Captain Hugh "Bullshot" Crummond (Alan Shearman) was one of the greatest heroes of World War One, and all his men looked up to him as a paragon of British excellence. However, he made one mistake: when engaged in a dogfight with German ace fighter pilot Count Otto von Bruno (Ronald E. House) he disabled the villain's machine gun, and was unwilling to shoot down an unarmed man. Now the war is over and Crummond makes his way through life as a gentleman adventurer, but his old adversary is about to make a reappearance with a dastardly plan for world domination...
Sapper's Bulldog Drummond stories were the basis for this affectionate spoof, which was originally a stage play. It was scripted by the three main stars, Shearman, House and Diz White, who took the role of the love interest, and they had obviously down their research. The real Drummond had been brought to the screen many times before, yet you must admit he had grown fairly obscure by the time this film hit the big screen. One of the failed productions from George Harrison's Handmade Films, it didn't help when the critics were less than happy to welcome it.
In fact, it was roundly lambasted, and quickly sunk, apparently satisfying few. However, if you watch it now, you might find something worth reappraisal because while it's not a consistent laugh riot, there are a good few chuckles to be had from its straight-faced antics. The writers are well aware of the flaws in Sapper's stories, and exploit them for comic effect, the trouble being that there would be a small audience for such a send up, and those familiar with the conventions might see Bullshot as the height of impudence. Yet there was breathless fun in its method nevertheless.
Crummond becomes embroiled in a complex plot that sees a respected scientist, Professor Fenton (Michael Aldridge), kidnapped by the Count to secure his new weapons formula (what exactly that is isn't really important). Crummond is pleaded by the Professor's daughter Rosemary (White) to assist, and he's only too happy to, but he doesn't actually know what the Count looks like, having only seen him from a distance during the war. In truth, the storyline is a jumble of setpieces, some more successful than others, but there is invention here to keep the pot boiling.
Every so often the film will surprise you with a ridiculous line or situation that makes you realise Bullshot isn't so bad after all. The romantic music welling up on the soundtrack and drowning out the dialogue, or the succession of reliable character actors popping up regularly, the trained octopus, all are amusingly silly. Occasionally the filmmakers resort to crude humour, which tends to take you out of the period trappings for a moment, but largely they capture both the spirit and the unwitting daftness of the source. It's certainly over the top, though Crummond isn't as ruthless as Drummond, more a cross between a bumbler and possessor of absurd fortune (or is it skill?). It may be a one joke movie, but it's performed with fondness and verve. Music by John Du Prez.