Violet Stoner dies under mysterious circumstances in her bedroom at the gloomy mansion of her brutish stepfather, Dr. Grimesby Rylott. Because Violet had become engaged to be married, she stood to inherit a substantial annual allowance from her parents' estate but never survived to collect it. Her last words were "The Speckled Band!" Now, her sister Helen has become engaged, and the mercenary doctor views the event as money out of his pocket as she stands to get a yearly stipend too. When he orders her to start sleeping in her sister's bedroom, and she finds the bed bolted to the floor, she fears that a fate similar to Violet's will befall her. She turns to the residents of 221B Baker Street for help. Written by
Gabe Taverney (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Originally released in 7 reels at 66 minutes, the film survives only in a somewhat worn 5-reel cutdown that originally ran around 48 minutes, but now clocks in at just over 42. Credit and end titles have been added from another source. Here we now have virtually a straight version of the 1910 stage play by Arthur Conan Doyle. Originally, there were some modern 1931 asides in this movie, but, aside from an incongruous scene in the master detective's Baker Street office, these have now disappeared (which could well be an advantage). We are left with the compelling story of the speckled band itself, which Doyle himself regarded as the best Holmes adventure he ever wrote. If nothing else, the movie has atmosphere (though it's a shame the gypsies have been all but eliminated in this cutdown), thanks to its wonderfully cavernous, gloomy sets and Freddie Young's noirish lighting. The stage play's Lyn Harding gives a typically over-the-top performance as the villain, while Raymond Massey plays Holmes virtually straight with few of the characteristic mannerisms (except his passion for disguise), and Athole Stewart is every inch the sensible, cultivated, resourceful, helpful Watson that Doyle created, rather than the slapstick fall-guy epitomized by Nigel Bruce.
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