SHERLOCK HOLMES in
THE PEARL OF DEATH

(1944)
With Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Dennis Hoey, Evelyn Ankers, Miles Mander, Rondo Hatton
Directed by Roy William Neill
Black and White
Reviewed by JB

    Based on  Conan Doyle's clever story "The Six Napoleons", THE PEARL OF DEATH, along with its predecessor THE SCARLET CLAW, is the peak of the series.  The chemistry amongst Basil Rathbone (Holmes), Nigel Bruce (Watson) and Dennis Hoey (Lestrade) is as good as it has ever been, and the always reliable Evelyn Ankers makes another appearance as a femme fatale.  The brute-faced Rondo Hatton, who owed his acting career to a pituitary disorder and would be dead within a year, is on hand to play the back-breaking Creeper.   The only minor problem the film has is Miles Mander, who does not have the gravitas to play a Moriarty-type criminal mastermind.

   THE PEARL OF DEATH features a couple of novelties, including a story that is driven by a rare boneheaded mistake by Holmes himself, who is directly responsible for the titular pearl being "pearl-loined".  There is also a marvelous solo scene featuring Nigel Bruce using deductive reasoning to find out where a missing newspaper article for his scrapbook went.  What makes this film work more than anything else, however, are the sharp characterizations of Rathbone, Bruce and Hoey as our three central heroes. 4 - JB

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