2016 TCM Classic Film Festival: Law and Order (1932) & Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back (1934)

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Looking at a couple of my Sunday TCMFF discoveries.

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Leonard Maltin doing the introduction to Law and Order.

Law and Order (1932) is a gritty gangster-style version of the Earps vs. the Clantons, with Doc Holliday, and the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, all by different names. Walter Huston plays gambler, gunslinger, and frontier lawman Frame “Saint” Johnson, who comes to a chaotic town with his brother (Russell Hopton), friend (Raymond Hatton) and ailing buddy (Harry Carey). He initially refuses to lay down the law but once he experiences the crimes of the three evil Northrup brothers (Ralph Ince, Harry Woods, Richard Alexander) he accepts the badge, which puts him on a collision course with the outlaws. It all ends in guns blazing and a great shootout, and on the way there we get some fine camera work and visuals, fast-paced scenes, and memorable character moments. One of the best of those featured young Andy Devine as a dumb but friendly criminal who, on the day of his execution, is reassured and even cheered up by hearing he’s the first in that town’s history to be hanged by law. Walter Brennan is a bartender, and one of the screenwriters was John Huston (who also worked on dialogue for the other Walter movie I saw that day, A House Divided). Law and Order was directed by Edward L. Cahn and based on W.R. Burnett’s novel Saint Johnson.

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Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back (1934) was one of the TBD titles I was thrilled to get a second shot at (I’d skipped it and A House Divided on Saturday to go see Carl Reiner and Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid). In his introduction to the film, distributor (and movie enthusiast with fabulous taste in comedy) Michael Schlesinger was a joy to listen to, and hailed this as “the best movie you’ve never seen.” He asked us all, if we liked it, as he was sure we would, to do everything we could to spread the word and help get it released. High praise to live up to, but Bulldog was indeed a delightful, clever and great-looking mystery-adventure that felt like a love letter to and a spoof of both character and genre, with enough twists and developments to feel like a 12-chapter serial shoehorned into 83 minutes. Poor Algy (Charles Butterworth) just got married but can’t seem to get a moment alone with his bride (Una Merkel, making an art out of eye rolls and shrugs). His pal Drummond (Ronald Colman) keeps calling him out, all through the night to help sort out the meaning of disappearing bodies and witnesses, a spunky lady in danger (Loretta Young), and whatever the shady doings are at the estate of Prince Achmed (Warner Oland). Scotland Yard’s Captain Neilsen (C. Aubrey Smith) is so sick of having his sleep interrupted by Drummond’s frantic calls and outrageous claims that he threatens to lock him up. It was a charming, witty, stylish screwball thriller with several “meta” moments, like Drummond saying he shouldn’t use a car because it’s not consistent with his image, or correctly predicting the next plot twist, which Colman delivers with such a fun “this again” attitude and a knowing look toward the audience when things get really unbelievable.

More from the fest:

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10 thoughts on “2016 TCM Classic Film Festival: Law and Order (1932) & Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back (1934)”

  1. C. Aubrey Smith played Col. Nielsen!? Honestly, that wasn’t my only takeaway from your review, but I’m crazy about Hugh and his pals, especially good old Nielsen. Can’t wait for the chance to see this one.

    I really like the gritty feel of “Law and Order”. It almost makes me feel like stepping back in time.

    1. Yes and he was so funny, the whole thing was great and the self-referential jokes were the best. I cannot wait to see this one again and HOPE it gets released. Schlesinger urged us all to tweet it so I better get on that again. Also thanks again for the recommendation for L&O, really enjoyed that and as I said, a double shot of Walter at TCMFF? Can’t ask for cooler viewing at a fest 🙂 Really hope you get to go someday!

  2. I love Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back (1934), so I’m glad you enjoyed it as well. The ‘old-school thriller with a great sense of humor’ feel causes me to think of it as the template for the later excellent Drummond series starring John Howard (and, of, course, Ray Milland.) Bulldog Drummond (1929) missed the mark for me, so I’m glad Colman had another go at the character.

    1. I’ve seen (I think) all of the BD movies except the ’29 one and of course Strikes Back was new. It was such a delight, loved the way it poked fun at itself, the vanishing bodies were a hoot. All this plus Mischa Auer too!

  3. Both of these sound terrific. I laughed at the thought of a criminal being cheered up at the thought he would be the first person to hang in that town. Talk about putting a spin on things!

    I wish I had seen Bulldog Drummond with the fab Ronald Colman and C. Aubrey Smith. I could just picture Una Merkel, making an art out of eye rolls like you said.

    You certainly used your TCMFF time wisely! 🙂

    1. I sure tried to pack in as much as I could that last day and got a really nice variety! Andy Devine was so young and lean, that was a fun cast. I hope you get to see these other movies when they appear on disc or tcm (fingers crossed!)

  4. Bulldog was such a great way to say farewell to a classic film fest. Totally enjoyable. As for the western. I love Huston but find most of those thirties westerns a little too creaky for my taste. For me it was a so so viewing but had a great shootout for the final reel.

    1. BDSB was pretty ahead of its time the way it comments on itself, loved that, and packed full of activity. Good style on both of these movies, I liked L&O, that cast alone is something plus it was pretty gritty and tough.

  5. I had wanted to see “LAW AND ORDER” for years as it seems generally regarded by western film historians as a fine piece of early sound film-making. Finally got to see it just weeks ago and found it a gripping experience. Very gritty and ‘grown up’.
    Envy you seeing it in 35mm on the big screen though, Kristina!

    1. I really enjoyed it, and what a way to have a Walter double feature, all big screen and nice prints like that! So glad I got the chance.

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