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Holmes' Creeping Menace
Ron Oliver11 February 2005
While searching for THE PEARL OF DEATH, Holmes & Watson encounter a master criminal and his terrifying backbreaking thug.

This vivid & suspenseful film makes a welcome addition in the series of movies highlighting the exploits of Baker Street's most famous inhabitants. There is danger around every corner and Holmes must match his intellect against raw brute evil as he attempts to recover the Black Pearl of the Borgias. As always, Basil Rathbone & Nigel Bruce are beyond praise as they bring Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's celebrated characters to life. To the viewers' delight, Holmes finds he can be thoroughly duped and Watson uses his mouth for something other than gab.

Holmes' rivals for possession of the Pearl are little Miles Mander and pretty Evelyn Ankers. Together, they provide the master detective with one of his most challenging cases. All three characters (most especially the men) make good use of cunning disguises to try to find the diminutive treasure.

Dennis Hoey as the inept but courageous Inspector Lestrade and dear Mary Gordon as Mrs. Hudson return to roles they've already essayed very well in the past. The always reliable Ian Wolfe has the small part of a helpful crockery shop proprietor.

The most intriguing member of the cast is Rondo Hatton, a tragic sufferer from acromegaly, a terrible disease which deformed his body into a grotesque horror. He is most effective as the sinister Creeper, especially during his few moments with Rathbone at the film's climax, and he was immediately spun-off into cheaply produced chillers playing essentially the same character. Apparently he hated being exploited, but this was to end sadly with his sudden death in 1945.

Movie mavens will recognize an uncredited Billy Bevan as a meal-bearing constable.

This film was loosely based on Conan Doyle's short story The Adventure of the Six Napoleons. It was preceded by THE SCARLET CLAW (1944) and followed by THE HOUSE OF FEAR (1945).
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Another excellent adventure for Sherlock Holmes!
The_Void25 June 2005
This entry in Universal's awesome and prolific series of Sherlock Holmes films is one of the best that I've seen. The series works because it offers a solid hour (or so) of light entertainment, which it peppers with good humour and an engaging plot; and that is something that is masterfully handled with this movie. The plot of this film is great, and it follows Sherlock Holmes as he makes a rare blunder which leads to a rare and valuable pearl being stolen from a museum. It is then left up to the main man to make up for his mistake as he attempts to search for the lost gem and get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding it's disappearance. This plot makes a great base for a tale about the great detective as it puts him in a position that we don't usually see him in - the man in the wrong. Aside from being amusing, this also gives us the chance to see a different side of Basil Rathbone's portrayal of the great detective. His mannerisms and facial expressions as he realises the trouble that his showboating has brought are priceless, and a highlight of the series on the whole.

Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce make for a great on-screen duo as Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick, Dr Watson and they are joined by the inept police sergeant; Lestrade, and that only increases the comedy element of the movie. The plot line this time doesn't break any new boundaries where mystery plotting is concerned, but it ensures that the film always runs smoothly through it's short running time. It also makes for some great dialogue, and Holmes' speech towards the end is of particular note for being really well done. The atmosphere for this movie is really well done, and as we follow someone that breaks people's backs during the night; this helps the story immensely. My only criticism of this film really is the same one that could be applied to most of the series, and that's that the film is far too short, and we can never really get our teeth into the mystery because the film just isn't on for long enough. However, aside from that this is still a very good Sherlock Holmes adventure and if you've enjoyed other entries in the series, no doubt you'll like this one too.
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The Pearl of Death (1944) ***
JoeKarlosi11 June 2004
Another good Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce Holmes film, one of the most entertaining of this series. It features the first appearance of Rondo Hatton as "The Creeper", a killer who snaps people's spines. Hatton was an unfortunate victim of "acromegaly" in real life, a disease which distorts and enlarges the face, hands, and feet. Director Roy William Neill takes special care to photograph him only in the shadows at first until just the right moment occurs.

