SHERLOCK HOLMES
AND THE VOICE OF TERROR

(1942)
With Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Evelyn Ankers, Henry Daniell, Thomas Gomez
Directed by John Rawlins
Black and White
Reviewed by JB

    By 1942, Universal Studios was basking in the success of their newly launched series of Abbott and Costello films, as well as their successful revival of the movie monster genre.  With the success of 20th Century Fox's two Sherlock Holmes films as well as a popular Holmes radio program also starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, Universal hired the pair to reprise their characterizations of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson for a new series of films set in modern times, in which, for the first few films at least, Holmes would work with the British government to foil Nazi plans.

     In THE VOICE OF TERROR, Holmes is called upon to uncover the identity of the title character, who taunts the British public daily in radio broadcasts with news of imminent terrorist attacks upon military targets.  As in Fox's HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES and THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, Rathbone is the perfect Holmes, inhabiting the part he was put on this earth to play (much to his dismay later in life).  The oafishness of Nigel Bruce's Doctor Watson, an oafishness found nowhere in the original stories, is downplayed in this film.  He may remain eternally clueless, but he's not a bumbling fool.

     On a smaller budget than the Fox films, THE VOICE OF TERROR nevertheless stands up to those films. One thing Universal knew how to do was "shadowy foreboding" (see HOLD THAT GHOST or THE WOLF MAN for proof) and THE VOICE OF TERROR is chock full of dark alleys and poorly-lit pubs, where death and danger can easily hide.  The story itself is not so much of a mystery, but Rathbone's performance and John Rawlins's direction make this one a fine beginning to the Universal Holmes series. 3½

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