Friday, February 19, 2016

Experiment #4 - "Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon" (1942)

Three words: Abacus of death!


While we watched Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror, we determined how to make Elementary a better show:

Nick: So, I spent the morning in the company of Uma Thurman and Quentin Tarantino watching Kill Bill Vol. 1. I’m honestly sort of glad that I had not seen it before I started watching Elementary because I don’t think I could take Lucy Liu in the role of Joan Watson seriously.

Cat: Honestly, that would make me take her more seriously?

Nick: But then I would fully expect her to run across a table and chop off someone’s head in every episode. I don’t know. Maybe that’d make Elementary a little more exciting?

Cat: Dude, could you imagine that though? Her just decapitating anyone who got in the way? That would be freaking awesome. ...I mean, entirely incorrect and not in anyway cool….

Let it be known that we do not endorse the decapitation of anyone (of criminals or otherwise) on this blog. On to today’s movie:

Vital Statistics:
Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1943)
Major motion picture
Starring: Basil Rathbone (Sherlock Holmes), Nigel Bruce (Dr. Watson), Kaaren Verne (Charlotte Eberli), Dennis Hoey (Inspector Lestrade), Lionel Atwill (Professor Moriarty)
68 minutes, black-and-white


Nick: So, the “Nazi Trilogy” entered phase two with Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon which is for all intents-and-purposes based on the story “The Adventure of the Dancing Men.” Well, as you continue to try to wrap your head around the notion that Sherlock Holmes is still fighting the Nazis, did this one do anything to cement that idea in your head more than Voice of Terror?

Cat: Well, I think that it helped that we weren’t exactly watching Holmes literally entangled with Nazis most of the time. Giving him some distance from the espionage frontlines seemed to help (me, at least) come to grips with the fact that Sherlock freaking Holmes was fighting freaking Nazis.

Nick: I will have to respectfully disagree Catharine (and I’m sure that my love for Voice of Terror is probably getting in the way here), but I felt like Holmes acted even more like a spy in this movie than in the previous one. I mean, the movie opens in Switzerland and Holmes’s “mission” is to smuggle Dr. Tobel and his secret bomb out of Nazi-occupied Europe into England. I mean, that’s a legitimate spy thriller plot right there! Granted, the Nazis themselves were very much in the background for this one and the representatives of the Third Reich were spies and not creepy military officers.

Cat: Okay, true, you actually bring up some very good points up there. But aside from those first few minutes, it felt much more like a normal Sherlock Holmes story! (But for real, those first five minutes were pretty cool; I can definitely get behind that kind of Holmes spy-work.)

Does he have a copy of British Birds?

Nick: I agree. The beginning of this movie is very nicely done and I love Holmes’s old bookseller disguise (which I like to think is a nice reference to “The Empty House.”) Also, Holmes’s spy work does give us the opportunity for the detective to escort the understandably flustered Dr. Tobel through the streets of war-ravaged London which looks decidedly worse-for-wear since the last film. It’s sort of sad to think that the Holmes and Watson of this film universe had to live through the Blitz, but it is cool that despite the destruction around them 221B Baker Street has remained intact and untouched as ever.

Cat: Sort of sad?! I don’t want to think about Mrs. Hudson in a bomb shelter! That’s more than a little sad, Nick! :’( I’m glad you can easily see the coolness and sort of symbolic side of Baker Street’s durability, but that’s just a little too upsetting to me.

Nick: Well thanks a lot Catharine! Now I have horrible mental pictures of Mary Gordon’s Mrs. Hudson in a bomb shelter. NOT COOL! NOT COOL AT ALL! I need to clear my mind. Think of something funny Nick! I got it: Dennis Hoey’s dimwitted Lestrade - the second most bumbling character of this series. Here’s the blunt question of the hour: Compared to the one-and-only Rupert Graves (or Eddie Marsan from the RDJ movies for that matter), does the loveable Cockney Inspector hold his own?

