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Film / Bulldog Drummond

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Bulldog Drummond is a 1929 film directed by F. Richard Jones and starring Ronald Colman as Drummond. It is the third film adaptation of the Bulldog Drummond novel series and the first talkie Drummond film.

Hugh "Bulldog" Drummond is a former British Army officer who finds himself at loose ends with nothing to do after World War I. Life as an uppercrust Englishman sitting around in a club is so dull for him that he puts out a newspaper advertisement asking for "excitement" of any sort—"Legitimate, if possible, but crime of humorous description, no objection." He receives various weirdo letters, but is finally intrigued by a message from one Phyllis Travers, who describes herself as being in "hideous danger" and begs for his help. Drummond, imagining her to be "dark, voluptuous, and dramatic", takes off immediately.

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He finds that Phyllis (Joan Bennett) is blonde instead of dark, but she's voluptuous and dramatic in spades. Phyllis begs Drummond to help liberate her wealthy uncle, John Travers. Travers is being held in a mysterious asylum, supposedly because he's had a nervous breakdown, but Phyllis believes that he's really being held prisoner by villains after his money. Drummond is about to blow her off as delusional when Travers' menacing, Obviously Evil psychiatrist Dr. Lakington arrives and makes him suspicious. Drummond then sets off to rescue the old man and get the girl in the process.

Bulldog Drummond was the talkie debut for Ronald Colman, who had been a star since he appeared opposite Lillian Gish in The White Sister in 1923. While many silent film stars (Gish, Buster Keaton, John Gilbert, and more) saw their careers torpedoed by sound, the success of this film helped Colman to make a smooth transition, and his career thrived for decades to come.

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Tropes:

  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Travers howls with pain from the torture Dr. Lakington inflicts on him in order to get Travers to sign over his jewels and securities.
  • Cut Phone Lines: Drummond attempts to call for help after the bad guys have arrived at the inn only to find that they've cut the lines.
  • Dark Mistress: Irma, Peterson's lover and partner in crime.
  • Driving a Desk: Amusingly averted when scenes of characters driving at night are shot against a completely black background.
  • Dude, She's Like, in a Coma!: Dr. Lakington feels up a drugged Phyllis. The usually cheerful Drummond (who's tied up) gets very pissed at this and promises to kill Lakington.
  • Gentleman Adventurer: Drummond is wealthy enough to loaf around clubs and then to seek adventure when he gets tired of loafing.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: The maid/serving wench at the inn pretty clearly invites Drummond for sex, asking if there's anything she can do for him, and saying "Oh" with disappointment when Drummond tells her he'll only need sheets for one of the twin beds in his room.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Irma, Peterson's lover and Femme Fatale sidekick, is ostentatiously puffing on a cigarette througout the film.
  • High-Class Glass: The snobby aristocrat complaining about noise in the club in the opening scene wears one. Drummond's Bumbling Sidekick Algy also wears one, although Algy is egalitarian in outlook.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Drummond is perched on a skylight atop the villains' lair. He wishes to shoot the light out, so he aims his pistol and fires. The bullet goes through the glass window and through the lampshade and hits the lightbulb.
  • Invulnerable Knuckles: Algy winces and shakes his hand after punching a Mook. Of course, that's because he's the Bumbling Sidekick comic relief; Drummond really does have invulnerable knuckles.
  • Kubrick Stare: Dr. Lakington does this during his Obviously Evil entrance.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Drummond hears Phyllis's story and says "You must admit it's rather like a penny thriller." This film, of course, is an adaptation of a penny thriller.
  • Moment Killer: Algy bumbles his way in not once but twice as Drummond is about to kiss Phyllis.
  • Upper-Class Twit: Poor Algy is well-meaning but just could not be dumber. After all the murder and mayhem at the "hospital", with Irma being exposed as a remorseless criminal, Algy is still asking for her phone number.
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