THE PEARL OF DEATH wraps around an interesting plot of a trio of crooks looking to possess the valued pearl of the title. This includes solid work from Universal's usual scream queen Evelyn Ankers, uncharacteristically used as a baddie this time around in juxtaposition of her usual damsel in distress persona. Regulars Rathbone, Bruce and Dennis Hoey are all in top form, though the comedy factor is played up to the hilt on several occasions. Great fun all around.
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The Case of the Borrowed Ending
c532c26 February 2004
Somehow the ending of THE PEARL OF DEATH was picked up and plunked down into MURDER, MY SWEET: The unarmed Detective in the dark, faced up against Miles Mander and a hulking brute, turns the tables through his understanding of the relationships between the characters. I wonder if the writers at RKO ever acknowledged this swipe from Universal? At any rate, both films make good use of lighting and creepy sets to exploit the situation, and both directors (Dmytrick & Neill) know how to use the limited acting skills of Mike Mazurki and Rondo Hatton to best advantage. I liked Rathbone's pithy comment to the Police when they arrive to catch the baddies, "You won't need your revolver. Nor handcuffs. Worthy of a hard-boiled Private Eye in any film noir!
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Classic Sherlock Holmes mystery.
gavmaster16 August 2000
Expertly directed by R. William Neill, who was responsible for the film noir classic "Black Angel", "The Pearl Of Death" is based on the Arthur Conan Doyle story "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons". This film has it all: mystery, action, comedy, horror, even a half-assed patriotic message tacked on to the end (it was made as WWII was coming to a close). I was impressed by Basil Rathbone's characterization of Holmes: he consistently utters lines that, coming from an inferior actor, would probably sound ridiculous, yet he manages (probably because this was his sixth turn at the character) to impress me with his believability and sheer presence on the screen. Until I saw this film I was always irritated by Nigel Bruce's bumbling Dr. Watson, whose character is miles away from the Watson portrayed in the books, but I now realize that he was the perfect foil for Rathbone's Holmes. The updating of Holmes into the modern era also troubles me, but the film manages to maintain a kind of 'timeless' quality by avoiding too many 'modern' references. Virgil Miller's cinematography is beautiful: I would hate to see it "Colorized" by Turner and his evil band. Miller, who shot another one of my favorite films, "Mr. Moto Takes A Chance" is the perfect compliment for Neill's great direction: together they make every shot interesting, and provide many unforgettable images.
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Another good Holmes entry from Universal
james_oblivion22 February 2006
The Universal Holmes series was on a roll at this point, having just released what is probably the best film in the series, The Scarlet Claw, earlier the same year. This one is a bit of a step down, but on a par with earlier films like Sherlock Holmes Faces Death and The Spider Woman...and on a much higher level than the first three flag-waving WWII propaganda films.

This entry is based on the Arthur Conan Doyle story, The Six Napoleons. And while numerous changes were made, it actually follows the original story more closely than any of the other Universal pictures did. Most of the films were either very loose adaptations, amalgams of several different Holmes stories, or original scripts that were merely inspired by the Conan Doyle canon. This one, however, follows the general outline of the original story, while adding various subplots along the way. Overall, it works, even if it does seem to veer off-track at a few points.

These films were produced at breakneck speed (it was not uncommon for three Holmes films to be released in a single year) with fairly low budgets, but Roy William Neill knew how to achieve great results with his limited resources. As with its immediate predecessors, the camera-work in The Pearl of Death is strong and evocative, the direction is confident and effective, and the performances are, at least for the most part, fine to excellent. Rathbone's Holmes is once again in his proper element here, and Rathbone makes the most of the character.

The Pearl of Death is just a step below The Scarlet Claw, in my estimation...which still makes this outing quite enjoyable. Anyone who liked The Spider Woman, Sherlock Holmes Faces Death, or The House of Fear will definitely appreciate this one. Out of the dozen Holmes films that Universal churned out between 1942 and 1946, this is one of the eight that I would say deserve to be called "great."
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This One Will 'Creep' You Out!
ccthemovieman-11 November 2006
Here is yet another solid Sherlock Holmes entry, featuring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. This story centers around a chase by crooks to seize a valuable pearl, a bunch of murders that take place as a result of that pursuit, and Holmes trying to make sure the pearl stays with its rightful owner.

It turns out the pearl is hidden in one of six plastic Napoleon busts. Whoever buys these busts winds up dead by a hired killer, monstrous fiend called "The Creeper," a huge man-beast who literally breaks backs.

Holmes (Rathbone) narrowly avoids getting hurt several times himself while Watson (Bruce) mumbles his way through to provide comic relief. Dennis Hoey, who plays "Inspector Lestrade," is as dumb as a brick and adds more humor to the story.
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The Cursed Black Pearl of the Borgias
theowinthrop11 April 2005
In 1903 Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a short story called "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons". In it Inspector Lestrade tells Holmes and Watson of a strange series of seemingly unrelated crimes in which houses are burglarized and bric-a-brac smashed. Is it the work of a madman or an intelligent criminal? Holmes discovers the running link in the crimes - in each case a cheap bust of Emperor Napoleon I was smashed. Then the crimes become deadlier - a man is murdered at the site of one of the smashups (the home of a newspaperman named Harker - a name retained in the movie by a minor victim). Holmes soon finds out that the busts came from a store where a man who fits the description of the criminal worked. This criminal is captured. The final one of the six busts is found, and broken before Watson and Lestrade by Holmes. And out pops the world's rarest black pearl, the Borgia Pearl.

Of course the story is more fully fleshed out by Conan Doyle. His villain is an ethnic type - so there is a little racism (though nothing like the racism met with in G.K.Chesterton or R.Austin Freeman). However the story is not totally like that in the film. The villain, Beppo, is not a criminal mastermind - not a Moriarty type. He has a clever idea, not one of many clever ideas. And he kills his victim when he is confronted by an enemy (something totally unplanned). There is no "creature of the night" figure of dread but just Beppo.

So the film version is (except for the pearl and the busts of Napoleon) a rewrite. Giles Connover and the Creeper (or, as Lestrade calls him, "the Oxton 'Orror") are movie innovations, and both are quite effective, thanks to Miles Manders acting and (unfortunately) Rondo Hatton's appearance. But they helped make the film better than average.