Cat: (Nice transition there, Nick, but honestly, HOW DO YOU NEVER THINK OF THESE THINGS???) I suppose so? He honestly didn’t leave too much of an impression on me, but I liked him just fine. There were actually moments where I thought he was being more capable that Watson was! Which is saying something, I think. Really, it’ll be a bit of a challenge for someone to unseat Rupert Graves. I’m extremely attached to his Lestrade. (I may relate a bit too much to his “Not my division” approach….)

The detective and the buffoons

Nick: Well, while we’re talking about Lestrade, I’d like to pause for a moment to introduce to you two of the strangest (and yet persistent) controversies which exist in the Sherlock Holmes universe because both of them are related to the Lestrade. The first: We have no idea what Lestrade’s first name is. I have read and seen a number of variations: George, Giles, Greg etc. (The recurring joke in Sherlock is that Sherlock can never remember Lestrade’s first name because...well...we never learned it.) The second is: Just how on God’s green earth do you pronounce his name? The more common version is “Les-trah-d” however there are seemingly an equal number of versions in which the Inspector’s name is pronounced “Les-tray-d.” It’s a problem which has confused me for years and no one has a clear answer. According to Sherlockian gossip (the fact that that exists makes me sort of happy), Arthur Conan Doyle pronounced it “Les-tray-d” but no one has ever been able to verify that and well, to me, that way will always sound just a little strange. Wow...tangent...but hopefully I expanded your mind.

Cat: Nooo, why would you mention that to me? Now I’m going to feel conflicted for the rest of my life because I’m going against ACD’s alleged official pronunciation! “Les-trah-d” just makes more sense to me honestly. Interesting debate though. And I don’t care what his name is (or isn’t, I guess), I’m sticking with Greg, because, well...that was what I thought his first name was before you said that he didn’t have an official first name. Old habits die hard?

Nick: I would have loved for ACD to have intended Lestrade’s first name to be a really off-the-wall, crazy name like Giovanni or Gustavo, (all we know is that his first initial is ‘G.’) but I think that’s pretty unlikely.

We suddenly realize that we have more important matters to discuss (the abacus of death demands much time) so we move on:

Nick: Well, let’s talk about the other important Canonical character in this film: Moriarty. He crops up once again in the form of Lionel Atwill who played Dr. Mortimer in The Hound of the Baskervilles. I tried my hardest to keep Moriarty’s presence in this movie a secret. I don’t know how well that worked, but that’s beside the point. What did you think of Atwill’s portrayal of the Napoleon of Crime?

Cat: It worked pretty well, I think. I remember being pretty pleasantly surprised by the whole thing. I have mixed feelings. I really liked the role Moriarty had in the movie, but I wasn’t the biggest fan of Atwill’s performance as Moriarty. Now, that’s not to say that it was bad! I think he was alright; I just happened to prefer Zucco a little bit more. Now, if Zucco was playing Moriarty in this movie too, that would have been SICK! (In a good way.)

No Napoleon of Crime (sorry Lionel)

Nick: I agree. Lionel Atwill is a great actor and he plays evil characters really well. So, I think it is through no fault of his own that he makes for a sort of lackluster Moriarty. He’s written like a common-or-garden crime boss (not a sentence I get to type every day) instead of the cool, calculating villain that I think he should be. At one point Rathbone’s Holmes even calls Moriarty something like “a common cutthroat” and that is a very apt description. I think I have mentioned it before but Moriarty turns up three times in the Rathbone series and he’s played by three different actors and of the three, Atwill is my least favorite. (To whet your appetite, my favorite version of Moriarty is yet to come!)

Cat: You have mentioned that before, and I must say that I’m intrigued, because I thought George Zucco was pretty good. (By the way, look for my upcoming insane theory that links all three Moriartys in one plotline. It’s already half complete!) But, even though Atwill wasn’t anything super mind-blowing, I REALLY liked the things that his Moriarty did! And the conversations between Moriarty and Holmes towards the end were really cool. I basically got sucked into this once Moriarty came into play (as I’m sure Nick can testify).

