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

Thursday, February 25, 2010


THE PEARL OF DEATH (1944). Director: Roy William Neill.

Very loosely based on Doyle's The Adventure of the Six Napoleons, this is the seventh of Universal's "modern-day" Sherlock Holmes films and the 9th in which Basil Rathbone plays Holmes. The great sleuth finds himself temporarily embarrassed when the famous Borgia Pearl is purloined after he disconnects the electric alarms for a demonstration of how ineffective the security for the pearl is. Holmes' main opponent in this is Giles Conover, played by Miles Mander. Scream Queen Evelyn Ankers is Conover's associate Naomi Drake. The plot has a hideous fellow named the Oxton Creeper (Rondo Hatton) running around stealing busts of Napoleon and breaking the backs of their owners. [This Creeper fellow was decidedly not in Doyle's original story. Rondo Hatton later starred in a film called House of Horrors where he again played a "Creeper."] Nigel Bruce as Watson had become dithery comedy relief by this point. Despite its "modern" setting, this still has that old-style flavor, and is quite entertaining, even if you may feel you're one step ahead of everyone in the movie throughout.

Verdict: Creepy and well-done. ***.

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