulldog Drummond was an all-purpose British spy hero invented first by pulp writer Cyril "Sapper" McNeile in 1920, in the aftermath of WWI. Like McNeile, Drummond was a Great War veteran, and all too happy to become a gentleman bon vivant in the interbellum years, through innumerable books and, going into WWII and beyond, some 23 programmers, made in either Hollywood or England. Routinely pitted against shady villains with elaborate espionage plots afoot, and nearly always outfitted in either a tuxedo or a silk dressing gown, Drummond was the paradigmatic Brit man of action, calmly capable at all times, always leavened by impish good humor, and never very far from a ready decanter of sherry.

Bulldog Drummond in Africa is merely the thirteenth in the series, which spanned 47 years, and it is a fairly typical, unpretentious tissue sample, proceeding without the leading-man star power of earlier entries (Ronald Colman and Ralph Richardson had turns at the role), but also without the self-importance such casting can carry with it. Rather, we get John Howard (most familiar these days as Katherine Hepburn's grumpy fiancee in 1940's The Philadelphia Story), who actually became moviegoers' definitive Bulldog, playing the character seven times over three years. Howard had the perfect measure of likable energy and English cool required, but truth be told, the Bulldog Drummond films were hardly demanding upon anyone, neither their casts, their directors nor their audience. They are a perfect example of factory-made movies intended as pleasant distractions, much as a good deal of television programming is intended today. The difference is that the Bulldog sagas are pleasant - immersive, frothy, speedy, vacation-y, silly in an inoffensive way.

Being a low-budget B-movie made on Hollywood backlots, Bulldog Drummond in Africa is something of a quintessence of Hollywood daydreaming - the action moves from London to Morocco, but somehow never leaves the same square acre of Paramount set, an factor that adds to the escapist torque of old B-movies in a way that can only accumulate with the years. ("Africa" here consists almost entirely of a single villa-&-courtyard set, plus a few gendarmes with outrageous Mediterranean accents.) What's more, it's a character-actor murderers' row, with J. Carroll Naish as the slimy spy villain, H.B. Warner as Drummond's Scotland Yard connection (a role he'd reprise in three more films), Reginald Denny as our hero's bumbling war buddy Algy (a total of eight films used him thus), Heather Angel as Drummond's love interest (five Drummond films had her), a young Anthony Quinn as a smooth henchman, and the irrepressible E.E. Clive, who plays Drummond's irreverent manservant Tenny in a total of eight movies, quite possibly the richest single character this iconic actor had in his late-blooming film career.

These films, often only whispering over an hour in length, do not waste time. This entry begins with both Drummond and Tenny trapped in their manor house sans trousers - part of Angel's plan to keep the boys safe at home from impromptu adventures so that the scheduled marriage between she and Drummond can finally take place. It doesn't, naturally; soon enough, Naish's disguised creep shows up and kidnaps Warner's toast-dry British detective, eventually spiriting him off to his lavish estate in Morocco, where wild lions are literally chained up in the courtyard, waiting for human meat. In order to investigate the policeman's disappearance, Drummond and Tenny must don plaid throw blankets as impromptu kilts; before long, they're stealing airplanes, flying south, tricking the Moroccan authorities (including Fortunio Bonanova, memorable a few years hence as Susan Kane's frazzled opera coach in Citizen Kane), and infiltrating the evil mastermind's leftover-set digs.

It's all delightfully bogus, of course, down to the perennial fake-Britishness so ubiquitous in Hollywood in the '30s, with dialogue sprouting a "...and that sort of thing!" and a "right you are!" every so often. Still, look at the year - you can smell the dread of Germanic ambition all over it, with the villains registering as vaguely Teutonic (even Quinn), and Naish's droll sadist even smoking his cigarette holder between his forefinger and thumb, years before it became a Nazi officer cliche in Hollywood movies during and after the war. All of which simply gives this Bulldog a forward-looking prescience that doesn't rely on memories of WWI, as the earlier series entries did. Instead, the filmmakers (the director was prolific second-stringer Louis King) took what was in the news and hinted at what everyone apparently knew was coming. The Germans of WWI didn't seem to want to feed their opponents to wild animals, as Naish does to Warner here, but there was little doubt in 1938 that the Nazis were capable, or even prone, to something as outlandish and cruel.

By Michael Atkinson
Bulldog Drummond In Africa

Bulldog Drummond in Africa

Something like the Jack Ryan or James Bond of an earlier, less cynical day, Bulldog Drummond was an all-purpose British spy hero invented first by pulp writer Cyril "Sapper" McNeile in 1920, in the aftermath of WWI. Like McNeile, Drummond was a Great War veteran, and all too happy to become a gentleman bon vivant in the interbellum years, through innumerable books and, going into WWII and beyond, some 23 programmers, made in either Hollywood or England. Routinely pitted against shady villains with elaborate espionage plots afoot, and nearly always outfitted in either a tuxedo or a silk dressing gown, Drummond was the paradigmatic Brit man of action, calmly capable at all times, always leavened by impish good humor, and never very far from a ready decanter of sherry. Bulldog Drummond in Africa is merely the thirteenth in the series, which spanned 47 years, and it is a fairly typical, unpretentious tissue sample, proceeding without the leading-man star power of earlier entries (Ronald Colman and Ralph Richardson had turns at the role), but also without the self-importance such casting can carry with it. Rather, we get John Howard (most familiar these days as Katherine Hepburn's grumpy fiancee in 1940's The Philadelphia Story), who actually became moviegoers' definitive Bulldog, playing the character seven times over three years. Howard had the perfect measure of likable energy and English cool required, but truth be told, the Bulldog Drummond films were hardly demanding upon anyone, neither their casts, their directors nor their audience. They are a perfect example of factory-made movies intended as pleasant distractions, much as a good deal of television programming is intended today. The difference is that the Bulldog sagas are pleasant - immersive, frothy, speedy, vacation-y, silly in an inoffensive way. Being a low-budget B-movie made on Hollywood backlots, Bulldog Drummond in Africa is something of a quintessence of Hollywood daydreaming - the action moves from London to Morocco, but somehow never leaves the same square acre of Paramount set, an factor that adds to the escapist torque of old B-movies in a way that can only accumulate with the years. ("Africa" here consists almost entirely of a single villa-&-courtyard set, plus a few gendarmes with outrageous Mediterranean accents.) What's more, it's a character-actor murderers' row, with J. Carroll Naish as the slimy spy villain, H.B. Warner as Drummond's Scotland Yard connection (a role he'd reprise in three more films), Reginald Denny as our hero's bumbling war buddy Algy (a total of eight films used him thus), Heather Angel as Drummond's love interest (five Drummond films had her), a young Anthony Quinn as a smooth henchman, and the irrepressible E.E. Clive, who plays Drummond's irreverent manservant Tenny in a total of eight movies, quite possibly the richest single character this iconic actor had in his late-blooming film career. These films, often only whispering over an hour in length, do not waste time. This entry begins with both Drummond and Tenny trapped in their manor house sans trousers - part of Angel's plan to keep the boys safe at home from impromptu adventures so that the scheduled marriage between she and Drummond can finally take place. It doesn't, naturally; soon enough, Naish's disguised creep shows up and kidnaps Warner's toast-dry British detective, eventually spiriting him off to his lavish estate in Morocco, where wild lions are literally chained up in the courtyard, waiting for human meat. In order to investigate the policeman's disappearance, Drummond and Tenny must don plaid throw blankets as impromptu kilts; before long, they're stealing airplanes, flying south, tricking the Moroccan authorities (including Fortunio Bonanova, memorable a few years hence as Susan Kane's frazzled opera coach in Citizen Kane), and infiltrating the evil mastermind's leftover-set digs. It's all delightfully bogus, of course, down to the perennial fake-Britishness so ubiquitous in Hollywood in the '30s, with dialogue sprouting a "...and that sort of thing!" and a "right you are!" every so often. Still, look at the year - you can smell the dread of Germanic ambition all over it, with the villains registering as vaguely Teutonic (even Quinn), and Naish's droll sadist even smoking his cigarette holder between his forefinger and thumb, years before it became a Nazi officer cliche in Hollywood movies during and after the war. All of which simply gives this Bulldog a forward-looking prescience that doesn't rely on memories of WWI, as the earlier series entries did. Instead, the filmmakers (the director was prolific second-stringer Louis King) took what was in the news and hinted at what everyone apparently knew was coming. The Germans of WWI didn't seem to want to feed their opponents to wild animals, as Naish does to Warner here, but there was little doubt in 1938 that the Nazis were capable, or even prone, to something as outlandish and cruel. By Michael Atkinson

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Although the onscreen credits state that Bulldog Drummond in Africa was based on the novel Challenge by H.C. "Sapper" McNeile, the film's plot bears no resemblance to that of the novel. For information on the Bulldog Drummond series, see Series Index and see entries for Bulldog Drummond Escapes and Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in USA on video.

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