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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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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

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

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 »

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User Reviews

Best of the Holmes films with Arthur Wontner
11 October 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I've seen all four extant films with Arthur Wontner playing Sherlock Holmes (the others are "The Sleeping Cardinal," "The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes" and "Silver Blaze"), and this one is definitely the best. Associated Talking Pictures clearly had better facilities than Twickenham (the company that made the others), and the multiple producers (including Rowland V. Lee and Basil Dean, who had previously directed a Holmes film himself) picked a story with lots of action and hired a capable director, Graham Cutts. Cutts usually gets dismissed patronizingly in biographies of Alfred Hitchcock (Cutts directed a number of films in Britain in the early 1920's on which Hitchcock assisted, including "The Rat" and "The Triumph of the Rat" with Ivor Novello) as a mediocre director who drank and womanized his way out of a major career. Judging by his work here, Hitchcock fans should probably be looking at Cutts as an influence on the Master; this film MOVES (most of the other Wontner Holmes films are boring and plodding), it's clearly staged with a sense of pace, it makes good use of unusual camera angles (including a surprising number of overhead shots), and the final fight scene (though obviously done with a stunt double for Wontner) is a genuinely exciting action highlight. Cutts also gets a marvelous villain performance out of Graham Soutten, and effectively uses the sound of his peg leg at a time when the art of suggesting off-screen action with sound effects was common in the U.S. but relatively unknown in Britain. He also makes Wontner a more convincing Holmes than in his other films in the role — Wontner even LOOKS younger here than he did in "The Sleeping Cardinal," made two years earlier — and Ian Hunter is a more effective Watson than usual even though it's a bit jarring to see a Watson who's clearly taller than his Holmes. As someone who'd watched the other Wontner Holmes films wondering what all the fuss was about — he's always seemed overrated in the role to me — this one has raised my opinion of Wontner as Holmes considerably. Isla Bevan is a striking leading lady with an interesting resemblance to Ginger Rogers — later one of the cinematographers on this film, Robert de Grasse, became Ginger Rogers' favorite cameraman at RKO.

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