So does Rathbone. He does a disguise act at the start (as good as his song and dance act in "THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES"). He also has a go at imitating the voice of another actor in the film (and he does it nicely)and a disguise at the end. Nice balance there. Bruce adds some good comedy, especially when he thinks fast and shows he too can hide the pearl. Also note his scene where he tries to reassure a visitor that he is as good at deductions as Holmes was.

Altogether a different story from the Doyle original, but it is a good film on it's own merits.
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The Holmes film with actual leads
drystyx8 July 2011
Most of the Sherlock Holmes films are based totally on atmosphere, with the clues nonexistent for the viewer, based on objects the audience can not smell, hear, touch, taste, or see, or based on events that are not in the story until after the crime is solved.

This is a Sherlock Holmes mystery in which we are finally given some clues. We actually go step by step with Holmes in solving the case, instead of learning about a fact "expo facto".

Instead of Moriarty, we have a similar bad guy, just as formidable, with the same sort of henchmen we are used to seeing from such bad guys. He steals a pearl from under the nose of Holmes.

And that is another fresh addition to this film. Holmes becomes mortal. He makes a very embarrassing mistake, and he does it while showing off. His superiority complex betrays him. In a moment of arrogant conceit, he gives the criminal the very opportunity to steal the pearl.

Unfortunately, Watson is the buffoon again, and you probably know he wasn't that way in the original stories. However, here he at least is shown to be capable with firearms, and a capable doctor.

The clues and evidence are shown to us. We actually get to help solve this case. And we get to see Holmes make a fool of himself for once.

These two factors make this the most unique of the Sherlock films, and the one that is the "must see", if someone is to watch just one.
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Sherlock Holmes against the Hoxton Creeper. He must protect his third lumbar vertebrae
Terrell-429 November 2009
Warning: Spoilers
"One of two things has happened. Either the woman he bumped into was an accomplice, in which case she has the pearl, or he managed somehow to conceal it in his flight."

The pearl, of course, is the cursed Borgia Pearl, an object of rich men's lust. The "he" is Giles Conover (Miles Mander), a master criminal as cruel as he is clever, as contemptuous of men as he is unmoved by women.

The Borgia Pearl has been the object of criminal stratagems since it arrived in London for display in the British Museum. The director of the museum is immensely proud of how he has harnessed electricity to warn of any untoward action involving the museum's objects. But what happens when Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) apparently makes a mistake. And what happens when the electricity doesn't work.

It will be Sherlock Holmes, aided by his game but confused partner, Watson (Nigel Bruce), against Giles Conover. Holmes makes his disdain for Conover clear. "I don't like the smell of you -- an underground smell, the sick sweetness of decay. You haven't robbed and killed merely for the game like any ordinary halfway decent thug. No, you're in love with cruelty for it's own sake."

Little does Holmes realize that Conover has a creature of his own...a brute whose face is the result of a disorder of the pituitary gland. Watson might call it acromegaly. Most laymen would say it's the Easter Island Statue Syndrome. It's not long before Holmes must deal not only with Conover, but also with this creature...the Hoxton Creeper (Rondo Hatton). "A monster, Watson," Holmes says, "with the chest of a buffalo and the arms of a gorilla. His particular method of murder is back breaking. And it's always the same...the third lumbar vertebrae." "How horrible," says Watson.

Does Sherlock Holmes best the Creeper? Does he recover the Borgia Pearl? Does Conover taste the bitter brew of utter defeat? You'll get no spoilers from me.