Nick: My thoughts on my favorite Moriarty are rather controversial as he’s generally considered to be the least memorable, but I’ll save that for another day entirely. And, discussion of the ending of this movie is certainly warranted because the final act is simply brilliant I think. However, before we get there I’ll just try to hit a couple of plot points and if you have anything you’d like to say about them feel free to comment. So, Tobel is kidnapped by Moriarty after he has divided up the components of his bomb to various scientists. Leaving behind messages written in mysterious dancing men code it becomes a race-against-time as Holmes works to track down Tobel while Moriarty does everything in his power to locate the bomb and sell it to the Nazis. Holmes adopts a number of disguises in this movie (making it one of Rathbone’s favorites as it afforded him the opportunity to do so). Moriarty cracks the code just as Holmes does and we get a sneak peek at his office and...perched on the edge of his desk is the greatest prop in the history of film. Move aside Maltese Falcon! Forget the Ark of the Covenant! Moriarty has an abacus made of dragons and little skulls on his desk!


Cat: THE ABACUS OF DEATH!!!! I love this thing so much, because at first I didn’t realize that the little beads were actually little skulls! I mean...how much more badass does it get?! Only Moriarty would have a mathematical tool of doom. There’s no real reason for this to exist, but I am so glad it does. Having scenes in Moriarty’s office was worth it JUST for the sake of that prop getting screen time.

Nick: I’d like to think that that abacus is still somewhere deep in the vaults of Universal’s archives. I actually just did a quick ebay search to see if it has cropped up on their website (it seems like the kind of thing that the second cousin of the cameraman’s sister’s friend might have had in their garage at some point in time) but I was out of luck. In all seriousness, the thing plays no part in the plot of the film at all and we are taking too much time to discuss it but ever since I first noticed it in the background of a few scenes, it’s all I can look at. I had to make sure that I pointed it out to Cat when we watched this one because it’s one of those thing you won’t notice if you’re not looking for it. Oh well, onwards and upwards. Let’s talk about needles and trapdoors (the components of this film’s really cool finale).

Cat: I can only imagine that that’s locked away in some vault like the Ark, being looked after by top….men… Anyways! Moving on from the fantastic props, the ending. Oh my god, that ending. I was nerding out the entire time, it was so sad to watch (so my apologies, Nick!). I mean, first things first, death by slowly bleeding out (as Moriarty intends for Holmes’s cause of death) sounds about as awful as it gets. I certainly wouldn’t choose it for myself. But the fact that Holmes suggests this as a way to buy Watson, Lestrade, and co. time is freaking unbelievable. I can’t help but question why Moriarty would take him up on such a suggestion though. I mean, it’s totally up his twisted and sadistic alley, but...wouldn’t he be able to guess he had some kind of an ulterior motive/plan in mind? Maybe I’m reading too deeply into this, but I did find that to be a bit funny. But it made for a really cool scene, so I’m willing to look past it! I would also like to note that shortly after Holmes gets hooked up to the literal death machine, Watson and Lestrade finally make their way onto the scene in what looks like the nick of time. Watson then made me literally face-palm with his doctoring skills. Or the nonexistent ones, in this case. So he unhooks Holmes and literally LEAVES HIM ALONE A SECOND LATER. After he’s CLEARLY lost some blood! WHAT WAS HE THINKING?? Sherlock Holmes or no, that was just STUPID to assume he could “take care of himself”. I was more than a bit frustrated then. I’ve ranted for long enough, your thoughts on this all, Nick? I didn’t even get to the the trapdoor shenanigans!

Needles and trapdoor shenanigans

Nick: I love the final confrontation between Holmes and Moriarty and Holmes’s idea to have all of his blood drained out of him to buy the others time is incredible and horrifying and certainly not for the squeamish. I have never looked favorably upon needles so that scene is always a little trying. I can’t say that I have ever found Watson’s lack of medical attention as trying as Cat obviously does. It’s a relatively tiny moment in a pulse-pounding finale but I certainly understand where she’s coming from. As to the trapdoor...that has got to be one of Holmes’s coldest and most badass moments ever. I don’t like to throw around hyperbole too much but the fact that he escapes through Moriarty’s secret passage, comes across the Professor’s means of disposing bodies and casually leaves it open for Moriarty to fall through...that’s cold. I also love the way that Holmes just shrugs it off too at the end. As I mentioned above, the whole final act of this movie is really good and it’s where it goes (in my mind) from being a pretty average Sherlock Holmes film to a very good one.

