Bulldog Drummond's Peril, a B-picture released by Paramount Pictures in 1938, was one of the many films adapted (sometimes rather loosely) from the series of thrillers written by H. C. McNeile under the pen-name Sapper. This film stars John Howard as Bulldog Drummond. He was the ninth of thirteen actors to play the role (and he played it in no less than seven films).
Bulldog Drummond's Peril was based on The Third Round, the third of the Bulldog Drummond novels in which the hero faces off against the brilliant diabolical criminal mastermind Carl Petersen.
The movie starts with the marriage of Hugh Drummond to Phyllis Clavering (Louise Campbell). The wedding festivities are interrupted by murder.
The problem of course is that if it is possible to produce perfect diamonds in unlimited quantities then diamonds will cease to have any value. That means the discovery is in some senses quite useless. On the other hand it also means that it is worth a great deal of money to certain to keep this discovery quiet. The secret of Professor Goodman’s process is very much worth possessing.
It looks like Drummond is about to embark on another of his adventures, something that does not go down well with the new Mrs Drummond. Before their marriage he made her a solemn vow to give up such escapades but the lure of excitement is of course too much for him.
It’s not that John Howard is a terrible actor or that his performance is bad - he simply bears no resemblance whatsoever to the character in the books. The problem is that the character in the books is a whole lot more interesting than the movie’s version of him.
This movie has its problems but it’s not all bad. It’s frenetically fast-moving and energetic. James P. Hogan was one of those directors who never managed to break out of the B-movie ghetto but could be relied on to get the job done with reasonable efficiency. Stuart Palmer wrote the screenplay. Palmer was a popular writer of detective stories who achieved reasonable success as a screen writer as well. You might not expect penguins to play a significant role in a Bulldog Drummond story but Palmer had a thing for penguins so he manages to shoehorn one into the movie!
Bulldog Drummond's Peril is in the public domain and is very easy to get hold of. Most if not all of the available editions are pretty rough - if there’s been a really good DVD release I haven’t heard of it. The copy I have comes from one of the Mill Creek 50-movie packs. The transfer is fairly poor but since the cost of the movies in the set averages out at 37 cents per movie I guess I shouldn’t be complaining.
It’s a great pity that no-one ever bothered to make a real Bulldog Drummond movie. If you can put that to one side and simply take it on its own merits then Bulldog Drummond's Peril is enjoyable B-movie fare. Not as good as the excellent 1937 Bulldog Drummond Comes Back but still recommended.