Some think macaroni and cheese is the perfect comfort for what ails you. I think it's Rathbone and Bruce. People can argue about which actor has been the best Sherlock Holmes, but there is something about Rathbone's style, earnestness, profile and line delivery that makes me sit back and smile every time I watch him play The Great Detective. All that Victorian gaslight, fog and cobblestones help, too. With some strange alchemy, the Holmes movies with Rathbone have turned into an elixir of kitsch, style, remembrance of things past, satisfaction and noble causes. Mac and cheese doesn't come close.
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Sherlock Horror!
Coventry22 November 2005
Even though "The Pearl of Death" primarily remains a mystery-thriller, the film just bathes in a genuine horror atmosphere and that's all thanks to the introduction of its spooky villain in the shape of "The Creeper". This impressive character is mostly appearing off-screen or in the shadows, and yet his presence alone makes "The Pearl of Death" the most unsettling of all Sherlock Holmes movies. The Creeper, played by Rondo Hatton who suffered from the incurable Acromegaly-disease, plays a merciless killer who always slays his victims in the same way, namely by breaking their backs. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson cross his path whilst trying to recover a stolen pearl with great historical (and financial) value. Holmes does whatever he can to get back the pearl, since he was responsible for losing it while pointing out the security-weaknesses of the British Museum. Roy William Neill does another classy job directing the screenplay based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's story "The Six Napoleons". The dialogues are extraordinary well written and marvelously rattled off by the great cast. There are fewer obscure filming locations in this installment but, opposed to that, there's a big collection of imaginative disguises and thrilling booby-traps. As usual, the characters of Dr. Watson and Scotland Yard inspector Lestrade provide the film with a welcome comic relief.
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Holmes meets The Creeper!
VicCasey11 October 2005
Rondo Hatton is my hero. Rondo took the crummy hand that fate dealt him and played it magnificently. He became one of the most endearing and cool anti-heroes of all B-moviedom. Hatton played The Creeper in three movies: The Pearl of Death, The House of Horrors, and The Brute Man (a prequel to House of Horrors). To experience Rondo Hatton as The Creeper is to experience pure magic! I watched horror movies as kid and always loved "the monster". A good "monster" gets my vote every damn time. The Creeper fits that bill perfectly and better than most. The Creeper is one of my all time favorite fright flick anti-heroes. GOD BLESS YOU RONDO HATTON!
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This time intelligent detective Holmes and his sympathetic pal Watson face off a criminal master , a cunning woman and a mountain man
ma-cortes21 July 2020
This is a Rathbone-Bruce effort set in London , an enjoyable Sherlock entry , in which Holmes is called to carry out a mysterious assignment about a robbed pearl from an astute thief . First-rate and intriguing Holmes movie with adequate setting , including two exceptional villains , one man (Miles Mander) and one woman (Evelyn Ankers) . Sherlock Holmes (Rathbone) and Watson (Bruce) , the detecting duo living in 223 Baker Street , again are up against an ominous , threatening contenders and along the way they promise to help the baffled Inspector Lestrade (Dennis Hoey) to solve a confused as well as twisted case in any way they can . At the beginning Holmes recovers the famous Borgia pearl from shipboard thieves . Later on , Holmes is visiting the museum where it goes on display , there Sherlock shows the curator how easily the pearl could be robbed by simply cutting the electrical wires . During that demonstration, Giles Conover (Miles Mander) , a well-known robber , snatches the pearl and runs off . He's soon trapped but the pearl is nowhere to be found . Soon after , to be aware of a series of ruthless crimes that seemed to have been commited by a giant man mountain known only as the Creeper (Rondo Hatton) . THE SECRET OF THE GEM OF DOOM! .The master minds tackle the master crimes!.Marked... for sudden and violent Death! A Girl risked everything for it! 20 men lost their lives for it! Who was the Creeper?The master minds of mystery ¡ From Conan Doyle's gripping books! From your favorite radio mystery! THE MASTER MINDS OF MYSTERY...leap to life to challenge the menace of modern crime!

It concerns the usual battle Holmes vs. a malevolent enemy and along the way Sherlock must solve killings and some vitally important .The movie is an excellent Holmes thriller with gripping setting , unanswered mysteries and unstopped suspense in which Holmes has to help a hard case . The plot of the picture is freely based on story " Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original Sherlock Holmes story : The Adventure of the Six Napoleons¨ . In the flick appears the usual of the Arthur Conan Doyle's novels : Inspector Lestrade , Mistress Hudson , of course , Doctor Watson and furthermore , a nasty villain similar to Doctor Moriarty called Giles Conover . This is the ninth of fourteen films based on Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional consulting detective Sherlock Holmes starring Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Doctor Watson. Here Basil Rathbone performance is splendid , he's the best cinema's Holmes , similar to television's Peter Cushing and Jeremy Brett . Rathbone as whimsical sleuth is top-notch , he's in cracking form , intelligent , broody and impetuous . He's finely matched in battle of wits with sinister arch-enemies , and some first-range villains . Nigel Bruce plays Watson with humor , jinx , goofy and mirth . He's the perfect counterpoint to Holmes . Besides , appearing briefly distinguished secondaries as Evelyn Ankers , Dennis Hoey , Miles Mander , Ian Wolfe , Mary Gordon . And brief appearance by Rondo Hatton , an actor who suffered Acromegaly -a disorder of the pituitary gland- that causes deformation of bones in the head, hands and feet, and internal and external soft tissues , as he appeared to have subsisted primarily on bit parts or extra roles, with an occasional role substantial enough to earn him cast acknowledgment, until being cast for the role of the "Hoxton Creeper" in this Universal film , subsequently playing other bit roles in "House of Horrors" and "The Brute Man¨. Universal thereafter attempted to promote Hatton to horror film stardom because of his acromegalic appearance, including a burgeoning series about a spine-breaking maniac called "The Creeper".

This classic film gets an atmospheric black and white cinematography with plenty of lights and shades that originate an eerie setting by Virgil Miller . The film has a creepy atmosphere , but available colorized in a horrible version . Adequate music score fitting to suspense by Paul Sawtell. This was the ninth of fourteen films based on Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional consulting detective Holmes feature to be produced and professionally realized at Universal , being competently directed by by Roy William Nell (filming lasted from April 11-May 1, 1944) the usual saga director and habitual in the Universal monsters movies , replacing John Rawlins , at times .
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Jeepers... it's The Creeper!
BA_Harrison29 November 2011
Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) allows arrogance to get in the way of common-sense, disarming a museum's alarm system to highlight its inadequacies, and giving criminal mastermind Giles Conover (Miles Mander) the ideal opportunity to make off with a legendary pearl in the process. Conover is quickly apprehended, but not before he has had a chance to stash the valuable gem inside a plaster Napolean bust.