Cat: Yeah, sorry. I’ve got one-too-many nurses in my family for me to honestly shrug that one off. It was amazing moments and amazing set-ups one right after the other. I had been liking the movie just fine and a bit more than Voice of Terror but it was really this ending that did it for me, so I entirely agree with Nick here.

It’s time for final thoughts:

Nick: Once more, I think I’ll let Catharine go first with her final summation.

Cat: I think I’ve ranted about my feelings on this enough as it is, so I’ll try to be brief here. While the first half certainly felt a bit more like a typical Sherlock Holmes adventure than I felt Voice of Terror did, it was definitely the ending that gave it a two thumbs up from me. It was suspenseful and creepy and just downright awesome. I think it’s kinda hard to go wrong with a good Holmes v. Moriarty set up, to be entirely honest. It certainly made Holmes v. Moriarty feel less weird, for me anyway. But, I realize those are totally my opinions, so what final words do you have to say on the subject, Nick?

Nick: I cannot be entirely certain but when I was first getting into Sherlock Holmes centuries ago, a cheap, crappy DVD copy of Secret Weapon may have been my introduction to the Rathbone/Bruce films (this is one of the few Universal movies which fell into the public domain) so you’d think that having been exposed to it for years would make me look very fondly upon it. And, it’s not that I hate this movie but it just feels lacking to me. Whereas Voice of Terror had so much style, this movie felt very lacking. Lionel Atwill’s Moriarty is also very lackluster. However, the redeeming features of this movie are aplenty: Holmes’s disguises, the opening scene in Switzerland, the finale, and of course the abacus of death! Again, it’s not that I hate this movie (it’s pretty good), but when I know the heights which the later Universal films could achieve, I feel like it rather pales in comparison. I would give this one 3.5 deerstalkers out of 5. And you Cat?

Cat: While I can appreciate style a great deal, I tend to like substance over style a tiny bit more. So that’s why I liked this so much, I think. Even if it had a couple kind of significant lacking factors, I felt like it just appealed to me overall, especially with that ending. Even if there was a less than desireable Moriarty around, I could see past that. So for me, this was a solid 4.0 deerstalkers out of 5.

Nick: Well, I’m certainly a fan of substance as well but unfortunately our next film is rather lacking in both style and substance. Oh well...it could be Pursuit to Algiers.

Nick's Rating
Catharine's Rating

Next Time: Watson wants to know “what’s cooking” as Holmes and Watson journey across the Pond and the Nazi Trilogy comes to an end.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Experiment #3 - "Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror" (1942)

In which Sherlock Holmes fights the Nazis. Meanwhile, we try to determine whether the garishly-dressed woman is a “lady-of-the-night” and try to come-to-grips with the detective’s new, particularly dumb hairdo.


Nick insists upon another history lesson:

Nick: So, after the two films at 20th Century Fox with Rathbone and Bruce, the studio decided to end the series. However, that was by no means the end of Holmes and Watson for Rathbone and Bruce as they joined Mary Gordon’s Mrs. Hudson on the radio which occupied their time between the years 1939 and 1942. They were also familiar faces on film still and Rathbone turned up as one of my favorite villainous roles in the original 1940 The Mark of Zorro.
And then, in 1942 Universal Studios - who were at this time best known for their horror and monster movies - secured the rights to the Arthur Conan Doyle stories and went about casting Rathbone and Bruce once more. However, this time the detective duo would be once more inhabiting a modern world and fighting Nazis!
Now, before we go any further, I have this vague memory of you telling me that you liked the old Universal monster movies? Is that correct or am I wrong?

Cat: No, that is correct! ….Though I’ll be entirely honest...I haven’t actually seen any…. I appreciate from afar? (I’m cringing as I say this.)

