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An Early Talkie Curiosity, Recommended for Holmesians
Yet again, the late F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre has submitted a review for a film he clearly has not seen. This picture contains no sighting of the deerstalker hat. Holmes has no side whiskers. Several major plot details are incorrect. If you'd like to hear from someone who HAS seen this film, read on.
What you will find if you are able to see this very rare entry into the Holmes screen canon is a moderately interesting early talkie, with a script that too often betrays its stage origins.
After vowing that he has completed his final case, Sherlock is lured back into sleuthing by a complicated series of events that include murder, the kidnapping of Watson's future son-in- law, a double agent in Scotland Yard, and phone hacking (yes, really!)
Clive Brook is an agreeable if somewhat subdued Holmes, displaying a few of the character's quirks but none of his usual abrasiveness. H. Reeves-Smith plays a credulous Watson, who gets little to do other than to occasionally marvel at Holmes' brilliance, while Betty Lawford and Phillip Holmes are stiff as a clichéd pair of Bright Young Things, though they are not helped by some of the sappy lines they are given. Donald Crisp, as a shifty ship's doctor, is the best of the supporting cast.
For all the wrong reasons, the film's standout performance comes from Harry T. Morey, whose dreadfully hammy Moriarty stops the picture in its tracks. What is obviously meant to be a tense shipboard denouement instead comes off as a little ludicrous, thanks to a performance that seems to have escaped from a Universal horror film of the 1930s.
The dialogue is fairly static and the pace is uneven - which is to say, it's no worse than most talkies of this early period, and a little better than many of them. Holmesians will find much to interest them in this outing, even if it's just to hear that famous (if inaccurate) quote - 'Elementary, my dear Watson' - spoken for the first time on the screen.
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