In order to restore his tarnished reputation, Holmes sets out to locate the missing gem, following a trail of broken bodies and smashed crockery left in the wake of Conover's murderous henchman, a massive brute known as The Hoxton Creeper (Rondo Hatton), who is also looking for the pearl, snapping the back of anyone unlucky enough to have purchased one of the ornaments.

I have mixed feelings about The Pearl of Death: as perversely satisfying as it is to see London's greatest sleuth make a complete ass of himself for a change, I find it hard to accept that Holmes's mistake, a result of his pomposity, ultimately results in several innocent people being snapped like a twig by The Creeper; likewise, I struggle with the absurd level of buffoonery displayed by both Dr. Watson (Nigel Bruce) and Inspector Lestrade (Dennis Hoey)—while admittedly funny, it's extremely hard to swallow that they could really be that stupid.

In the end, it is Rondo Hatton's Hoxton Creeper that qualifies this film as essential viewing: born with the disfiguring condition acromegaly, which causes enlarged features, Hatton's ominous physical presence makes him a truly menacing foe, one guaranteed to send a chill down the spine (immediately before snapping it!).
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A frantic hunt for a blood-stained pearl
binapiraeus2 March 2014
The famous, huge, and of course immensely valuable Borgia Pearl is just on its way to its 'safe' place in a London museum, when Giles Conover and his greedy gang (including pretty Naomi Drake) almost manage to steal it while it's being shipped to London. But since this valuable jewel has to be guarded, of course, Holmes is on the same ship, and (in another fabulous disguise as an elderly clergyman) recovers it from clever Naomi.

So, it's finally placed in its 'uniquely' guarded place in the museum - and the director lets Watson, who's got his doubts about its safety, demonstrate how his security system works: as soon as Watson takes the pearl away from its cushion, the alarm bells ring and all doors and windows are automatically shut! But a little later, when Holmes, Watson and the director are discussing the security matter again in his office, Holmes turns the tables and demonstrates to HIM that his system is not at all that safe: because it's all connected by only three little wires, which Holmes disconnects in order to show the security flaws to the director - BUT in those few minutes until the system is restored, a member of the gang, disguised as a worker, manages to get away with the priceless pearl; for once, the great Sherlock Holmes has embarrassed himself most terribly...

And so the hunt for the pearl, which must be hidden somewhere, begins - but it isn't called the 'Pearl of Death' by pure chance: in the many centuries since it belonged to the infamous Borgias, it has brought death upon many people; and it continues to do so. Very soon, a series of murders begins, with the victims having no relation whatsoever with each other or the pearl - but all bear the same cruel 'handwriting' of the murderer: their backs are all broken at exactly the same spot; the method a demented mass murderer, who's believed dead by the police by now, used years ago. And there's another thing the scenes of all crimes have got in common: around all the victims, whole heaps of broken china are scattered...

A very intriguing, entertaining case, with many unusual features: Holmes, the great, PERFECT detective, makes a vital mistake for the first time without which the whole story wouldn't even have happened; the ending is made up of a very cunning psychological trick instead of the usual chase scene; and another thing: Evelyn Ankers, who usually played the frightened heroine in Universals thrillers and horror movies, gets an opportunity here to show MUCH more of her talent in various disguises, and most of all, as the reckless femme fatale fit for any Film Noir of the time! This is definitely one entry in the Rathbone/Bruce 'Holmes' series that not only Sherlock Holmes fanatics will find enormously interesting, thrilling and entertaining...
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Above Average Entry.
rmax30482328 May 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Rondo Hatton, a poor guy suffering from acromegaly, which you get when your pituitary loses its governor, is the creepiest of creepers in "The Pearl of Death." We don't even see him for most of the movie, derived roughly from Conan-Doyle's story about busts of Napoleon. And when the camera does glide over to him in the shadows, we see only his hands, glowing slightly because of the tight, white surgical gloves. Man, did this make my hair stand on end when I was a kid.

The mastermind here is Giles Conover. He controls The Creeper and uses Evelyn Ankers as a pretty accomplice. Conover has stolen the Borgia Pearl ("the blood of twenty men on it over the centuries") and has had to hastily hide it in some half-dried busts of Napoleon. But he doesn't know which of six busts the pearl is in, so he sends The Creeper out to kill each of the owners (he breaks their backs) and smash the crockery. Lestrade is a buffoon, wrong about everything, and Watson is dumber than usual, which is saying a lot. The BBC story with Jeremy Brett hews more closely to the original but lacks The Creeper's eerie menace.

But -- you know, I think it's time that Mary Gordon as Mrs. Hudson, the housekeeper and landlady at 221b Baker Street, came in for a little applause. She's clearly a member of that household. She never plays a major role and doesn't even appear in some of the entries, but she's sweet and nurturing, like no landlady you ever had. If she complains about Holmes shooting bullet holes in her wall, well, who can blame her? A kind, matronly figure with gray hair, shuffling around, bringing her tenants tea and scones. (Sob.) If the Conovers and Moriartys of the world would disappear, Holmes could sit back and play his fiddle, and Watson could read the newspapers and rub his wound. We wouldn't need them. But the world NEEDS Mrs. Hudsons -- now more than ever.

