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

 -  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.



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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


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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 »


Det. Insp. Atherly Jones: What I always says is, Mr. Holmes: an ounce of practice is worth a tonne of theory.
Sherlock Holmes: Yes, yes. I've heard you say it.
See more »


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

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User Reviews

"Let's leave jumping to conclusions to the professional detectives."
23 February 2007 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

Graham Cutts' 'The Sign of Four' is one of five Sherlock Holmes films starring Arthur Wontner in the main role. Of Wontner's portrayal, Vincent Starrett (author of 'The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes') declared, "No better Sherlock Holmes than Arthur Wontner is likely to be seen and heard in pictures, in our time... The keen worn, kindly face and quiet prescient smile are out of the very pages of the book". Indeed, Wontner beautifully captures the essence of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famed character, enjoyably depicting his quirky brilliance and almost omniscient deciphering of crime scene puzzles, frequently waving off Dr. Watson's (Ian Hunter) stunned admiration with a dismissive, "Elementary, my dear Watson, elementary."

After an amputee prisoner serving a life sentence, Jonathon Small (Graham Soutten), reveals the whereabouts of his stolen treasure to two prison warders in exchange for his freedom, he is furious when they betray him. Driven mad by the sight of so many riches, one man, Major John Sholto (Herbert Lomas), murders his acquaintance, and flees with the wealth. Many years later, Small escapes from prison, seeking his revenge and his treasure. Shortly before his death, Sholto bequeaths the valuable pearl necklace from the treasure hoard to Mary Morstan (Isla Bevla), the daughter of the man he murdered. However, when Small comes after Morstan as well, she quite intelligently seeks the aid of the great Sherlock Holmes.

'The Sign of Four' is a surprisingly engrossing mystery. Whilst there isn't really much of a classic whodunit, I was most certainly interested in how the story played out. Throughout the film's prologue, the clunking of Small's wooden leg against the floor was used quite effectively to develop suspense, and the ambitious high-speed boat race and dock brawl at the end of the film was suitably climactic. The professional police detective, Det. Insp. Atherly Jones (Gilbert Davis), was characteristically smug and incompetent, often referring to Holmes as an "amateur," whilst himself reaching completely the wrong conclusion about a mystery.

Though the production values are undoubtedly low-budget, 'The Sign of Four' is a solid Sherlock Holmes film with some good performances and an engaging mystery. Worth a look.

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