Bulldog Drummond In Africa (1938)

Director: Louis King
Starring: John Howard, Heather Angel, H.B. Warner, J. Carrol Naish, Reginald Denny, Anthony Quinn, Michael Brooke
Music: Milan Roder (and various others – stock music)
Based on the book, Challenge by Sapper

Bulldog Drummond in Africa is a fun entry in the series. This episode starts off with Drummond (John Howard), and his manservant, Tenny, (E.E. Clive) trapped in their own house. Not quite trapped! Because Drummond has had to postpone his wedding so many times, after unexpected incidents pop up, he has placed himself in self-imposed exile. He has had the guns removed from the house, and he has even had all the trousers removed. He figures, he can’t leave the house without trousers. As a final safeguard he even cuts the cord to his telephone. That way, news from the outside world cannot filter through, and he cannot be led off on another foolish adventure. This time the wedding is going to take place.

It seems good in principal. But this time it is Phyllis Clavering (Heather Angel), Drummond’s fiancée who get’s caught up in a mess of trouble. She arrives at Colonel Nielsen’s home to pick him up for the wedding. But things go wrong. Richard Lane (J. Carrol Naish), a traitor and a spy has secretly returned to London, and in particular to Nielson’s home. Lane kidnaps Nielsen, because he has information on a new radar defence weapon that the English are working on. Lane intends to sell the military secret for a great profit. Naturally, Phyllis stumbles in on the kidnap and watches as Lane and his accomplice, Fordine (an early role for Anthony Quinn) bundle Nielsen into a car.

Drummond cannot be contacted on the phone, so Phyllis drives to his home, and relays the story to him. Both Drummond and Tenny, without trousers (they have wrapped tartan blankets around their waists, so that they look like kilts), join Phyllis as they try to stop the kidnappers from spiriting Nielsen out of the country. They are too late, and Nielsen is flown to Morocco.

Naturally, Drummond and co. (including Drummond’s best friend Algy (Reginald Denny), who was late on the scene), have boarded a plane are off to Morocco. There’s not too much point outlining the plot of the movie, as this adventure doesn’t even run an hour – and I don’t want to spoil the fun. But Drummond, who’s intervention and investigation is never welcomed by the authorities, has to deal with incompetent police in England and in Morocco as well as a vicious masterspy, who keeps a pride of lions in his courtyard.

For fans of the series, there are a few casting departures. Firstly, H.B. Warner has taken over from John Barrymore as Colonel Nielsen. And secondly, Heather Angel replaces Louise Campbell as Drummond’s love interest…but this is not the first time she has played the role. She had been in an earlier Drummond feature, Bulldog Drummond Escapes (1937), with Ray Milland.

Despite the lack of a decent budget, this entry in the Bulldog Drummond series is great fun. It’s a boys own adventure in the style they don’t make any more. And it is incredibly fast paced. Believe me, you wont have time to be bored. If you love those old serials, this is one to check out.

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