Nellie St. Clair becomes distraught over the disappearance of Neville, her respectable, middle-class husband last seen in the second story window of a seedy waterfront dive and seeks out Holmes and Watson for help. When Holmes and the police arrive, they find a filthy beggar, not St. Clair, in the building which also serves as an opium den. The missing man's clothes are found in the room along with his son's broken toy and a bloody fingerprint on the window sill. Holmes initially suspects foul play especially after St. Clair's coat, weighted down with with copper coins, is found on a nearby riverbank. However, after the Great Detective interviews the beggar in his cell, he is able to solve the case and reunite Mrs. St. Clair with her husband. Written by
I've been a great Sherlock Holmes fan for many years and one of the "Holy Grails" of Holmesian film and TV productions has always been the Ellie Norwood Sherlock Holmes shorts. They're referenced in all sorts of books, but it's taken me sixteen years to actually find one to watch. You can well believe, then, how excited I was to actually see one is included on the "Sherlock Holmes Archive Collection" DVD set.
I guess I'm a little curious why they included this particular installment, out of the 49 silent Holmes performances by Norwood (one feature film, 48 shorts). I know two or three of the shorts were also released on VHS, once upon a time, and "The Man with the Twisted Lip" was included there, too - perhaps, then, only a very few of them still exist. The reason I find it curious is because "Twisted Lip" is not a terribly dynamic Holmes tale: Holmes sits, he tells a story to Watson, they go and make a discovery. Both men are fairly incidental to the plot.
All that means is that Norwood's Holmes - and even more, Hubert Willis' Dr. Watson - don't get too much of a chance to shine. Most of the story is background or flashback material where they're not involved. The most notable Holmes/Watson interaction of the original short story - Watson discovering Holmes in an opium den - is severely truncated at the start of the short, with the set piece mostly relying on watching Norwood transform out of his disguise and back into Holmes in "real time." That's probably the most interesting aspect of the entire short.
That said, I found "Twisted Lip" to be a faithful interpretation of the Conan Doyle story, and for a half-hour silent film, I thought it was certainly well-paced. I definitely enjoyed the opportunity to finally witness Norwood's Holmes in action. I just wish he'd had more...action...to perform in this installment of the series.
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