Archive for August, 2009

50 Movie Comedy Classics Disc 9

Posted in Movies and TV on August 13th, 2009

The Over-the-Hill Gang, 1969, color. Jean Yarbrough (dir.), Walter Brennan, Edgar Buchanan, Andy Devine, Jack Elam, Gypsy Rose Lee, Ricky Nelson (and Kristen Nelson), Pat O’Brien, Chill Wills, Edward Andrews. 1:15 [1:10].

Age and guile beat youth and speed every time—one lesson from this charming lightweight western. A retired Texas Ranger goes to visit his son (Ricky Nelson!), the crusading newspaper editor of a corrupt Nevada town who’s running for mayor against the boss (who owns the local saloon/casino and runs the sheriff and judge). When he sees how bad the situation is, he calls for his squad—three other truly over-the-hill ex-Texas Rangers, but also a squad of Hollywood’s elder stars.

Fun, funny, with an interesting plot and a truly stellar cast. I probably saw this when it first aired and enjoyed it thoroughly again. The sound’s off a bit at times and it is, after all, a TV movie, cutting this to $1.75.

The Over-the-Hill Gang Rides Again, 1970, color. George McGowan (dir.), Walter Brennan, Fred Astaire, Edgar Buchanan, Andy Devine, Chill Wills. 1:15.

This sequel is set in Waco, where an ex-Texas Ranger named the Baltimore Kid has supposedly been arrested and is in danger of being lynched. The three “others” from the previous film ride off to Waco (precluding the near-immediate wedding of one of them), only to find the Kid’s already been lynched…and the newspaper editor is the deposed judge from Boulder (turned good guy, apparently).

Turns out the Baltimore Kid’s not so much dead (somebody stole his wallet) as trying to preserve himself several drinks at a time…and the plot moves on from there. Once again, it’s age and guile vs. speed and stupidity. While some of the stellar cast from the original is missing, there’s one magnificent addition—Fred Astaire, the Baltimore Kid, in a great turn both as hopeless drunk and as spiffed-up marshal. The print’s odd, with some color shifts and sound problems. Still, an easy $1.50.

Angel on My Shoulder, 1946, b&w. Archie Mayo (dir.), Paul Muni, Anne Baxter, Claude Rains. 1:40 [1:30].

A second-rate hood, Eddie Kagel, gets out of the joint after a four-term term. His sidekick, who’s been running his operation, picks him up and gives him back his gun—or at least four bullets’ worth. We’re then treated to a fairly long slice of a fairly impressive Hell, whose overlord really never does feel quite warm enough. Nicky (or Mephistopheles if you prefer) spots Kagel’s resemblance to a Good Judge and gubernatorial candidate who’s a little too good for Nicky’s taste—and is aware that Kagel wants nothing more than revenge on his sidekick.

The plot’s afoot. They arise; Kagel occupies Judge Parker’s body; and somehow all Nicky’s evil plans backfire… It’s not exactly a laugh-a-minute comedy, but it’s quite a picture, particularly Kagel’s interactions with the judge’s fiancée (Anne Baxter), a fine upstanding girl, and his butler—neither of whom quite understands his new speech patterns. Claude Rains is suave and effective as Nick. Well played and a good print, this really is a classic. Unfortunately, the sound track’s noisy (and ten minutes are missing), reducing this to $1.75.

Eternally Yours, 1939, b&w. Tay Garnett (dir.), Loretta Young, David Niven, Hugh Herbert, Billie Burke, C. Aubrey Smith, Zasu Pitts, Broderick Crawford, Eve Arden. 1:35 [1:29].

An engaged young woman (Young), granddaughter of a minister (Smith), goes from her shower to a show—at which she falls instantly (and mutually) for Arturo (Niven), a magician. Abandoning her man, she goes off with the magician—getting married and going on a world tour. She’s not thrilled by the lipstick on his collar and even less by his tendency to try dangerous stunts—but finally leaves him because he never wants to settle down, and she does.

