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The Sign of Four: Sherlock Holmes' Greatest Case (1932)

Unrated  |   |  Crime, Drama, Mystery  |  14 August 1932 (USA)
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A young woman turns to Sherlock Holmes for protection when she's menaced by an escaped killer seeking missing treasure. However, when the woman is kidnapped, Holmes and Watson must penetrate the city's criminal underworld to find her.



(novel) (as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) , (screenplay)
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Title: The Sign of Four: Sherlock Holmes' Greatest Case (1932)

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Complete credited cast:
Arthur Wontner ...
Isla Bevan ...
Ian Hunter ...
Graham Soutten ...
Miles Malleson ...
Herbert Lomas ...
Gilbert Davis ...
Margaret Yarde ...
Mrs. Smith
Roy Emerton ...
The Tattooed Man


A young woman turns to Sherlock Holmes for protection when she's menaced by an escaped killer seeking missing treasure. However, when the woman is kidnapped, Holmes and Watson must penetrate the city's criminal underworld to find her.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Unrated | See all certifications »




Release Date:

14 August 1932 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Das Zeichen der 4  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Film debut of Roy Emerton. See more »


In the original Sherlock Holmes stories, Holmes's residence and consulting room were located at 221B Baker Street in London. However, an early establishing shot in the film shows Holmes's address to be 22A Baker Street. See more »


Dr. John H. Watson: Well, now we know who did it. All we have to do is catch him.
Sherlock Holmes: Yes, that's all. Yes, well you go out and catch him, and I'll wait here 'til you come back
Dr. John H. Watson: Yes!
[Watson turns to leave, but suddenly comes to a stop]
Dr. John H. Watson: Er, but where'll I go?
Sherlock Holmes: Exactly. Let's leave jumping to conclusions to the professional detectives.
See more »


Featured in The Real Sherlock Holmes (2012) See more »

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User Reviews

Makes Good Use of Its Resources
8 July 2005 | by (Ohio) – See all my reviews

This Arthur Wontner version of the Sherlock Holmes story "The Sign of Four" is pretty good for the early sound era, and it makes good use of its limited resources. The production doesn't look very impressive, but Wontner is believable as Holmes, the story is entertaining, and some of the sets, though low budget, work well in establishing the atmosphere.

Wontner's Holmes is less willful and forceful, while more witty and upbeat, than the more familiar portrayals by Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett. And while the fine Brett version of "The Sign of Four" is probably now the definitive screen version of the story, in its time this one would probably have been highly satisfactory to its audiences.

The script adapts the original story somewhat, yet it works pretty well. The order of the narrative is simplified, and some extra settings and events are included. One of them, a sequence at a fair, is interesting, and though it changes the tone of the story somewhat, it works in its own right. The character of Jonathan Small is also fleshed out, with less about his past and more of an emphasis on what he is like at the present. As Athelney Jones, Gilbert Davis gets a few good moments of give-and-take with Holmes.

Like Wontner's other Holmes features, this one has an obvious low-budget, early 1930s feel to it. But the series is worth seeing for anyone who enjoys the Holmes stories and who doesn't mind seeing the characters portrayed in a somewhat different light.

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