Three of the Universal episodes stand out from the rest, in my uninformed but unimpeachable impression: "The House of Fear," "The Scarlet Claw," and this one.
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If it isn't I'll retire to Sussex and keep bees.
hitchcockthelegend15 January 2009
A pearl with a strange reputation is stolen from a secure museum due in no small thanks to Sherlock Holmes having a rare lapse in concentration. As he and his loyal companion Watson get stuck in to the case, it's evident that the perpetrator has brains to match his undoubted daring. Backed up by a menacing thug known only as the Creeper, this criminal may just have enough about him to evade capture by Holmes and his bag of wily tricks.

Very loosely based on the Arthur Conan Doyle short story, The Six Napoleans, it's probably best to just judge this delightful Holmes adventure as a standalone picture. All the usual ingredients that made this franchise so rewarding are here, mystery at every turn, a perpetual sense of adventure, and of course the quite wonderful chemistry between Basil Rathbone's Sherlock and Nigel Bruce's Dr Watson. Here the pair are backed up by Miles Mander, Evelyn Ankers, Ian Wolfe and the always enjoyable Dennis Hoey as Inspector Lestrade. But I promise that the most memorable performance you will come away with in this picture is that from Rondo Hatton as The Creeper, barely seen outside of a darkened moving shadow, once this hulking creeping menace is revealed it has quite an impact. Hatton is perfectly cast as he was always effective as the muscle character, check out In Old Chicago 1937 for another memorable little turn.

I always find with the Holmes series that the films are only as good if their villains are memorably bad, I like the villains here, and come the (obviously) inevitable finale I feel that you can't possibly feel let down. 70 minutes of entertainment just fly by, it may not be one for the Conan Doyle purists, but in the context of the franchise, it works rather well. 7.5/10
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Another excellent Sherlock Holmes picture
chaos-rampant13 December 2008
At this point the creative team behind the ongoing Sherlock Holmes saga in Universal could probably churn them out with their eyes closed and their hands behind their back. Director Roy William Neill and the acting duo of Rathbone and Bruce return to their positions for another short but delightfully entertaining murder mystery. Everything that made the previous entries with Neill in the helm so successful are reprised but not rehashed. The diabolic criminal mastermind (and master of disguises good enough to rival Holmes himself), this time one called Giles Connover, the henchmen taking potshots at Holmes and Watson, Nigel Bruce playing Dr. Watson as a bumbling fool and providing welcome comedic touches in doing so, Holmes disguises, the dark, almost noirish cinematography and on-the-spot deductions - all here once more and no less entertaining for that matter. It also provides the series with one of its most creepy goons, aptly named as The Creeper, whom Neill wisely conceals for most of his screen time in shadows and reveals as a *gasp* moment in just the right time. PEARL OF DEATH shows that Hollywood once had and has long now lost the knowledge of how to make worthwhile sequels on a budget that live up to their predecessor's name.
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Sherlock Holmes, a pearl, Napoleon busts and the Creeper...
TheLittleSongbird16 August 2013
Great ingredients for a great Sherlock Holmes mystery, and Pearl of Death was that. Despite the too-short length and the out-of-place patriotic speech, Pearl of Death is one of the better entries of the RKO series(Scarlet Claw being the best, Hound of the Baskervilles and Adventures of Sherlock Holmes are even better but they were 20th Century-Fox distributed). It is crisply and atmospherically shot, with very striking period detail and the fog and shadows make the atmosphere remarkably creepy. The music score is very well-incorporated and haunting, if somewhat similar to the score of The Wolf Man, the film is solidly directed right up to one of the series' scariest climaxes and the dialogue is both funny and intelligent(you have to love Holmes' line to the police in the climax). The story, while only containing elements(the pearl, the Napoleon busts) of the original story, moves very quickly though not feeling too rushed and is always engaging with great suspense and sense of mystery. The acting is strong, the most memorable being Rondo Hatton who is just spine-chilling as the Creeper, having seen this at about 11 years old and having vague memories of that viewing it was Hatton that I remembered the most vividly. Basil Rathbone is spot-on as Holmes as he always was, cunning and very well-read with a touch of humour about him, Pearl of Death also has some of his best deductions of the series. Nigel Bruce is amusing as Watson, and he does bring some loyalty to counterpoint with Rathbone's Holmes, though the character can be too much of an idiot in this series and at times that is true here. His chemistry with Rathbone still convinces, there really is a great dynamic between them. Lestrade is even more so, the character was always inept but this Lestrade really is as thick as a brick, like with Watson the writing of the characters is part of why that is. Dennis Hoey is very funny though and seems to be really enjoying himself. Evelyn Ankers is very attractive with great disguises, she makes for a striking and strongly-acted accomplice. Miles Mander is not quite as good as the rest, he is menacing in a quiet and subtle sense- without falling into total blandness- which is a good approach, if not quite distinguishing himself in the climax especially compared to Hatton, one rare case where the henchman actually eclipses the mastermind. In conclusion, an entertaining and atmospherically effective Sherlock Holmes mystery, Hatton's Creeper makes the film. If you are a purist though and want a more faithful adaptation of the story, watch The Six Napoleons with Jeremy Brett as Holmes as part of the Granada series, even better than this and one of the best of that series. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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"I don't like the smell of you - an underground smell, the sick sweetness of decay."
bensonmum226 May 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The Pearl of Death is about average for the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films I've seen so far. It's not as good as something like The Scarlet Claw, but I thought it was better than some of the others I've seen. Rathbone and Nigel Bruce give their usual solid performances. However, I found that a little bit too much of the focus was on Bruce. That's not always a bad thing, but here he really didn't have much to do. Watching him paste clippings in a book for several minutes isn't the most entertaining thing in the world. My only complaint with the supporting cast is I would have liked more Evelyn Ankers. Other than that, they're fine. The story is good and it's nice to see Holmes fail on occasion as he does in the beginning of The Pearl of Death. In fact it's an incredible change of pace to see Holmes make such a gargantuan mistake that ends up costing several people their lives.
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Top-Notch Forties Sherlock Holmes Mystery Classic
ShootingShark27 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
When a priceless jewel, the Borgia Pearl, is stolen from a London museum, Sherlock Holmes is on the case. The theft seems somehow related to a series of grisly murders in which the victims had their backs broken and are surrounded by smashed crockery ...