Nick: Understandable….and certainly glad to know that you appreciate the great Universal monster movies. The Sherlock Holmes films are made in a very similar style and feature a lot of the same actors. (Not to go out on too much of a tangent) But, I know that you are a fan of the movie Van Helsing.   

Cat: That I am. I don’t care who calls it cheesy or whatever, I entirely, unironically enjoy the movie.

Nick: I understand that completely. It’s a very entertaining film. And, when we get around to the BBC’s 2002 Hound of the Baskervilles, you’ll get to see Richard Roxburgh (Dracula in Van Helsing) take a very interesting stab at the role of Holmes!

Cat: Yaaaay!

Before things spiral in a completely off-topic discussion of the merits of Hugh Jackman fighting vampires, we decide to move on to the film at hand.

Vital Statistics:
Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942)
Major motion picture
Starring: Basil Rathbone (Sherlock Holmes), Nigel Bruce (Dr. Watson), Evelyn Ankers (Kitty), Reginald Denny (Sir Evan Barham), Thomas Gomez (Meade)
65 minutes, black-and-white


Nick: Well, I think it’s fair to say that you were pretty excited at the prospect of seeing Sherlock Holmes fight the Nazis. So, I’ll ask you point-blank: Did this movie live up to those expectations?

Cat: I...honestly am not sure how to answer that. Hmm. Okay. Yes and no? I mean, say it outloud, “Sherlock Holmes is fighting the Nazis”. It still sounds a bit weird, even after seeing the movie. It wasn’t quite as goofy as I thought it would possibly be (again - Sherlock Holmes fighting Nazis, WEIRD) and it was just BAM, we’re in the 40s. I know I’m not making a ton of sense here, but it was a lot to take in, let’s say that.

Nick: No, no. That makes perfect sense. It is a strange thing to wrap your head around. That’s why Universal put that weird little disclaimer in at the beginning: “The character of Sherlock Holmes, created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is ageless, invincible, and unchanging. In solving significant problems of the present day, he remains, as ever, the supreme master of deductive reasoning.” That was their explanation of bringing the whole series into the modern day. In doing so, Universal made a couple of interesting decisions...such as Basil Rathbone’s hairdo.

"It looks like Oscar Wilde's bedhead!" - Catharine

Cat: THAT HAIR. Okay, is it bad that I’m minorly proud of tainting your perception of that hairdo? Because he does look like Oscar Wilde. (HOW DID YOU NOT SEE THIS BEFORE, NICK??)

Nick: I...I don’t know because, I think that really was what they were going for. It was a really, really strange decision because Universal chucked the deerstalker and gave Rathbone a weird coiff. (I have heard that hair described as the “locks of Sherlock.”)

Cat: The poor deerstalker... :’(

Nick: I hate to break it to you Catharine, but you won’t see the deerstalker hat for a while. It’ll crop up on a hatrack throughout the rest of the Universal films but we’ve seen the last of Basil Rathbone donning the infamous piece of headgear. (When I was about seven or eight and I was first getting into the Rathbone films I was really upset that he never wore the deerstalker because - in my mind - that was the only hat which Holmes was allowed to wear. I’ve come to accept the fedora which he wears throughout the rest of the series now.)

Cat: I wouldn’t even mind it, except he already wore it! There was an attachment in place! Universal just...they messed up their relationship! It’s just not right. It’s sad. Basil and the deerstalker had something beautiful, and it got destroyed. (Catharine may or may not be too easily upset by the small details in life…)

Nick: I completely understand. Now, the interesting thing about Rathbone and Bruce in this movie is that - for the most part - they act almost completely the same as they did in the two Fox films which, of course, took place in the Victorian Era. And, honestly, I think that’s really cool. Did you have any thoughts about their performances in this film compared to the two previous ones?

Cat: You know, now that you mention it, I never consciously picked up on that fact. Oddly enough, it still works, despite being an entirely different time period. When I wasn’t being too distracted by Rathbone’s dishevelled Oscar Wilde hair, I was making commentary virtually identical to that of the running comments I made with the other two movies. Bruce is still infuriatingly endearing and Rathbone still kicks some serious ass.

