Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SECRET WEAPON (1943). Director: Roy William Neill.

"The needle to the last, eh, Holmes?"

This is the second of the "modern-day" Universal Sherlock Holmes films [and the fourth film in which Basil Rathbone played Holmes], following Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror. It is very, very loosely based on Doyle's story The Adventure of the Dancing Men, which refers to a code (which is used in the film). Frankly, Holmes really didn't fit into the WW2 milieu, and the only "modern" SH films which work are ones that more or less ignore the war and don't feature references to Nazis. The basic plot has to do with a scientist, Dr. Tobel (William Post Jr.) whose new weapon is coveted by the Germans. Frankly, the film doesn't really get interesting until we learn that the dreaded Professor Moriarty (Lionel Atwill) is involved in the plot. Rathbone is, as usual, excellent (although the odd comb-over he sports is a bit disconcerting) and his sparring with the equally great Atwill provides the film's highlights. The quoted line above comes about when Holmes suggests that an imaginative means of death would be to drain every drop of blood from a person's body.

Verdict: If only there had been more of Moriarty and less of Dr. Tobel. **1/2.

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