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This little-known 1947 Columbia feature, one of two featuring Australian actor Ron Randell as Bulldog Drummond, is a very good mystery that should be seen by any fan of 40s detective films. Randell is perfect for the role of Captain Hugh Drummond, as he is both charming and tough. Columbia always made a solid series detective film (their Whistler and Boston Blackie series come to mind), and this one has a good plot that will have the viewer guessing until the end, fast pacing, solid supporting performances, and no slow or boring passages. The plot, involving two different women who both claim to be a missing heir, allows for a good deal of dramatic tension, and overall this is a wonderful discovery. It's a better film than either of the Drummond films made the year after with Tom Conway in the role of Drummond (Conway was fine, but the films were a bit creaky and slow-moving).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
And I say "surprisingly", because it came late in the series, and it stars Ron Randell, whose first shot at the role ("Bulldog Drummond At Bay") was a film so forgettable that I have already forgotten it although I watched it two days ago! This one, however, is probably better than ALL the John Howard films of the late 1930s and may actually be the best entry in a decade! The chief reason for this is a good plot: unlike most Drummond films, where we know who the villains are from the beginning or the middle, this one is a legitimate mystery that keeps you guessing right up to the last minute, and has you constantly revising your guess: first you think that THIS is the real Ellen Curtis (heiress of a large estate), then THAT one, then THIS, then THAT....and so on. Or, to put it in Algy's words, "How can I tell who is telling the truth when they both look so pretty?". The direction is standard, but the cast is solid; these B films often rely on little-known actors who are, nevertheless, underrated and professional. **1/2 out of 4.
This is the eighteenth Bulldog Drummond film, and bears the same title as the 1934 film with Ronald Colman as Drummond, but the two films have no story in common at all despite the same title. This was the second of two postwar Drummond films made by Columbia with the Australian Ron Randell playing Drummond. Having shot down five Jap fighter planes in the War, Randell may have seemed a macho choice for the role. But he has a strangely effete manner and you half expect to see him entering a gay club in between bouts of detecting. His chum Algy Longworth is played insipidly by Patrick O'Moore, but as there is nothing for him either in the script or the role, one cannot really blame O'Moore for being uninteresting. There is no Commissioner Neilson, but there is an Inspector McIver, who is annoyingly played by Holmes Herbert. There is a very good Inspector Sanderson played by Carl Harbord, but he gets killed off early on. Wilton Graff is effective as the lawyer Mason, a mixture of being unctuous and commanding. The film is really a very good detective film, if you just forget about it being supposed to be a Bulldog Drummond film. There is no valet, and without a valet, where is the true Drummond anyway? Randell plays the role as someone just hauling himself laboriously out of the lower middle class, so there is no trace of the aristocratic Drummond with a manor house and a gentleman's club left in the 1947 'workers unite' atmosphere of the aftermath of the second War. It is all supposed to be set in England, but that fools no one. The story is a good one of fake heirs and heiresses of fortunes popping up because so many documents were destroyed in the Blitz that anybody and everybody is having a go at claiming unclaimed fortunes, and there is a criminal ring organising fake applications. There are two girls in the film both claiming to be Ellen Curtiss, heiress to a fortune. Each has a birth certificate and a confident smile. They can't both be the girl, so which one is real? The two Ellens are both played very well indeed by Gloria Henry and Annabel Shaw. One is as winsome as the other. You just don't know which dimple is genuine. One minute you think it's this one, the next minute you think it's that one. This goes far down the double-identity route, to great effect. There is a nanny who claims to recognise one, but is she lying? There is an uncle who claims to recognise the other one, but is he lying because he was 'cut off without a shilling'? This is a real goodie, just try not to notice Ron and Pat trying to pretend to be Bulldog and Algy, as their hearts are not in it anyway. This simply a good yarn, well done, and we should enjoy it without worrying too much about its pedigree. Think mongrel!
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