Card cheat Ronald Adair hears a disembodied voice coming from a painting of a cardinal threatening him with exposure and disgrace unless he becomes part of a criminal conspiracy involving counterfeit money. Adair is reluctant and is later found shot in the head in a bank. Holmes rightly suspects that his arch-enemy Moriarty, the master of disguise, is behind the plot. Written by
It's nice that this film exists, but as it stands it's a major disappointment. Director Leslie Hiscott and cinematographers Sydney Blythe and William Luff get some nice proto-noir compositions into the first and last reels, but in between it's a very claustrophobic movie that seems to take place entirely indoors, either in the home of Ronald Adair or in Sherlock Holmes' and Dr. Watson's digs at 221B Baker Street. We know the film is set in 1930 instead of the 1890's because Holmes deduces that Watson is having trouble with his car, but we never see any cars or much action of any kind. It's just eight reels of dull, ill-paced talk (where was Alfred Hitchcock when they needed him? Actually working at a bigger, more prestigious British studio than Twickenham!), sloppily recorded by Baynham Honri, who for some reason gets an on-screen credit in type as big as the director's. And though I usually respect the critical judgments of the late William K. Everson who said Arthur Wontner was one of the two best actors ever to play Holmes he's never convinced me in the role. He's perfectly adequate in the scenes showing Holmes as a cerebral "armchair detective" but utterly wrong for the neurotic man of action Sir Arthur Conan Doyle also intended Holmes to be. But then to me (to paraphrase the opening of the Conan Doyle Holmes story "A Scandal in Bohemia") Basil Rathbone (who looked uncannily like the Sidney Paget illustrations for the original Holmes stories and did both the cerebral and the active sides of the character consummately well) will always be THE Sherlock Holmes.
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