Mystery Collection Disc 1

This one’s a little different. Most of these discs are from 12-disc, 50-movie collections. The Mystery Collection includes 250 movies on 60 DVDs, essentially combining five of the 50-movie sets that have no overlap. (How “essentially”? I was missing one disc and it was replaced with a disc from another collection; the logo on the first disc is the old TreeLine rather than the new Mill Creek, so these aren’t even necessarily new pressings.) Assuming I keep watching old movies (not currently while treadmilling) and doing these silly little review roundups, I’ll be doing ten C&I segments on the Mystery Collection (one for each six discs)—and, with luck, should be done in about five years (since I alternate discs between two collections for variety).

Disc 1

This disc includes six hour-long movies, all part of the Bulldog Drummond series; these movies also appear in the early Mystery Classics pack (and the Mystery Classics 100-movie pack). There’s one mild problem with these, seen at this late date: Without the background of the original Bulldog Drummond (the books or the 1929 film with Ronald Colman—there’s also a 1922 version with Carlyle Blackwell and a 1952 version with Robert Beatty), one feels as though one’s been dropped into the middle of an existing story. While there were more than two dozen movies with Captain (or Colonel or Major) Hugh “Bulldog” Drummond as a character and more than a dozen actors portraying Drummond, John Howard—who plays Drummond in five of these six flicks—had the longest run, with seven in all.

Bulldog Drummond’s Revenge, 1937, b&w. Louis King (dir.), John Barrymore, John Howard, Louise Campbell, Reginald Denny, E.E. Clive, Frank Puglia. 0:57.

Bulldog Drummond is out to marry his fiancée, Phyllis Claverling, taking a train from London to Dover and then (on a ferry) across the English Channel in order to do so. His pal Algy Longworth and his former boss, Colonel Neilson (Barrymore), should be there for the wedding.

But things get in the way. Drummond, taking a shortcut back to his estate, sees a valise parachuting down from the sky…and it’s accompanied by (and chained to) a severed arm. The valise contains a new high explosive…and the mystery is on. Lots of train scenes (some of them train-on-a-boat scenes for extra interest), mistaken identities, humor, action…well, by the end of it Phyllis is no longer so intent on Drummond settling down, and a good time has been had by all.

Well-played and charming. As a sub-hour B-movie, it’s good, but can’t quite get more than $1.00.

Bulldog Drummond Escapes, 1937, b&w. James P. Hogan (dir.), Ray Milland, Guy Standing, Heather Angel, Reginald Denny, Porter Hall, Fay Holden, E.E. Clive. 1:07.

Mysteriouser and mysteriouser. The sleeve description for this episode has a different Drummond, Ray Milland, once again rescuing his kidnapped fiancée Phyllis Claverling—but as I understand the movie, Drummond has never met Claverling at the start of the movie (but they’re engaged by its end). Misdirection from Col. Neilson, houses with secret passages, spunky heroine—lots of good stuff. I was going to say it seems implausible that Drummond and Claverling would fall so rapidly in love (essentially getting engaged the same day they meet), but, well, I’ve been there (and still am 31.5 years later) so it’s clearly possible.

Nicely done, but the print’s a mess and the sound’s worse, reducing this to $0.75.

Bulldog Drummond in Africa, 1938, b&w. Louis King (dir.), John Howard, Heather Angel, H.B. Warner, J. Carrol Naish, Reginald Denny, E.E. Clive, Anthony Quinn. 0:58.

Back to the apparently normal pattern: Bulldog Drummond ready to wed Phyllis Claverling until Something Terrible Interferes. This one’s played for laughs at first, with Drummond and his Man both pantsless and without funds to make sure they don’t go anywhere (and dancing around in improvised kilts), Phyllis, Col. Neilson and Algy all on their way to put wedding in motion—when Neilson is kidnapped and, you got it, flown off to Africa.

