THE TRIUMPH OF SHERLOCK HOLMES is a remarkably faithful adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's fourth and final full-length Holmes novel The Valley of Fear, and suffers because of its faithfulness. The book itself, though not on the level of Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles or The Sign of Four, is a good read but one with a ton of dialog and a long flashback section that gives background on the mystery at hand. THE TRIUMPH OF SHERLOCK HOLMES follows the events of the book almost to the letter, with an extra emphasis on the involvement of that "Napoleon of Crime" Professor Moriarty, who is a minor figure in the book.
The result is, not surprisingly, a talky film with a long flashback section that sometimes returns to the creaky, slow-moving style of SHERLOCK HOLMES' FATAL HOUR, also directed by Leslie S. Hiscott. Still, for Holmes fans, it can be a delight, because so much of Doyle's dialog is retained, and Arthur Wontner's portrayal of Holmes is superb. In particular, he captures the detective's casual sarcasm, often directed toward his friend Dr. Watson ("You scintillate tonight!") and the usually clueless Inspector Lestrade. Ian Fleming (no relation to the famous author of the James Bond books) and Charles Mortimer are serviceable as Watson and Lestrade, with Fleming showing more of a comic chemistry with Wontner than was apparent in FATAL HOUR. A good running gag develops out of the fact that everybody who comes on the scene are immediately impressed by the presence of Sherlock Holmes but never seem to notice the good doctor, who has to hem and haw before Holmes introduces him.
The Arthur Wontner films are in bad shape, with high contrast that sometimes renders shadowy scenes as nearly completely black screens, and low volume, muddy soundtracks. If you are a Holmes fan, try to get past the defects, because Wontner is truly one of best Sherlocks you'll ever see. ½ - JB