In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_mv5bmjixmdywmtg3m15bml5banbnxkftztgwmdq1nzq0mze_._v1__sx1216_sy712_

Red Army

Emotionally charged, viscerally exciting and consistently enlightening, Gabe Polsky’s Red Army is a sports documentary like no other.

Thumb_mv5bmtg4mjuxodczm15bml5banbnxkftztgwmdy4mjy0mze_._v1__sx1216_sy712_

Son of a Gun

Avery’s more than capable behind the camera, he just needs to be met halfway by his screenwriting, which dwells in overly familiar territory.

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives

Reviews

Bullshot

  |  

To be successful, a satire requires at least two things: (1) an audience familiar with the original material that is being satirized, and (2) a certain savage glee on the part of the performers, who must seem, to some degree, cheerfully hostile to their subject matter. "Bullshot" is a satire that contains a good many wonderful things, but it does not contain those two essential ingredients, and so it fails.

The movie was inspired by the character of Bulldog Drummond, who was played by Ronald Colman in a series of lighthearted 1930s comedies and who was the unflappable, suave British hero who never wrinkled his evening clothes while saving the day with prodigious intelligence and derring-do.

"Bullshot Crummond" is about a character who affects many of the externals of the original Drummond, but who is incredibly vain, and whose bursts of genius (like confusing a killer octopus by imitating the sound of an approaching whale) are overshadowed by his consistent stupidity (not noticing that the arch-villain Otto von Bruno is eavesdropping on all of his plans).

If you've seen the Bulldog Drummond movies on the late show, a lot of this may strike some chords. My notion, however, is that many of this movie's in-jokes are going to fly right past most audiences. The movie's other problem is with style. The leading roles are played by three comic actors who have been working together for 15 years: Alan Shearman, Ron House and Diz White. Their credits include the revue "El Grande de Coca-Cola," and they performed a stage version of "Bullshot" in London and San Francisco. The strange thing is, they seem to have grown into their characters to such a degree that they seem rather forgiving of them; there isn't that wicked glee that we should sense lurking beneath the surface of a satirical performance, as the actor sends the character gently off to his doom.

The movie's plot involves the usual ingredients: An eccentric scientist discovers a world-changing formula and seals half of it in his daughter's locket before being kidnapped by Count von Bruno, a fiend who hopes to destroy England. The daughter appeals to Bullshot Crummond for help in saving her father, and of course Bullshot falls instantly in love with the daughter and sets out on the quest.

Crummond's world is made up of querulous butlers, loyal pals, tea dances, London-to-Brighton auto races, and a burning hatred for the Count (who was his arch-enemy when they were both flying aces in World War One). His exploits all depend on incredible improvisations in the face of monumental blunders, and the best scene is one in which Bullshot and the girl are sealed in concrete up to their knees and placed in a chamber that is flooded and then invaded by an octopus. Bullshot is played by Alan Shearman, whose clean-cut good looks are right for the role, but he plays the character with a certain studied detachment, as if he were not quite the idiot Crummond is. Too bad. Material like this is so zany, so willfully implausible, that unless the actors play it with reckless abandon, it looks odd, not funny.

Popular Blog Posts

Confessions of an Awards Season Skeptic, Part Two: I, A Lone Voice of Sanity and Calm Awash in a Sea of Noise and Indignation

Glenn Kenny tries to provide some calm, reason, and perspective to today's major Oscar nominations.

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Gratitude

A note of thanks from Chaz Ebert to the wonderful people behind "Life Itself."

They're All Gonna Laugh At You: The "Carrie" Remake

A look at Kimberly Pierce's 2013 version of "Carrie."

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus