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Bulldog Drummond is injured when his sabotaged car crashes and Jack Pennington agrees to masquerade as the sleuth. He is enlisted to help Ann Manders find her jeweler grandfather who has been kidnapped by a gang of crooks who want him to copy a valuable necklace they want to steal. Their plan backfires in the British Museum and the film climaxes in an exciting chase on a runaway train in the London Underground. Written by
Herman Seifer <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Released in the U.S. as 'Alias Bulldog Drummond', Bulldog Jack is just about the only one of a long series of patriotic Jack Hulbert comedies to survive the test of time and still be entertaining without being somewhat alien today.
The past is another country, so they say, and this piece of the past seems to have another London Underground system.
The film is very ably directed by Walter Forde, the former silent comedian who directed Rome Express and three other Hulbert comedies. It has a witty script by J.O.C. Orton, Sidney Gilliat and Gerard Fairlie, worked humorously around the serious 'Sapper' characters created by H.C. McNeile.
There is some gorgeous early film noir photography by Mutz Greenbaum on excellent sets of the British Museum and tunnels and an abandoned station on London's 'Central' Underground Line built at the Gaumont British studios at Shepherd's Bush (which just happened to be on the Central Line).
They changed the names of stations in the film to fictitious ones (though, oddly, later expansion of the real Central Line adopted two of the station names from the film) but there was a genuine closed 'Museum' station (called Bloomsbury in the film) which I can remember seeing the abandoned platforms of while passing from Tottenham Court Road to Holborn on the Central Line back in the '60s. It's not visible now. I've looked.
However, the idea for the film is said to have come from writer J.O.C. Orton noticing the abandoned Brompton Road station on the Piccadilly Line. Still, there are such a lot of abandoned stations in London that it could have been any one of them.
The film is remarkable for an incredibly eccentric performance by Ralph Richardson in the role of the master criminal Morelle, and as being the first of a number of British films that American star Fay Wray appeared in without ever being asked to scream once. In this film she looks simply beautiful - as ever - in some very beautiful clothes not suited at all to adventures in elevator shafts and tunnels. But her clothes never seem to get dirty once which is how it should be.
There is also amusingly able support from Jack Hulbert's brother Claude as bumbling upper-class twit Algy Longworth - a role he seemed born for with his cartoon mouth and flappy ears.
In part we have to thank producer Michael Balcon for the film being so watchable today as he was the only British producer at the time inclined to apply high production values to comedies.
But we must also thank German expatriate Alfred Junge, who had designed for British silent classic Piccadilly, and who would go on to work with Powell and Pressburger on The Canterbury Tale, Colonel Blimp and A Matter of Life and Death (US title: Stairway to Heaven).
His stunning work is really only let down by the occasional use of models which are a little less than convincing but quite acceptable in the spirit of a very silly film which abandons reality fairly early on.
It is perhaps best to see this film in its very crisp Super 8 version, which, at only one hour long, disposes of the tedious, unfunny and dated dialogue scenes at the beginning of the full feature to leap right into the action with an impressive and dangerous accident on The Devil's Bend.
The somewhat aboriginal fight scene in the British Museum is beautifully crafted and well worth seeing, and I am still pondering over how many takes there must have been to get the boomerangs to perform precisely as well as they did.
The film has a very exciting climax on the Central Line (which at the time hadn't extended quite as far west as the film takes it) but I shall not spoil the ending for you by saying any more than that.
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