Watching 1939: Bulldog Drummond’s Secret Police (1939)

In 2011, I announced I was trying to see every film released in 1939. This new series chronicles films released in 1939 as I watch them. As we start out this blog feature, this section may become more concrete as I search for a common thread that runs throughout each film of the year. Right now, that’s difficult. 

1939 film: 
Bulldog Drummond’s Secret Police (1939)

Release date: 
March 24, 1939, in the UK
March 29, 1939, in the US

John Howard, Heather Angel, H.B. Warner, Reginald Denny, E. E. Clive, Elizabeth Patterson, Leo G. Carroll (billed as Leo Carroll), Forrester Harvey, Elspeth Dudgeon

Paramount Pictures

James P. Hogan

After several failed attempts, Bulldog Drummond (Howard) and his girlfriend Phyllis (Angel) are finally getting married; traveling to an old family mansion in Rockingham for the occasion. However, their nuptial efforts are thwarted when Drummond is informed by guest Professor Downie (Harvey) that there is a fortune buried somewhere on the estate. While he’s curious about finding the money, so is everyone else. In the process, guests are killed as someone inside the house is trying to get the money.

1939 Notes:
• One of two Bulldog Drummond films released in 1939. This was released before Bulldog Drummond’s Bride (1939), where Drummond and Phyllis Clavering are finally married.
• By the numbers:
– John Howard was in five films released in 1939, and he performed as Bulldog Drummond in two of the films.
– Heather Angel was in three films released in 1939; two of which she performed as Phyllis Clavering in Bulldog Drummond films.
– Reginald Denny was in three films released in 1939. He performed as Algy Longworth in two films in Bulldog Drummond films.
– Elizabeth Patterson was in six films released in 1939.
– Leo G. Carroll was in five films released in 1939. Carroll was billed as “Leo Carroll” in this film.
– E. E. Clive was in 12 films released in 1939.
– H.B. Warner was in seven films released in 1939.
– Forrester Harvey was in five films released in 1939.

H.B. Warner, John Howard and Heather Angel in “Bulldog Drummond’s Secret Police”

Other trivia: 
• This film is based on the novel “Temple Tower” by H. C. McNeile.
• A version of this Bulldog Drummond novel was made into a film in 1930 under the title “Temple Tower” (like the novel) and starring Kenneth MacKenna and Marceline Day.
• Scenes from Bulldog Drummond in Africa (1938) are used in Bulldog’s dream sequence.

My review: Searching for the “1939 feature”:
From 1922 to 1969, gentleman adventurer and amateur detective Bulldog Drummond graced the silver screen in various adventures.

And from 1937 to 1939, Paramount Pictures showcased the character originated by H. C. McNeile. John Howard portrayed Drummond in seven of the Paramount films and Ray Milland in one of the films.

In this second to last in the Paramount installment, Drummond and his sweetheart Phyllis, played by Heather Angel, are once again heading to the alter but are once again interrupted by another adventure.

This time, Drummond, Phyllis and Phyllis’s Aunt Blanche (Elizabeth Patterson) head outside London to a mansion in Rockingham for the occasion. They are met by their usual sidekicks Algy Longworth (Reginald Denny), Tenny (E.E. Clive) and Colonel Nielson (H.B. Warner). Another guest is the eccentric Professor Downie (Forrester Harvey), who disturbs the occasion by telling Drummond that there is a treasure in the old mansion. Some unexpected guests also search for the treasure, leaving bodies in their path.

Rather than a city mystery with criminals, this setting is more of an “old dark house” mystery. The film also features a lengthy dream sequence that Drummond has, dreaming about getting married and the dangers he usually faces. The wedding portion is humorous, but the rest of the dream sequence is recycled footage from Bulldog Drummond in Africa (1938). This footage is a bit bizarre, padding out the story, seeing that the entire film is only 56 minutes long.

The ending of the film is the most exciting, as it features running through mazes searching for treasure and Phyllis.

Overall this is a fairly entertaining 56 minutes. The entire cast adds to the film, especially E.E. Clive and Reginald Denny.

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