Sherlock Holmes investigates when young women around London turn up murdered, each with a finger severed off. Scotland Yard suspects a madman, but Holmes believes the killings to be part of a diabolical plot.
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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
That may not be what the producer and director of "Sherlock Holmes Fatal Hour" had in mind, but that's what this picture is in essence. I tried to make allowances for a 1931 movie, as I imagine fluid, mobile camera-work came shortly thereafter, and one can excuse the lack of camera movement or location shots.
That said, I did not feel as confined as some other reviewers, or as bored, either. That is because I thoroughly enjoyed the performance of Arthur Wontner as Holmes. I must confess I, too, kept comparing his with Basil Rathbone's, who I always thought owned the role. Having seen Wontner as Holmes I now have doubts who I prefer, as Wontner brings an extra measure of dignity and mental acuity to the role.
The plot is pretty straightforward, about a civil servant/card cheat blackmailed by Prof. Moriarty into a dishonest venture. No twists, no surprises, just actors doing their job in an interesting story. I did think Ian Fleming as Watson overacted and seemed ill at ease in his role. Very worth a look, if only to compare Wontner to Basil Rathbone - and you may be in for a surprise on that score.
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