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Sherlock Holmes

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Posted 4th May 2009 at 09:26 AM by Sam@Cult Labs

House of Fear

In Drearcliff Manor a society of aging men live in a weird commune called The Good Companions, where each is heavily insured and the other members are the beneficiaries. The foreboding housekeeper hands each an envelope containing an ever-shrinking amount of orange pips before they are murdered in grisly fashion. The corpses are found mutilated, living up to a look legend that no one leaves Drearcliff in one piece...

Holmes must sift through the vast array of clues while explaining everything as usual to the oafish Doctor Watson. Can he calm the rising panic among the Good Companions and bring the killer to justice...Well this is Sherlock Holmes we're talking about so it's no spoiler to say that yes, Holmes gets his man. But it's the journey, with it's bizarre and seemingly unconnected raft of clues, that really makes a good Sherlock movie and House of Fear is a great starting point for Sherlock/Basil Rathbone virgins.

Sherlock Holmes & the Secret Weapon

One of those peculiar Sherlock Holmes movies in which the genius investigator is transported out of his Victorian milieu into another time setting, in this case the Second World War. Made in 1942, it transforms the violin-playing detective into a force against Nazism. Holmes, played by Basil Rathbone, is a British agent attempting to smuggle an inventor out of Switzerland. When the scientist goes AWOL it can mean only one thing...Sherlock's old nemesis Moriarty is on the prowl again, this time as a mercenary villain aiding the Third Reich.

Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon is a typical example of the many B-movie Holmes pictures churned out in and around the war years. Productions values are generally OK considering the meagre budgets and the breakneck filming schedule (1942 saw this and several other Sherlock movies hit the theatres...). The stand out cast push the pulpy material for all it's worth. Rathbone is the screens greatest Holmes in my opinion and Lionel Atwill's shines in his turn as the nefarious Professor Moriarty.

Pearls of Death

Pearl of Death takes Holmes away from the wartime propaganda movies and plays to Universal Studios strengths as a maker of great gothic horror. On board a ship a beautiful woman fools an aging priest into smuggling a stolen pearl through customs. Who is the batty old vicar? Why it's master of disguise Sherlock Holmes and he's out to get the femme fatales jewel robbing boss, Giles Conover. Conover gets the pearl back, stealing it from a museum and concealing it in a bust of Napoleon. Now Holmes must find the valuable jewel while at the same time stopping a vile serial killer who stalks London's streets snapping spines and leaving a trail of broken china. Could this murderer be somehow linked to the Pearl? I think it's pretty likely...

Spider Woman

Holmes is on the case yet again as he delves into the "Pajama Murders", a series of bizarre suicides among a group of well known gamblers. Ever the master of disguise, Holmes transforms into Rajni Singh, an Indian military man with a crippled arm. He loses a huge amount in a casino then appears to attempt to take his own life. Andrea Spedding intervenes, offering a loan against his life insurance. Soon, someone tries to murder him using a deadly spider. Someone is killing gamblers and stealing their money and only Holmes can figure it out... This movie moved the Holmes films away from wartime morale building and presents a far more traditional mystery and it's a better movie because of this.

Woman in Green

Woman in Green returns Holmes to the foggy streets of Victorian London as a serial killer stalks young girls who have their fingers amputated after death. An elaborate blackmail scam is in operation in which hypnotized gentlemen wake up with the fingers in their pockets and hours of memory wiped clean. The men assume they are the murderers, leaving them open to corruption. Holmes is played by Rathbone once again in this OTT romp.

Pursuit to Algiers

A slightly weaker but still entertaining yarn, which loses a lot of the gothic atmosphere of earlier films and features a few to many songs than I'm comfortable with. The script doesn't feel like a Holmes picture either, it's a little indistinct and could have been written for any of the many B-movie detectives clogging up the screens at the time, then punched up with a few Holmes-isms to make it fit.
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