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One of Barrymore's most prestigious early roles, this rarely seen film also presents screen debuts of William Powell and Roland Young. When a young prince is accused of a crime that could embroil him in international scandal, debonair super-sleuth Sherlock Holmes comes to his aid, and quickly discovers that behind the incident lurks a criminal mastermind eager to reduce Western civilization to anarchy. Written by
This is one of a few silent Holmes films that have survived, including his first appearance on screen (an Edison short called Sherlock Holmes Baffled (1900)), the 1912 Danish short "The Copper Beeches" and a number of the series produced in Britain in the 1920s and starring Eille Norwood as Holmes. See more »
Sherlock Holmes is gradually completing a chain of evidence that will reach to me as surely as I stand here. Something must be done!
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How Can a Must-See Movie Be Such a Big Disappointment?
Answer: Largely disinterested acting from its star, an almost actionless script, a plodding pace, verbose inter-titles, and mostly flat, uninvolving direction.
Despite negative contemporary reviews (including an excellent summation of everything that's wrong with the movie in The New York Times), this vanished version of Holmes with its fantastic cast line-up (including the movie debuts of Powell and Young) has long intrigued both film and Sherlock buffs worldwide. So imagine the joy when about 600 rolls of work print offcuts (amounting in all to about 4,000 feet) were found! These were handed to Kevin Brownlow who, with the aid of Albert Parker himself, painstakingly re-assembled the movie over a period of six months. George Eastman House then came to the rescue when the inter-titles were found in their vaults.
The composite reconstructed movie now runs about 109 minutes. There is still footage missing, but that doesn't matter a great deal as, alas, the photoplay is boring enough as it is.
Admittedly, it has its moments: Von Seyffertitz is a marvelous presence. I also enjoyed Roland Young's Watson and Powell's chat with Barrymore in the taxi. And unlike other viewers, I thought Miss Dempster looked quite charming in this non-Griffith outing. And even below-par Barrymore did provide a great moment at the climax for those hardy viewers like myself who persisted right to the end.
But the movie is full of talk. Talk, talk, talk! That's mostly all the characters do in this tediously paced, almost actionless movie. After 80 minutes or so, I just got so bored reading the inter-titles, I gave up. Some of them were too hard to decipher anyway.
Which brings me to the next problem. Labs take no care in printing up positives which are solely to be employed for negative cutting, so 90% of the movie is far too dark. Sometimes you can hardly see what's going on. True, some if it looks attractive and you say to yourself, "Wow! Film noir lighting in 1922!" But this is not the way it was presented to original movie audiences.
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