Rain in the evening, stern but unconvincing; it tried too hard. Rolled in with great drama, poured for ten minutes, then its attention wandered. This was the thunderstorm we had been told was due? This was the Great Soaking of Ought-Eight? Still felt like fall at its best, though – warm but not freakishly so. Ideally the season is a gentle descent, like the loving arms of a mother laying you at the door of winter, then running away with a new boyfriend to Mexico while you shiver and scream.
Like that. It was a strange day, all around – AISOT*, my schedule and routine was upended, and I felt like I was pinsetting during an earthquake. Twin coincidences of an unexpected houseguest and a scary medical emergency of a relative. Both turned out fine. The emergency turned out to be nothing, and was duly celebrated with a low-key buffet of Chinese take-out. Well, no; it was delivered. Well, yes; they had to take it out to deliver it. The driver couldn’t find the house, and when he did he just sat in the car at the bottom of the stairs, because it was raining, and he didn’t want to get wet. It’s amazing how quickly you can recalculate the tip when you’re heading down the steps in the rain.
The usual time for work was taken up with that whole human-interaction thing, so this will be short. Not because I don’t have time at the end of the night; I guess I do, but I’d like to read a book or watch “Mad Men.” Yes, I know, you don’t care, and I can’t blame you, but if you have an inkling of how much I enjoy the show you may well find this interesting: About ten years ago in a Stillwater antique store I found this lighter. I loved it because it looked like a car, or a rocket ship, or a lighter they’d use on a rocket ship:
Well, imagine my surprise:
I just noticed that Sal wears two rings. Well, that makes perfect sense.
Incidentally, while researching something or other, I checked out the reviews of Mad Men on imdb. The first few pages are filled with lukewarm or negative reviews. Hah! Finally, I'm an iconoclast!
And now, the feature we will all grow to dread!
In case you're just joining us, I'm working through a boxed set of 100 mysteries on DVD. Most are public domain, I think. We're on the second movie – only 98 to go! God grant me strength and also a clone who is easily amused – builds on the Bulldog Fever we experienced last week:
“Sir Guy Standing” is an apt name for an actor in this movie, since that’s how you could describe nearly everyone. A Guy, Standing. Occasionally sit down, but they’re talking to someone who is still standing. Perhaps this was considered breakneck action in ’37, but it’s talky and interminable by modern standards, and its 67 minutes are a caution to sinners: if this seems long, imagine eternity in hell.
The description from the box set:
“This is the only Bulldog Drummond film to star the fabulous Ray Milland as our heroic adventurer who must try to rescue his kidnapped fiancée, Phyllis Clavering.”
Er – so there was only one Milland Bulldog movie, or another one which starred the fabulous Ray Milland as a heroic adventurer who was not trying to rescue his kidnapped fiancée, Phyllis Clavering? I still think “Clavering” sounds some some sort of dry, wide bone falling down a wide pipe. The thick, earthenware dish clavered as it fell.
What’s confusing about the movie, though, is the peculiar conversation Bulldog has with his butler. Once again, they’re driving in the car down Rear Projection Lane:
They’re bound for Graystone Manor, where the butler informs Bulldog a Miss Clavering resides. You’d think Bulldog would know this, since they’re engaged and everything, but you assume this will make sense when we get there. It takes another ten minutes before you realize that this, the second film in the 100 Mystery series, is actually the first movie in the Bulldog Drummond series. She’s not his fiancée yet. They haven’t even met. The people who put this thing together couldn’t even figure out the order of the first two movies. Augurs well, it does not.
The plot: Bulldog has to rescue Miss Clavering from the clutches of her relatives, who shot her brother and are attempting to gain control of the Family Fortune by driving Miss C. insane. They’re also counterfeiting bonds. And stealing family relics. And selling expired aspirin. And so on. Here's Der Claveringer:
Boo! They came whiter than white in the 30s, didn't they? Bulldog enlists the help of his addled chum Algae, who wasn’t doing anything at the time, really, just standing around the hospital waiting for his wife to give birth. He also prevails upon a Scotland Yard inspector who happens to be in the area. Neither Bulldog or Algae or the butler have any sort of official standing whatsoever, except for a reputation for solving crimes.
I suspect that’s harder to come by than one would think. There aren’t many private citizens who can walk into the middle of a crime, take control, direct the investigation and shoot the suspect. It works here because the Inspector knows that Bulldog is frequently involved with A Case. This clip gives you an idea of the easy, chummy familiarity that exists between the two, and the wacky, almost self-mocking sense of genre-fulfillment at work. It also suggests that Ray Milland was kite-high on pixie dust:
As noted last week, the film plays Bulldog as a suave fellow, instead of the rough-and-ready chap, or rather bloke, he was supposed to be. Here’s a bit between Bulldog and Algae – played by Reginald Denny. (The radio-controlled-airplane inventor, not the man nearly killed in the LA riots. I knew that name was familiar.) If you're a young actor looking for a role as a Professionally Flustered Fellow, take note of Denny's mannerisms; they're top-notch.
That’s #2. I’m not worried that there are 98 to go. I’m more concerned about the fact that there are four more Bulldog Drummonds left.
New Minneapolis update - it's the World Theater. see you at buzz.mn.
*AISOT = As I Said On Twitter. FYI.