With Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Henry Daniell, George Zucco, Majorie Lord
Directed by Roy William Neill
Black and White
Reviewed by JB

    The third of the Universal Sherlock Holmes series, SHERLOCK HOLMES IN WASHINGTON is a frustrating experience.  Although it takes too long for Holmes to enter the story, the setup is clever: a British spy on a train, knowing he has been made by enemies, manages to talk to and touch everybody in the car so that his adversaries won't know which one now unknowingly carries some important documents. Later, at a party, the camera follows some microfilm, hidden in a book of matches, as it travels from guest to guest, nobody aware of its true value.  This scene is almost Hitchcockian, with the focus purely on the McGuffin (nowhere in the film is it ever mentioned what is on the microfilm).

     But SHERLOCK HOLMES IN WASHINGTON features a Dr. Watson who borders on mentally handicapped, and Holmes treats him so.  Except for the second half of the film, when Watson suddenly saves the day, without sticking his foot in a bucket of water or electrocuting himself, and even manages to kill one of the bad guys.  Nigel Bruce is superb at playing a befuddled character, but he was even better when they allowed Dr. Watson to have half a brain.  There are also times when the film becomes a travelogue, as Holmes and Watson are driven around Washington, marveling at the back projections and stock footage.  Holmes films are usually better when they are centered in London, whether 19th century or World War II London. 3½ - JB

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