She divorces him (in Reno), he falls apart, tries to find her…and, well, the rest of the plot includes a cruise, an on-board marriage, and another example of the heroine’s attitude toward men who love her but aren’t Arturo. Sorry if that’s cynical, but I was less than enthralled by this woman’s attitude toward every other man. Certainly well-acted, great cast, and the print’s OK but the soundtrack’s noisy. I’ll give it $1.50.

Monday, old, and insufficiently paranoid

Posted in Media, Writing and blogging on August 10th, 2009

Which is to say:

  • It’s Monday as I write this, with all that implies.
  • I’m not that old, but possibly calmer–or just slower–than when I was a mere child of, say, 55.
  • And, responding to the Oh Noo! FaceBook Acquired FriendFeed! We’re Dooooomed! comments (and the news itself), I find that I’m insufficiently paranoid.

In other words, I’m not looking to flee FriendFeed just yet. (Yes, I have a FaceBook account–and yes, I have a lot more “friends” on FaceBook than I have followers on FriendFeed: that’s the way things go. Also, yes, I treat FaceBook with considerable caution, ignoring every cause/gift/thingie invitation…and probably spend more than ten times as much time on FF as on FB.)

Why so calm?

Because I don’t see the point of panic at this stage of the game, and I’m too tired to panic anyway.
After all, I haven’t spent a dime on FF. Sure, there’s “original content” there–probably hundreds of comments and posts that don’t appear anywhere else. None of which amounts to much in the grand scheme of things, or even in my odd little web universe.
The “maybe the sky’s just a little overcast, not falling” story–that is, that FB’s mostly buying FF for its talent and can readily afford to just leave FF alone–makes sense. And, you know, FF serves as a nice escape hatch for FB users who become overwhelmed with the glitz and sheer mass of FB. It probably doesn’t cost a lot to keep going, and I suspect a few modest little ads wouldn’t disturb users that much.
FB says they have no plans to shut FF down. Do I take them at their word?
Not necessarily–but if not, then what? Do I rush out to join another social medium (there are plenty to choose from)? Been there, done that, generally wasn’t pleased with the results–but times and social media change. Do I rush away from FF because I think it’s going away anyway? Why? How would my leaving somehow benefit me or avoid damage if FF does go away? It’s not like being a passenger in a car crash, after all…
Of course, that’s just me. Maybe for you, this is terrible, horrible news that requires major action right now. (Or maybe you’ve never heard of FF anyway–I think one reason it may work better is because it only has a million or so users.) In which case, if you’re one of the six dozen or so who I directly follow, well, I might miss you…but then, maybe you’ll start blogging again, and that might not be a bad thing.
And if you’re about to write a post saying “FriendFeed is dead…” ah, but that’s another post–or, rather, a magazine column, and it’s one I’m working on. (No, FriendFeed doesn’t appear in the title. The column should appear in December.)

Library blogs and the curiosity penalty

Posted in Cites & Insights, Liblogs on August 8th, 2009

The most recent post, announcing Cites & Insights 9:10, noted that I might have additional comments about some of the essays in this issue. This is one of those comments…discussing the two related Perspectives that make up about two-thirds of the issue, namely “Public Library Blogs: A Limited Update” and “Academic Library Blogs: A Limited Update.”

If I did Cites & Insights on a strictly rational basis, those two Perspectives would never have appeared. In the time required to do the research (such as it was) and prepare the articles, I could have written two other articles that would probably be more fun to write and attract more readers–and have time left over for pleasure reading and the like.

If I did Cites & Insights on a strictly rational basis, I wouldn’t do Cites & Insights–and particularly not when sponsorship goes away at the end of this year. I manage our checkbook and check our accounts on a strictly rational basis; otherwise, not so much.

Why not?

