Monday, September 25, 2017
Captain Hugh Drummond (John Howard) is hoping that finally he is going to be able to get married to his beloved Phyllis. Her main concern is that he will get mixed up in yet another of his secret agent adventures and the wedding will be postponed once again. So she has taken certain precautions. Hugh, along with his faithful butler Tenny (E.E. Clive), has been confined to his house until the wedding and forbidden any contact with the outside world (such as reading newspapers). She knows that this won’t be enough so she has also confiscated all his guns and his trousers, and to be on the safe side Tenny’s trousers as well. He can hardly get himself into any espionage or crime-fighting sprees without trousers.
All her precautions are in vain since it is Phyllis herself who gets Drummond into this particular adventure when she accidentally witnesses the kidnapping of Colonel Nielson (H.B. Warner) of Scotland Yard.
Now the chase is on to rescue the colonel and the trail leads to Morocco. The kidnappers have an aircraft so they think they’re safe from pursuit but Hugh Drummond has an aeroplane as well. Scotland Yard has absolutely forbidden Captain Drummond from becoming involved in this case. That holds him up for about five minutes.
Lane is after one of Britain’s most closely guarded military secrets, the radio wave disintegrator. Rescuing the colonel is a priority but it’s even more vital to prevent Lane from obtaining the secret and selling it to the highest bidder. Lane has an important advantage - he has an agent, Fordyne (Anthony Quinn), working in the British Consulate in Morocco. And Lane is utterly without scruples. He also has his pet lions and they always come in handy when you’re a super villain.
John Howard played Drummond in numerous films in this series and he does a fine job as he generally did. The only problem I’ve ever had with his casting in the role is that he is a fairly handsome fellow while in the books Hugh Drummond is a man renowned for his ugliness! Reginald Denny as Drummond’s loyal if not very bright pal Algy is less irritating than usual. Tenny is the character providing much of the comic relief but it’s not overdone this time and even manages to be mildly amusing.
The plot might be a fairly stock-standard spy take of the period but the execution is energetic, there are some genuine thrills and there’s a vast amount of enjoyment to be had here. The film strikes pretty much the ideal balance. It takes itself just seriously enough but not too seriously. The emphasis is on excitement and fun.
Bulldog Drummond in Africa works because director Louis King is competent and keeps the pacing brisk enough that you don’t have time to worry about plot holes or anything tedious like that. The performances are good and the 1930s aircraft are very cool.
This is unashamed escapist entertainment (something of which I thoroughly approve) and it’s highly recommended.
Saturday, September 16, 2017
This one is a spy thriller. A British atomic scientist, Professor Hardwick, has disappeared. The authorities seem rather unconcerned, a circumstance that puzzles Paul Temple somewhat. Even his old friend, Scotland Yard Deputy Commissioner Sir Graham Forbes (Jack Lively), doesn’t seem to be taking the matter too seriously. The scientist’s daughter Celia is very worried though and Temple decides it might be worth looking into this affair.
Temple finds himself up against the mysterious and sinister Z Organisation, an unscrupulous international freelance spy ring.
He does have a few clues. There’s a torn fragment of a map and there’s a letter. He has no idea what is in this letter but everyone seems to want to get hold of it so clearly it’s important. Important enough to kill for, as it turns out.
There are thrills aplenty, with booby traps and secret passageways and some impressively imaginative techniques for murder. And there’s no shortage of murder - this one has quite a high body count.
As usual Temple gets some useful assistance from his resourceful wife Steve who doesn’t mind putting herself in danger (in fact she’s sometimes a bit too keen to do so).
There’s an abundance of villains and other assorted shady customers and the villains are reasonably menacing.
Director Maclean Rogers keeps things moving at a cracking pace and gives a genuine sense of danger to the proceedings. The high body count helps since we quickly realise that even likeable characters could be killed off without hesitation.
Fortunately there’s also no time squandered on unnecessary comic relief.
Paul Temple is a very happily married man so there’s no scope for him to become entangled in romantic intrigues. The affectionate relationship with his wife does however provide at least a touch of emotional involvement (and of course we know that Steve will get herself into at least one tight spot and have to be rescued).
The transfer for this film provided in the Renown Pictures Paul Temple boxed set is acceptable but it has a few minor problems. The set includes all four Paul Temple movies and represents excellent value for money.
Paul Temple's Triumph is a solid example of the British spy movie of its era. Lively and entertaining, and highly recommended.
Thursday, September 7, 2017
Captain James Random (Philip Friend) brings his new wife Harriet (Barbara Shelley) back to Random Farm. Captain Random had been accused of murdering his first wife but had been acquitted. Harriet isn’t worried, being convinced that Random’s first wife’s death was an accident. Soon however she begins to have her doubts. There seem to have been rather a lot of secrets at Random Farm. Everyone seems to know something about Eva Random’s death and, disturbingly, these include things that had not been mentioned at all at the trial.
Eva Random had been carrying on a notorious affair with Jean’s young and very disreputable brother. James Random obviously had a motive for murder but he was far from alone in that.
This is a solid enough little plot with enough red herrings to keep things interesting. The tension builds inexorably. Can Harriet stay alive long enough to solve the puzzle?
Director Gerald Thomas was better known for the Carry On comedies but he proves himself to be a perfectly competent practitioner in the murder genre. Robert Dunbar’s script, based on Nina Bawden’s novel, hits all the right notes.
Barbara Shelley is at her most ravishing and she delivers a very effective performance, with just enough hysteria but combined with a certain amount of courage and determination. She was one of Britain’s best actresses of the 50s and she’s in top form here.
The Solitary Child is an engaging and very well-crafted low-key murder mystery with a fine cast and a stellar performance by Barbara Shelley. Highly recommended.