Nick: One of my all-time favorite Nigel Bruce moments can be found in this movie and that’s when he is inspecting the bullet wound which was inflicted on Sir Evan and, when asked what he makes of the wound, he (brilliantly) declares: “Bullet wound.” Yes...Nigel Bruce’s Watson is an idiot...but I love him so much.

Sassypants Watson or stupid Watson?

Cat: I’m glad you mentioned that particular scene, because I was about to myself.. I’d honestly have to rewatch that part, because immediately I was overcome with frustration with Watson and couldn’t properly focus for a good fifteen seconds - but I wouldn’t be surprised if that wasn’t said with the intent of being a touch oblivious and overly obvious, but if that was supposed to be thinly veiled sarcasm. (As in something along the lines of, “What do you THINK it is? A papercut?”). I could be reading too deeply into this in my (futile) hopes to see him be competent for more than five seconds, and like I said, that did throw me off for a moment, but that might have to take a place as one of my favorite “No s**t, Watson,” moments.  

Nick: Well, we did determine that Bruce’s Watson is something of a sassypants so it’s possible, but it’s just Watson being stupid. Now, we were introduced to another unofficial member of the Baker Street Gang in this movie in the (short-lived) form of Kitty played by Evelyn Ankers. I swear that that is a reference to The Illustrious Client as there is a character therein who may-or-not be a prostitute and she serves a very similar function in that story as she does here. What did you think of her because I think she’s great and certainly one of the best female leads in the Universal Holmes movies.

Cat: She was pretty cool. I could have gone for seeing more of her, to be entirely honest. The scene when they’re in the bar (which, as Nick mentioned when we were watching the movie, is pretty freaking close to the one in The Great Mouse Detective) and she’s trying to rouse everyone to help her out with patriotism was actually really cool. A bit unexpected, but a very cool moment to get right after meeting her character. (Also, going off of your theory, Nick, because I know more about The Great Mouse Detective than I should - Kitty is also the semi-unofficial name of the showgirl mouse in blue in the aforementioned bar. Weird coincidence, if you ask me…)

Nick: It is. Is there some unofficial Arthur Conan Doyle Estate stipulation that all Sherlockian adaptations must include a female character who (maybe) is a prostitute named Kitty? I know that you were quite surprised when she was killed in the end. I definitely recall being very surprised when I first saw this movie because it’s a pretty shocking death and really comes out of NOWHERE.

Cat: It DOES. Although, in hindsight, I suppose I wasn’t too surprised. Nick, you mentioned before we started that this was probably the most film noir-y of the Rathbone movies. It is sort of a staple of film noir for the femme fatale character to die at the end. Kitty wasn’t exactly a femme fatale, but she was the only major female character, so I suppose that’s close enough for her fate to not shock me too much - in hindsight. Before I had time to reflect on that, I was a bit surprised at how she died more than the fact that she died at all. When I saw a gun being pulled, and Kitty noticing it, I surely thought it was going to get aimed at Holmes and maybe she was going to either jump in the way or push him out of the way, but nope! She got the bullet entirely. That seemed a bit odd to me. I mean, while I didn’t want to see Basil Rathbone get shot, it certainly would have made more sense to try to shoot the Great Detective while his back was turned. Maybe that’s just me, I don’t know. So that was honestly what surprised me more than Kitty biting the dust in general.

Nick: This is the most film-noir-esque Sherlock Holmes movie ever made and that’s one of the reasons I love it so much and, your reasoning behind her death does make complete sense. I think the behind-the-scenes reason is that (in the censors’ eyes), Kitty was without a doubt a prostitute and (again in the censors’ eyes) she was an amoral being who had to die. This is despite the fact that she worked for Sherlock Holmes and was completely willing to fight for her country.

Cat: Ah, I do love that good ol’ old Hollywood sexism. Prostitutes aren’t people! They totally suck and deserve to die! (This is dripping with sarcasm, if you can’t tell.)