Well, let’s see:

  • The book-length studies done in 2007 didn’t attract many paying readers. Between them, I’d say I probably earned out about $3 or $4 an hour for the time required to do them. That’s miserable return–matched by simply not reaching very far or attracting much attention.
  • When I published the study portion of the two studies, in the May 2009 Cites & Insights, the results still didn’t reach all that many people. I track issue downloads and HTML pageviews every few months, maintaining a spreadsheet for long-term readership (at least since 2002). I know that, other than certain Hot Topics, issue and article readership starts out at a few hundred over the first week or two and grows over time; after four or five months, there’s usually some sense of whether an article or issue is hot or cold. Most full issues have at least 800 downloads after the first three months; most essays (adding HTML pageviews and PDF downloads for the issue) reach 1,100 or so at that point. But not these–so far, there are fewer than 397 issue downloads and the two essays show gross totals of 804 (academic) and 769 (public) respectively, lower than any other articles except the Bibs & Blather in the same issue (and the articles uploaded yesterday).
  • OK, so 804 is a whole lot better than the 45 books sold, and 769 is a whole lot better than 85 books sold–in terms of reach, that is. But the latter figures, and the general lack of any inbound links suggests that nobody much cares about this stuff.
  • Admittedly, I find official library blogs a whole lot less interesting than liblogs (blogs by library-related people), maybe because I’m not in a library. And I really didn’t have any grand hypotheses regarding changes in library blogs.

Curiosity…

I had the spreadsheets with the URLs. I knew that a simpler study–just looking at one month’s posts, not tracking post length, not looking for a wider array of blogs–wouldn’t take that much time.

Yes, I’ve posted about that already.

The issue’s out. I’ve satisfied my curiosity. There weren’t any grand hypotheses going into the lateral study, so perhaps it’s not surprising that there are no grand conclusions coming out of it. The spreadsheets, such as they are, are available for others to work with. I’m done. Really.

I would say “at least now I know,” but the extent to which library blogs reappear under new URLs makes me wonder just what I know. I’m fairly sure of the following:

  • Some library blogs that were in good shape in 2007 are still in good shape in 2009.
  • Depending on your definition of “in good shape” as regards post frequency, “some” means somewhere between 37% and 51% of public library blogs studied and somewhere between 42% and 60% of academic library blogs.
  • Very few library blogs get lots of comments; most get none at all. That was true in 2007; it’s true in 2009. It shouldn’t surprise anybody.
  • Nobody has solid metrics for what constitutes a “successful” library blog–much less external metrics. (I don’t know how many subscribers or pageviews a blog has, unless it’s one of mine–and even a library probably doesn’t know how many of those subscribers and pageviews come from the library’s own community.)

…and more curiosity

But what about the really big project, The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008?

It covers a lot more ground: 607 blogs. It offers a lot more detail, since it already includes a lateral look (comparing March-May 2007 with March-May 2008). To me, at least, it’s inherently more interesting, as it’s dealing with a universe of gray publishing on library issues (and other stuff) by some of the best and most interesting writers in the field. The book is, I believe, far more intelligently designed.

So far, the book’s sold a little better than Academic Library Blogs: 231 Examples–but not much. It hasn’t been out as long, and I haven’t given up yet, but…

On the other hand, the “freebie” version–Cites & Insights 9:7, June 2009, the longest issue of C&I produced to date–has pretty decent readership for a young issue, particularly given that it’s only available in PDF form (the graphs just didn’t translate to Word-provided HTML very well). I don’t doubt that, over the next year or two, it will reach a four-figure audience.

On the gripping hand, updating that project would be a lot more work. So far, I haven’t quite scoped out how I could do an update in a reasonable amount of time (“reasonable” given that I’ll assume little if any direct revenue resulting from the work).

But it’s a hard one to give up, especially given the amount of public discussion–on blogs, on FriendFeed, probably elsewhere–about changes in blogging (liblogging and otherwise) this year. Unfortunately, to inform that discussion, I can’t just do a quick’n’dirty update; I’d need to measure post length as well as frequency and comments, and would probably need to use a full quarter for comparison, not just a month.

The curiosity is there. The energy? I’m not sure. Right now, I’m just posting this…and, of course, encouraging you to go read the results of those mini-updates.