This is one of the best of the great Rathbone-Bruce Sherlock Holmes movies, taken from Arthur Conan Doyle's brilliant story The Six Napoleons. The plot races along, filled with suspense, intrigue, shocks and humour, cracking machine-gun dialogue and a myriad of clever bits of business (multiple disguises in both the heroes and the villains, a knife hidden in a book, an enormous jigsaw puzzle of broken porcelain, a shadowy fiend). The entire cast are sensational; Rathbone never finer, Bruce a perfect foil, the gorgeous and criminally underrated Ankers a blinding femme fatale in a plethora of guises (society lady, dishwasher, match-girl, shop assistant) and the remarkable Hatton (who suffered the cruel glandular condition of acromegaly) as the unforgettably monstrous Hoxton Creeper. Brilliantly directed with spartan style by Neill, this is a terrific old black-and-white mystery caper, not to be missed.
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Good entry in a series where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
Wilbur-108 July 2002
One of the better Sherlock Holmes entries starring Basil Rathbone, 'The Pearl of Death' features a mystery/horror storyline rather than the clumsier adventure/spy narratives which the films in the series were increasingly reverting to.

A pearl is stolen from a museum as Holmes is inspecting the safety arrangements - "Electricity - the High Priest of false security" he warns whilst being shown the high-tech system. The pearl is stashed away and ends up hidden inside one of six busts of Napoleon which are then sold on by an antique shop.

This is one of the best entries in a series of films which I have a soft spot for - admittedly the storylines are usually implausible, cliched and sometimes jingoistic, but the films are great fun to watch so long as you enter into their spirit.

That said, 'The Pearl of Death' has the usual bumbling stupidity of Dr Watson and Inspector Lestrade which, whilst slightly amusing at first, soon becomes a needless irritant which gets in the way of the plot. I'm sure Holmes would be better served by aides of comparable intellect to compliment him more, instead of the Shaggy and Scooby Doo-types he is lumbered with.

With a genuine physical threat in the shape of The Creeper played by Rondo Hatton and a fast-moving pace throughout, 'The Pearl of Death' will be well appreciated by fans of the series.
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Enjoyable if you like the series
bob the moo30 December 2002
Having recaptured the infamous pearl from the possession of criminal Giles Conover, Sherlock Holmes returns it to the British Museum. Dr Watson is concerned about the lack of security at the Museum but the curator shows him the modern electric alarm. Holmes demonstrates it's weaknesses by easily disabling the alarm – however while he is doing this Conover strikes and steals the pearl, stashing it somewhere before being caught. To save face, Holmes sets out to uncover the pearl, but at the same time the deadly Creeper appears to be back – breaking the back of his victims and smashing their china. Are the two connected in some way?

I watched a recent version of a Sherlock Holmes mystery so I thought I'd watch a few of the old versions just as a taste of both camps. The plot here is good and it is fun to see Holmes wrong footed at the start rather than just being arrogantly right all the time! But before long we are back to Holmes making the rest look foolish, which is enjoyable in it's own way, although he never struck me as a humble man willing to accept others. The drama does take a supernatural twist towards the end which alters the investigative feel of the film – the Creeper is only a few scripts away from being a zombie or a ghoul of some sort. But it still works and the mystery is solved in stages never losing the audience.

Rathbone is a good Holmes despite the very arrogant way he plays him. I would welcome a little more humility and patience in Holmes. Bruce plays Watson as a bit of a buffoon and, although unfair to the character, he is amusing and lightens proceedings. Likewise all policemen are foolish and comical. Mander is a good villain but somehow you never feel like he could overcome Holmes but Hatton as the Creeper has walked onto the set from a horror film or something and is far too ghoul-like to be just a dangerous criminal.

