Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson must protect a Swiss inventor of an advanced bomb sight from falling into German hands.Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson must protect a Swiss inventor of an advanced bomb sight from falling into German hands.Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson must protect a Swiss inventor of an advanced bomb sight from falling into German hands.
For Sherlock Holmes latest adventure some fifty years later, SECRET WEAPON opens in Switzerland where Holmes (Basil Rathbone), the master of disguises and deductive reasoning, is seen as an white haired old man entering a pub coming to the table to interest Braum (Robert O. Davis) and Jacob Mueller (Paul Fix), on some old books he wants to sell, while, in actuality, is posing as a Nazi spy pretending to expose information on a Doctor Franz Tobel (William Post Jr.), a scientist who's secretly engineered a new bomb sight. Because his life is in constant danger, Holmes, secretly hired to protect Tobel, arranges for decoys to be followed by members of the Gestapo while he and the doctor drive down the road to an airplane bound for London awaiting them. Now a house guest and under close watch by both Holmes and his associate, Doctor Watson (Nigel Bruce) at his 221-B Baker Street apartment, Tobel manages to sneak away during the midnight hours to visit with his fiancée, Charlotte Eberly (Kaaren Verne), at her residence. Unknownst to him, Tobel's being followed by a mysterious figure. Suspecting something's going happen to him before his demonstration is to be met with Sir Reginald Bailey (Holmes Herbert), Tobel entrusts a sealed enveloped containing an alphabet substitution code of dancing men to Charlotte to give to Holmes, which she does, following his sudden disappearance. After Holmes opens the envelope, he finds Tobel's code gone and replaced with a message reading, "We meet again, Mr. Holmes!" which means only one thing, that Tobel was abducted, or possibly killed, by England's most sinister mastermind, Professor Moriarty (Lionel Atwill). Holmes, Watson and Inspector Lestrade (Dennis Hoey) race against time preventing the "secret weapon" from reaching the Nazis, or worse, Moriarty, as he attempts to figure out Tobel's "dancing men" message code.
Others appearing in the cast include Philip Van Zandt (Kurt); Henry Victor (Frederick Hoffner); Michael Marke (George); Harry Cording (Jack Brady, one of Moriarty's men); and of course, Mary Gordon as Mrs. Hudson, Holmes' landlady.
An slight improvement over its previous installment, SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE VOICE OF TERROR, with the writers resuming its London blitz World War II setting once again as its basic theme source, once again borrowing portions from Conan Doyle's original story. Unlike THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES where Moriarty was the central secondary character, SECRET WEAPON gives Moriarty a chance to shine (and rise from the dead) 38 minutes into the story, thus, holding his own, and Holmes as well, once together again, face-to-face, eye to eye, for some very tense moments. Under Moriarty's orders to his associates, Holmes falls victim to some death facing death experiences. Two that come to mind: Holmes bound and gagged inside a sea chest to be thrown from a carrier ship to the bottom of the ocean; Holmes strapped helplessly on an operating table to have his blood drained slowly from his body. Rathbone and Atwill, having worked together in earlier film projects as SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (Universal, 1939), and THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (20th-Fox, 1939), that latter that introduced Rathbone to Sherlock Holmes, make a fine pair, but nothing compared to Rathbone's screen partnership with Nigel Bruce. They're definitely one of a kind.
Along with other movie detectives from that period, Charlie Chan being amongst them, this latest addition of "Sherlock Holmes" is standardly good 68 minutes material. The Rathbone-Bruce Universal editions would achieve greater popularity in later years when sold to television as part of its "Sherlock Holmes Theater" package. By the 1980s, SECRET WEAPON, along with few others in the series, have fallen to public domain (minus the Universal opening and closing logo), and placed on video cassette in the 1980s through various distributors. SECRET WEAPON was also broadcast on numerous public broadcast stations and cable channels (sometimes in colorized format), and sometime later on Turner Classic Movies (TCM premiere: March 8, 2004) and RetroPlex. Currently available on DVD in clearer prints, this and other Holmes and Watson mysteries continue to have an impact with each new generation awaiting what's in store from this and their next assignment of SHERLOCK HOLMES IN WASHINGTON (1943) (**1/2)
- Oct 26, 2013