For the techies among you: This is also my first test of posting to this iteration of Walt at Random from Word2007′s “blog post” feature.

Cites & Insights 9:10 (September 2009) available

Posted in Cites & Insights on August 7th, 2009

Cites & Insights 9:10 (September 2009) is now available.

This 28-page issue includes the results of two followup “research” projects and a certain amount of summer silliness. The issue is PDF. While three of the four essays are available in HTML form (as links from the essay titles below), I really don’t recommend viewing either of the research projects that way–they’re heavy on tables, and it’s fair to say that Word’s HTML converter was overzealous in its preparation of tables: They may or may not look very good, and they result in quarter-megabyte downloads. The PDF version is much easier to read…

Here’s what’s in the issue–and yes, some of the “regular” features may return soon:

Perspective: Public Library Blogs: A Limited Update

I looked at May 2009 posts and comments, and the most recent post prior to May 31, 2009, for all of the public library blogs in the book Public Library Blogs: 252 Examples (based on blog activity March-May 2007). This update considers currency, frequency, comments and conversational intensity and how those have changed from 2007 to 2009–and includes brief notes on pioneer blogs and some of the blogs I found particularly intriguing. (The HTML is large and may not look all that great.) With this update, my work on these blogs is complete–and the spreadsheet’s yours for the taking, if you’re so inclined.

Offtopic Perspective: Alfred Hitchcock: The Legend Begins

I didn’t buy this 4-disc, 20-movie (actually 18 movies, two TV episodes, and a great hour’s worth of trailers); I received it as a gift. The usual little reviews on a bunch of movies that you might find unusual if you only know the Hollywood Hitchcock.

Perspective: Academic Library Blogs: A Limited Update

Similar to the public library blogs update noted above, this looks at currency (prior to May 31, 2009), posting frequency, comments and conversational intensity for May 2009 of the same 231 academic library blogs included in Academic Library Blogs: 231 Examples–or as many of those blogs as I could still easily find. The discussion includes brief notes on pioneers and some of the standout blogs in 2007–how they’re doing in 2009. Again, this ends my work in this area; the resulting spreadsheet is yours for the taking.

My Back Pages

As usual, this section is a “print bonus”–it’s only available in the full-issue PDF. That’s particularly relevant for one of the eight little essays in this section (discussing the typeface that spawned a worldwide movement to ban it). For those who’ve felt My Back Pages spent too much virtual ink on audio matters: Only the two shortest of these eight commentaries have anything to do with audio, and in one case that connection is a stretch.

That’s it for this issue–which, as Whole Issue 120, would have been the final issue of C&I’s first decade if I’d stuck to the original frequency.

Meanwhile, do note that Public Library Blogs: 252 Examples (currently available as a download from Lulu or a trade paperback from Amazon/CreateSpace) will go out of print and off sale on or about September 1, 2009. Academic Library Blogs: 231 Examples will probably follow, a month later.

Just a little mini-study: How long could that take?

Posted in Books and publishing, Writing and blogging on August 4th, 2009

It was easy to decide not to turn my 2007 studies of public library blogs and academic library blogs into lateral studies (by doing another study a year later, or two years later, and seeing how blogging had changed)–the books didn’t do well, I concluded that my concept for them wasn’t sound (or at least didn’t excite the marketplace), and even when I published the core findings for free, readership for that issue of Cites & Insights was down.

But still…

I wondered how these 483 blogs were doing, at least at an overall level.
So I thought I’d do mini-studies. How long could that take? I already had the spreadsheets with URLs and 2007 figures. If I limited the mini-study to some simple facts–

  • Whether the blog was still active
  • The most recent post on or before a set date (I used May 31, 2009)–that is, the interval
  • How many posts there were in May 2009
  • How many comments there were on May 2009 posts

and the readily-derivable figures (changes in post frequency, changes in comment frequency, conversational intensity [comments over posts] and changes in conversational intensity)…well, I thought I could do the fact checking in five hours or so for each half and write up the results in another five hours or so. Better yet, I could add brief notes on some of the more interesting blogs (and where they were now) in an hour or two more.
That would bring a form of closure to the library blog study experiment, and maybe make it a little more worthwhile.

