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Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1942)

Approved | | Adventure, Crime, Drama | 12 February 1943 (USA)
Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson must protect a Swiss inventor of an advanced bomb sight from falling into German hands.



(screenplay) (as Edward T. Lowe), (screenplay) (as W. Scott Darling) | 4 more credits »

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Complete credited cast:
William Post Jr. ...
Dr. Franz Tobel
Sir. Reginald
Mary Gordon ...


Working for the British government, Sherlock Holmes manages to spirit Dr. Franz Tobel out of Switzerland and into England before the GESTAPO are able to get to him. Tobel has devised an immensely accurate bomb site and while he is willing to make it available to the Allies, he insists on manufacturing it himself. Soon however, he vanishes and it is left to Homes, assisted bu the bumbling Dr. Watson, to decipher a coded message he left behind. Holmes soon realizes that he is up against his old nemesis, Professor Moriarty. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


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Release Date:

12 February 1943 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Secret Weapon  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Although credited as an adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's short story "The Adventure of the Dancing Men", the plot is an original story based on historical events which happened after Doyle's death. The only resemblance to the credited story is a cameo by the "secret code" of stick figure drawings. There is another moment taken from Doyle's "Sign of Four": the trail of luminous paint is confused when luminous paint is picked up by wheels of another vehicle at a crossroads. See more »


The secret weapon bomb sight is a standard photographic enlarger with the bellows and lens set upside down. If it were turned on as it is set up in the movie, the light would shine brightly upwards into the bombardier's eye. See more »


Professor Moriarty: Brilliant man, Sherlock Holmes, too bad he was honest.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: SWITZERLAND See more »


Followed by Sherlock Holmes in Washington (1943) See more »


Rule Britannia
(1740) (uncredited)
Music by Thomas Augustine Arne
Played in the score when London is shown
See more »

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User Reviews

Dancing Men and the Professor
8 August 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

In the Universal series of modern Sherlock Holmes stories with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SECRET WEOPON is not one of the top films - although it is entertaining. I think the problem with it is that much of the film's "dueling" between Holmes and his nemesis Moriarty (here played by Lionel Atwill) seems to delay the actual point of the Professor's work.

Moriarty appears in three of the Holmes films with Rathbone. In THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES he was played by George Zucco, who gave real relish to the love of villainy for its own sake to the role. For my money Zucco's performance as the Professor was the best of the three (there is even a brief moment of comedy in his performance, when he's disguised as the "Sergeant of Police" towards the end - like he's preparing to sing "A Policeman's Lot" from Gilbert & Sullivan). Next comes Mr. Atwill's performance here - more of that later. Finally there is Henry Daniell's intellectual Moriarty in SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE LADY IN GREEN. It's a typically cool, classy performance by Mr. Daniell, but his confrontations with Holmes seem to be a tedious bore to him. They keep him from completing the main plan. In the stories that the Professor pops up in, he really senses Holmes is a nemesis who will remain a danger as long as he is alive. Yet, because of the intellectual tennis match between him and Rathbone, Rathbone (in his autobiography) actually felt Daniell was the best of the film Moriartys.

If Zucco captured the love of evil in the Professor, and Daniell seemed to demonstrate the tired Oxford Don (in the stories the Professor is a well regarded mathematician, whose volume on the binomial theorem had a "European vogue", and who wrote an intriguing book, THE DYNAMICS OF THE ASTEROID), Atwill demonstrates the Professor as pragmatic businessman. First of all, he's sold his services (apparently) to Nazi Germany. This is never gone into, but one presumes (as this is before the Nazis began to really collapse) he figures they will win the war. Secondly, he is not a fool. When Dr. Tobel (William Post Jr.) has shown he is a state of near physical collapse due to the torturing of Moriarty's gang, the Professor decides to kidnap one of the other scientists who are assisting Tobel, because he's as good a scientist as Tobel and would be able to put together the bomb site. I somehow can't quite see Zucco making such a sensible decision on the spot, and if Daniell had to make it, he would seem annoyed that there is yet another delay to his plans.

By the way, one trick used in all the Holmes series regarding the Professor is how to rid the film of him. If you read the Holmes stories, Moriarty appears as the villain three times: in THE MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES' last story ("THE ADVENTURE OF THE FINAL PROBLEM"), in THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES' first story ("THE ADVENTURE OF THE EMPTY HOUSE") and the last of the four novels/novellas (THE VALLEY OF FEAR). It's amazing how much mileage the Professor got out of so few appearances (he is mentioned in two or three other stories as well - in passing). But because of his fate at the Reichenbach Falls in "THE FINAL PROBLEM" and "THE EMPTY HOUSE", we always see him fall to his death. Zucco falls off the White Tower on Tower Hill. Daniell (with more imagination) tries to flee Gregson and the police, but is shot as he jumps, and wounded fails to hold on to the wall of an adjacent building. Atwill (here it is not seen, but heard) seems to fall down a trap door he's planted in an escape tunnel). It is really tedious after awhile to see the Professor always fall in these films. One turns to the Gene Wilder comedy (admittedly a comedy) SHERLOCK HOLMES' SMARTER BROTHER, wherein Leo McKern is a wonderfully wacky and villainous Moriarty (complete, finally, with an Irish accent), who is not killed at the end, but just left mulling - in a rowboat - over how his careful schemes did not work out. I rather liked that better.

The use of the "Dancing Men" code here, like the use of the "Devil's Foot Root" in DRESSED TO KILL, snags a part of a mystery from a short story. "THE ADVENTURE OF THE DANCING MEN" appeared in THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, and deals with a client of Holmes whose wife has been getting weird, blood-curdling messages in this code. Charles Higham, in his biography THE ADVENTURES OF CONAN DOYLE suggests Sir Arthur may have picked up the code from a magazine game in the 1870s, but we really don't know. The code is basically one of letter substitutions for the figures of the dancing men. The story in the short story is dramatic, but deals with a triangle. The only innovation in the film is that Tobel makes a slight change that confuses both Holmes and Moriarty.

The film will entertain, but I still think THE HOUSE OF FEAR, THE SCARLET CLAW, and SHERLOCK HOLMES FACES DEATH are better films.

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