Sherlock Holmes investigates when young women around London turn up murdered, each with a finger severed off. Scotland Yard suspects a madman, but Holmes believes the killings to be part of a diabolical plot.
On the remote Norwegian Bear Island, used as a submarine base by the Germans during WW2, U.N. scientist Larsen sends a distress signal using an emergency NATO frequency and is received by scientific vessel Morning Rose.
Forget the later versions -- this one is the best.
I happened across this film recently and found it to be a superb forerunner to FROM HELL which was filmed many years later. To be frank, this version is a lot more believable. It impressed me deeply because of the excellent depiction of the cramped, narrow, damp and winding back streets of Whitehall, all shrouded in permanent fog, and with a queasy, chromatic musical score to alert you that not all is well and dark deeds await.
The characters are believable and well played: Plummer underplays Holmes when so many other actors take him over the top: James Mason is an earthy, skeptical Dr. Watson whose blusterings are amusing without ever become a pain in the tail; we have a cooperative and good-natured Lestrange, a suitably shell-shocked Mary Kelly, and Anthony Quayle puts in not only an incredibly gruff and abrasive performance as Scotland yard's Charles Warren, but also wins the movie's bizarre-makeup award. Donald Sutherland also modestly underplays his role as the sickly psychic with a mustache that Wyatt Earp would have envied. And of course, the unmasked villains are suitably sinister and reek of the madness being perpetrated on the panicky London slum.
Also deserving a nod are John Gielgud and others who play high government officials with the proper stuffy condescension and total disregard for "inferiors" of whatever class or religion, putting the stability of the monarchy far above those the ruling class are supposed to be caring for. It's hard to visualize Holmes an an insurrectionist, but if this was not the appropriate situation, nothing would be.
This film would merit a 10 out of 10 except for the peculiar character played by David Hemmings, who seemed out of place to begin with and brought too much attention to himself as someone to keep an eye on, as if he were a walking clue for the more inattentive viewer. Good performance, just an awkward and blatant addition to the story characters.
Forget the drug-hazed and farcical Johnny Depp character of FROM HELL: rather, watch the clear-headed relentless Holmes take on Saucy Jack with such a fervency that he overlooks more hidden, sinister forces attempting to steer him towards satisfying their own ends....
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