With Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Hillary Brooke, Henry Daniell, Paul Cavanagh, Sally Shepherd
Directed by Roy William Neill
Black and White
Reviewed by JB

     Not a bad Sherlock Holmes film, but certainly a letdown after a series of terrific little potboilers such as SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SPIDERWOMAN, THE SCARLET CLAW, THE PEARL OF DEATH and THE HOUSE OF FEAR.  Although Professor Moriarty makes his first appearance since SHERLOCK HOLMES AS THE SECRET WEAPON, it all feels like everybody is just going through the motions.  Even the cast has a "one from column a, one from column b" quality; Hillary Brooke, Henry Daniell, Paul Cavanagh and Sally Shepherd have all appeared with Rathbone and Bruce in earlier films.

    The fault may lie mostly with Roy William Neill, who directed most of the previous Holmes films admirably. Even though the story features hypnotism and grisly murders, there is little creepiness, weirdness, atmosphere or suspense anywhere to be found, leaving the somewhat ludicrous story to fend for itself. Rathbone seems a bit tired, though he still puts in an excellent performance as the World's Greatest Consulting Detective. Perhaps by this ninth Holmes film for Universal (and eleventh for the two stars), everybody was getting just a bit bored.  Unfortunately, Dennis Hoey, who could have livened things up as Inspector Lestrade, is not around, and Matthew Boulton as Inspector Gregson is no substitute.

    Still, not bad means not bad, and the cast makes it all work, especially the beautiful future Lou Costello foil Hillary Brooke as a femme fatale and Henry Daniell as the evil Moriarty.  I may prefer George Zucco and Lionel Atwill as Holmes' greatest nemesis, but Daniell still does justice to the character of Moriarty, who once again plummets to his death as in two previous films.  For being the world's greatest criminal, old Moriarty had no sense of balance. 

     I would be remiss if I did not mention the moment when Hillary Brooke offers Holmes a sedative named Cannabis Japonis.  Is it me or is that just Japanese pot with a scientific name? 2½ - JB

Sherlock Holmes     The Stuff You Gotta Watch

Stuff You Gotta Watch
Copyright © 2010 John V. Brennan, John Larrabee