So that’s what I did

And, indeed, it did take about five hours to do each of the two sets of fact checks.
Writing them up? A little longer–partly because some of the formulas for derivative metrics are a little tricky in Excel. (E.g., for changes in conversational intensity, where there may be no comments in 2007 or no comments in 2009, the Excel formula involves some fancy IF nesting to avoid division by zero or other fun stuff–especially because “none in 2007 and some in 2009″ should yield an entirely different result from “some in 2007 and none in 2009.”)
But I was getting there…or was I?

The URLs, they are a-changing…

I knew there would be changed URLs. Aren’t there always? If an old blog had a link to a new one, I’d follow the link (and change the spreadsheet). But what if there was no such link? Did that mean the blog had died–or that the library hadn’t bothered to link the old to the new?
I’d done some quick blog-title searches along the way, mostly yielding no results. But when I was writing comments on “intriguing” public library blogs, I was finding ones that had disappeared…only they hadn’t really, if I’d just search hard enough. And, of course, once you find a blog that wasn’t picked up in the fact-checking part, that changes the spreadsheet, which may change the quintiles, which…

Pushing toward completion

Here’s where things stand now, I believe:

  • It may not be harder than it looks, but it was harder than I expected.
  • The Public Library Blogs article is as good as it’s going to get. It will be in the September 2009 Cites & Insights (out some time in the next two weeks, with luck). I believe it’s pretty much correct (it’s hard to type with crossed fingers).
  • The Academic Library Blogs article is “done”–but part of me wants to go back and search for some of the missing blogs a little further. Which, if I find them, would mean redoing much of the article. And, frankly, I’m not sure how much that would mean. That article will be in the September C&I also…I’m just not sure whether I need to work on it some more.

I will post both spreadsheets on my website once the issue comes out, with an open invitation for library schools or crazy people to use them as the basis for further study…ideally crediting me for the early work, but certainly not with any restrictive licensing. (Technically, this is all facts anyway…and as such, not copyrightable.)
Then I’ll look at getting back to some regular essays and deciding what to do about liblogs, where I really do want to continue studying the situation, despite the book’s relatively awful sales…

Thanks

And I really do want to thank readers and others for the clear response to this post and the FriendFeed equivalent. I could easily have spent a couple of hundred hours preparing that project…and at this point, doing it “for the greater glory of librarianship” just doesn’t feel right. Increasingly, I feel as though the libraries that could use the results most (those where local book publishing projects would particularly enrich the community) wouldn’t–either because they wouldn’t know about it or because those who knew about it wouldn’t think it was worthwhile. In which case, why bother?

End of August

By the way: Public Library Blogs: 252 Examples will go offsale at the end of August 2009. If you want a copy, now’s the time to get it. (Thanks to a huge surge of sales of Academic Library Blogs: 231 Examples in July–that is, one copy sold–that one will be available at least through September 2009.)


Postscript, 8/5/09: I did go back and search for some of the missing academic library blogs…and after an hour or so of that, concluded that it wasn’t worth the effort. (I wasn’t coming up with anything new and it was taking far too long to determine that.)
No broad study of blogs can be 100% accurate, for a variety of reasons. I’ll edit and publish this mini-study as it is, possible warts and all.
Oh, and a pre-reference to the claim in the paragraph above. At least one liblogger makes a practice of deleting posts, after they’ve appeared and without notice. A study that includes that blog will show erroneous results. That’s just one example; there are many others.
Overall trends? You can get those pretty well, and I’ll argue that my studies show more about library-related blogs than anything else out there. Precise numbers? Somehow, precision and social media don’t mix very well…

Mystery Collection Disc 1

Posted in Movies and TV on August 2nd, 2009

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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