Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Challenge (1948)

Tom Conway (brother of George Saunders and damn fine actor in his own right) takes on the role of Captain Hugh "Bulldog" Drummond in the one of two stabs at Sapper's classic character. The two stabs at the character make up this weekends double feature.

The plot of the film has Drummond's friend Algy(played by One Step Beyond host John Newland) stumbling into an auction house and buying a model of a ship known as the Flying Dutchman accidentally. What Drummond and his friends quickly learn is that model was made by a sea captain who was found dead, and possibly murdered, the day before. When Drummond refuses to let the ship be sold back to "its rightful" owner, things become knotted as the ship is stolen and another body turns up. Complicating matters is not only the police insistence that Drummond stay out of the affair, but none of the Captain's heirs are being very helpful. Will Drummond get to the bottom of the mess and will he remain alive?

Good B program mystery that is a bit more complicated then the mysteries that Conway faced in his long running role as the Falcon. To be certain you could almost switch the two sleuths with out missing a beat (Conway plays the character as he played almost every role, charmingly similar), but at the same time the films are very different in that The Challenge is less jokey and more like a noir film in that anyone of the suspects (and some that aren't) could have done the killings. Frankly other than Drummond and his friends you really don't like or trust anyone else (I mean that in a good way since it keeps you on your toes). I like that its pretty much a fast moving tale that keeps you guessing right up to the denouncement.

As for the Bulldog Drummond films on the whole, for my money the best Drummond films were the ones made with John Howard in the lead with Heather Angel, Reginald Denny and EE Clive in support. Those films are not so hot mysteries but the chemistry between the characters is choice and covers for the fair mysteries. There are some other really good stand alone films, Bulldog Jack for example, of the films that are in any series the Howard ones are my favorite. That said this is a nice reinvention of the character for the screen and certainly worth your time and your popcorn.

Worth keeping an eye out for.

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