That said, this is enjoyable none the less and fans of this Holmes series will like this. It is constructed well with only the few weaknesses towards the end in the shape of the creeper.
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Holmes Meets the Creeper
BaronBl00d2 July 2004
One of my personal favourites of the Sherlock Holmes cycle of movies starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. This time Holmes is trying to thwart a gang from stealing a priceless pearl. We get to see Holmes dress up as a befuddled clergyman, outwit a funny Inspector Lestrade, and meet Rondo Hatton's Creeper, a killer that breaks the backs of men with his very hands. Based on the story "The Case of the Six Napoleons," Holmes must locate the pearl that has been embedded in a bust of the French emperor. Rathbone and Bruce are again very affable and turn in their customary good performances. Dennis Hoey as Lestrade, I believe very undervalued in that role, injects a lot of life into this one. And Hatton, of course, just filmed by his shadow until the end, is a convincing film presence. Throw in lovely Evelyn Ankers as a woman out to outwit Holmes, and you have a good mix.
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Holmes and Watson: The Theft of the Borgia Pearl
lugonian31 May 2014
THE PEARL OF DEATH (Universal, 1944), produced and directed by Roy William Neil, the seventh installment to the studio's own "Sherlock Holmes" mystery series, minus "Sherlock Holmes" in the title, resumes its winning combination of Basil Rathbone (Sherlock Holmes) and Nigel Bruce (Doctor Watson) in another exciting entry. Based on the story, "The Adventures of Six Napoleons" by its creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, it resumes the frequent use of series regulars of Miles Mander and Ian Wolfe assuming different character roles. While Universal's own Evelyn Ankers, last seen in and killed off in SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE VOICE OF TERROR (1942), offers some fine assistance assuming different characters in numerous disguises, it's Rondo Hatton, billed as "The Creeper," who, minus disguises or hideous make-up, who's the one getting most of the attention even with his very limited on-screen appearance to leave some lasting impression.

The story opens on a ship bound for Dover where one of its passengers, Naomi Drake (Evelyn Ankers) arranges for a steward to have James Goodram (Holmes Herbert), secretly carrying an Borgia pearl, leave his stateroom long enough for her to enter and steal the priceless gem worth $50,000 to be displayed at the Royal Regent Museum. The scheme works as Goodram goes to the wireless room and Naomi finding the hidden pearl to conceal it inside her camera. With the boat to dock in Dover within 15 minutes, Naomi, having already befriended an elderly clergyman, entrusts him with the camera so not to have her film exposed by the customs inspector. As Goodram discovers his pearl gone, Naomi, having retrieved her camera, leaves the boat, enters the car of her leader, the master criminal Giles Conover (Miles Mander), only to find the pearl gone and note enclosed signed by S.H. To Conover, this means they've been duped by the one and only Sherlock Holmes. With Holmes (Basil Rathbone) and assistant, Doctor Watson (Nigel Bruce) returning the pearl to the museum, it is stolen soon after Holmes disconnects wires to the security system proving its flaw when electricity is turned off. Blamed for his blunder, Holmes, along with Inspector Lestrade (Dennis Hoey), in an attempt to locate the pearl's whereabouts, are soon baffled by a series of violent killings from buyers of plaster busts of Napoleons that are taking place. With victims found with broken backs surrounded by smashed dishes of china, Holmes, believing the pearl concealed in one of the six sold Napoleon busts, does his best to be one step ahead of the ringleader and his murderous accomplice, The Creeper (Rondo Hatton), before any more murders involving the cursed pearl is to take place.

As with the previous installment of THE SCARLET CLAW (1944), THE PEARL OF DEATH wonderfully blends mystery with horror. Thanks to a tightly-knitted script credited to Bertram Millhauser, this is no doubt a top-notch 70 minute programmer. Aside from Rathbone's master of disguise or two, he's finds stiff competition with Conover (Mander) and Naomi (Ankers) as they attempt to conceal themselves through masterful disguises of their own. Ankers comes off best in several occasions, one talking Cockney, demonstrating her fine talent as an actress while assuming different characters for her one role. Miles Mander comes a close second in a Professor Moriarty-type villain best described by Holmes as one capable of: "Crime without motive, robber without a clue, murder without a trace." And last but not least, Rondo Hatton, whose character is well concealed through much of the story until that very moment, the creepy creeper, described as one with the strength and arms of a gorilla. Others featured in the cast are Charles Francis (Francis Digby); Ian Wolfe (Amos Hodder); Richard Nugent (Bates); Harry Cording (George Gelder); Billy Bevan (The Constable); and, of course, Mary Gordon in her recurring role of Mrs. Hudson for two very brief scenes.

THE PEARL OF DEATH should rank among the favorites of Holmes series devotees and certainly one worth recommending to anyone new to these films featuring those reliables of Rathbone and Bruce, who, by this time, have become so type-cast in their roles. Though each would get to appear in other movies during their "Sherlock Holmes" period (1942-1946), Rathbone and Bruce did get to work in the same motion picture, the Technicolor swashbuckler, FRENCHMAN'S CREEK (Paramount, 1944) starring Joan Fontaine and Arturo DeCordova. While FRENCHMAN'S CREEK is close to being forgotten today, the Universal "Sherlock Holmes" series remains better known, thanks to frequent television revivals dating back to the 1950s, availability on home video and DVD, and broadcasts on numerous cable channels, notably Turner Classic Movies (TCM premiere: December 26, 2009). Next installment: THE HOUSE OF FEAR (1945) (***)
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