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Bullshot Crummond

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Before Sean Connery's Bond, there was Ronald Colman's Drummond. Sexy British Bond hunted bad guys in color in the late 20th century; dashing English Bulldog Drummond hounded evildoers on the non-chromatic screen of the 1930s, when the sun still never set on the British Empire. Sometime in the '70s, a group of young Brits, Low Moan Spectacular, to whom we are ever grateful, rescued Bulldog from oblivion, altered as intrepid Bullshot Crummond, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory and not knowing the difference. Thank you, Ron House, Diz White, John Neville-Andrews, Alan Shearman, and Derek Cunningham, wherever you are.

Master stylist Henry Polic II, who brought new glory to Neil Simon's gentle little comedy Fools last year at Actor's Co-op, revives Bullshot with his signature cachet in this gorgeous spoof of B horror movies. But first we get a history lesson. The show begins, as all movies did then, with a grainy Movietone News view of good old days that don't look all that good--disaster everywhere. It's a relief to get to the black-and-white fantasy world of Bullshot Crummond's pre-WWII London that follows, behind a scrim that distracts and distances at first, but we get used to it while plunged into a madcap blend of old-time flicks, Marx Brothers capers, comic-book cartoons, Monty Python mania, and exquisite Edward Gorey visuals projected as sets.

Sleekly handsome Tim Woodward is magnificent as sublimely self-satisfied knucklehead hero Crummond. A virtuoso of physical comedy and quicksilver movement, he rebounds like a rubber ball from repeated pummelings, roughings-up, and a variety of mistreatments. Hair mussed, amour propre unruffled, this paragon of smug male chauvinism puffs his pipe and reminds his Rosemary, "Remember this--you gave me a helping hand. I saved your life!" Ann Landers' Rosemary is picture-book pretty in corkscrew curls, but she's not as surrealistic as the original Diz White. Who is? (How I long once more to see Diz flapping dizzily about the stage like a demented ostrich, arms and legs flying, emitting shrieks of loony laughter.)

Greg Baldwin as rotund crypto-Nazi Otto von Brunno is lightning-quick with costume and character changes. So is Stephen Van Dorn, enacting a variety of miscreants, also Rosemary's ancient father, held captive. Nan McNamara as a Pola Negri-type villainess brandishes a yard-long cigarette holder, cuddles her predatory pet bird, and when her black wig got unruly she handled it in a manner that makes us love actors.

There's hardly anything that doesn't happen: car wrecks, monster insects, carrier pigeons, a duel. Fine fight choreography is by Ken Merckx. Shon LeBlanc contributed eye-popping costumes. Kathi O'Donohue lights everything like an early movie. Yakovetic's sets are treats. Geoff Green's sound is creative. And Polic's ingeniously inventive direction reminds us what a ridiculously good time can be had at live theatre.

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