We get more indication of just how wealthy Drummond is—he goes chasing them off to Africa in his own private multipassenger plane (we already knew he had an estate). We also get corrupt Morrocan police, “pet” lions and plenty of action. Interesting: Phyllis this time is the same actress as in Escapes (with a different Drummond) but not the same as in Revenge); Nielsen’s a different actor from time to time; but Reginald Denny and E.E. Clive (Algy and Drummond’s man ‘Tenny’ Tennison) are constants. The young (23 year old) Anthony Quinn is impressive as a henchman, although the part’s not huge—and, of course, J. Carrol Naish does a fine job as a suave villain. Fun, but the print’s not very good. Still, worth $1.00.

Bulldog Drummond’s Secret Police, 1939, b&w. James P. Hogan (dir.), John Howard, Heather Angel, H.B. Warner, Reginald Denny, E.E. Clive, Elizabeth Pattern, Leo G. Carroll, Forrester Harvey. 0:56.

This one really should be at the end of Side 2, as it’s later than the others and includes clips from some of them. This time, dear Phyllis is accompanied by a cranky aunt who thinks she should dump Drummond anyway—and, while all is set for the wedding, suddenly there’s a classic absent-minded professor who believes there’s hidden treasure in Drummond’s estate. Add in a new butler (not replacing Tenny—in this case, the butler is not in charge), played by Leo Carroll, who isn’t what he seems to be, a maze of hidden passages in the largely-unused tower set to be the wedding scene, and we have another Drummond romp.

Oh, and this time it’s clearly Algy’s enthusiastic incompetence that prevents the wedding from actually happening. He’s fun, but he’s a thorough idjit. Lots of physical comedy, just enough Peril, more killings than usual by a great villain. The “secret police”? Well, local police do play a role in this one, but there’s nothing secret about them. I guess they needed a title. Good print. I’ll give it $1.00.

Bulldog Drummond Comes Back, 1937, b&w. Louis King (dir.), John Barrymore, John Howard, Louise Campbell, Reginald Denny, E.E. Clive, J. Carrol Naish, Helen Freeman. 1:04 [0:57].

The plot, apart from Drummond’s friends gathering once again for that impending marriage: An old villain, Mikhail Valdin (J. Carrol Naish again, nowhere near so suave but in league with a woman seeking revenge for Drummond sending her husband to the gallows), has kidnapped Phyllis and sends Drummond on a complex chase to solve clues, frequently provided as one-off phonograph records.

Hmm. That’s really about it. Oh, Neilsen (back to John Barrymore) takes delight in impersonating a grizzled old fisherman and even more grizzled old something else; Algy almost manages to put an end to all this by trying to light a cigarette in a room filling with gas; Algy’s married (which he didn’t seem to be in a later flick) and it’s time to christen his son; and “Tenny” Tennison is as ever a wealth of good sense. One item that seems to validate Bulldog Drummond Escapes: Tennison expresses doubts as to the advisability of the marriage, and Drummond asks whether it’s because he proposed to the woman only an hour after meeting her. Poor print (and seven minutes’ missing footage) reduces this one to $0.75.

Bulldog Drummond’s Peril, 1938, b&w. James P. Hogan (dir.), John Barrymore, John Howard, Louise Campbell, Reginald Denny, E.E. Clive. 1:06.

A little different, although not much. This one’s partly set (supposedly) in Switzerland, at Phyllis’ family villa, and the couple are inspecting all the “loot” that’s coming in (wedding gifts). The latest piece of loot is a big, beautiful diamond—one created artificially by Algy’s father-in-law. One of the wedding guests is head of the British arm of the diamond cartel…and the plot’s afoot.

Much of this plot depends on an assumption that American scientists—or at least one American scientist—are amoral villains only in it for the money. Thus we have the noble Brit, perfectly willing to destroy the diamond industry with his huge, nearly-free-to-make diamonds (that somehow emerge as fully-cut multifaceted gems with one casual strike of a mallet to the crude original) and who won’t take money to suppress the invention—versus the evil American who wants control of the formula so he can sell it to the cartel for a substantial fortune. There is an interesting bullwhip-vs.-sword fight (naturally, the amoral American scientist is an expert with a bullwhip), and Tennison riding an early motorcycle is fun.

Otherwise, it’s just another “almost but not quite married” B-film in the mildly entertaining series. Not a great print, and I can’t give it more than $0.75.

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