Nick: For a moment I thought you’d gone off your rocker Cat! Well, while we’re discussing the end of this movie, I think we need to discuss the twist ending! Sir Evan, the representative of the Inner Council who hired Holmes in the first place, was revealed to be a German agent Von Bork! Color me surprised! That is one of the few things that this movie carries over from the original Doyle story "His Last Bow." That and the beautiful speech which Holmes delivers at the end which, watching it again, gave me genuine chills: “But there's an East wind coming all the same, such a wind as never blew on England yet. It will be cold and bitter, Watson, and a good many of us may wither before its blast. But it's God's own wind none the less. And a greener, better, stronger land will be in the sunshine when the storm is cleared.”

Cat: (Nick, the day I start spewing misogynistic BS is the day I need to be stopped). Yes, that was a pretty good way to end the film. However, with the context of them just busting the Nazis, it took an...oddly patriotic tone? Yet again, it was weird. It’s not that it entirely came out of nowhere, but it was this sudden slap of “God Bless America/England” that was weird for the sheer fact that you were hearing it come from Sherlock Holmes himself (who, again, just to further restate the point FOUGHT NAZIS). This was, of course, followed by the patriotic plea to buy war bonds and all that jazz. Media from the 40s absolutely fascinates me with the subtle and overt levels of propaganda that they have in them, so it was a little funny to see that not even Sherlock Holmes escaped this cinematic fate.  Nonetheless, it was a lovely bit of dialogue to end the movie with.

"There's an East Wind coming..."

Nick: And equally beautifully delivered by Basil Rathbone. (While watching this movie we were forced to pause while I went on and on about I loved Rathbone’s voice. His readings of Edgar Allan Poe poems and stories are brilliant.) But, at its heart Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror is really a propaganda piece. I mean, who’s more British than Sherlock Holmes? It’s kind of the ultimate morale boost for both Britain and the U.S.

Cat: I will spare everyone me going into a whole tangent about American WWII propaganda (for now at least), but the thing I want to mention about it right now is that it was effective. You’re entirely right, Nick, who is more British than Sherlock Holmes? When Sherlock Holmes fights Nazis, you know it’s legit. If Sherlock Holmes told me to buy war bonds, I’d probably heavily consider it. And then maybe go donate some money to the Red Cross, because I’m too pacifistic for war. But still!

Nick: Well, I certainly think that it is entertaining propaganda and certainly well-made propaganda. As we mentioned before, this movie is certainly the most film noir-esque Sherlock Holmes ever made and...I love it. The extreme close-ups and the lighting...it looks great. While I love Roy William Neil (who directed the remaining eleven films for Universal), John Rawlins - this film’s director - brought a really cool and different approach to the material.

Cat: It certainly is very nice to look at (and not just when Basil Rathbone’s on screen…). I particularly loved the lighting and the shadows and all that good film technique-type stuff in the scene leading up to Holmes and Watson entering the bar and finding Kitty. I don’t believe it was a very long sequence, when they were outside in the alleyways and roads, but it was just seriously awesome. I think the best way to sum it up would be to say that it was film noir in all the right ways.

It’s time for Final Thoughts:

Nick: I don’t quite know what it is about this movie but everything feels right to me. Yes; the film is essentially a propaganda piece and it may very well be weird to see Holmes fight the Third Reich but I think it’s handled so well. Rathbone and Bruce are so good in this movie and Evelyn Ankers is great as Kitty. We didn’t touch on Thomas Gomez’s Nazi ringmaster but he almost steals the show. Bolstering across-the-board fine performances and brilliant cinematography, I just really love this movie. It may have its faults but I am entirely willing to look past them. It may not be the best of the Rathbone/Bruce films but it is without doubt one of my favorites if not my favorite of the movies in the series. And you Catharine?

Cat: I don’t exactly know what it was, but I just couldn’t fully get into this movie. Don’t get me wrong, it has some tremendous strengths to it, (I mean, really, I don’t think you can really go wrong when you’ve got Basil Rathbone as Holmes, am I right?) but I think seeing Sherlock Holmes in the 40s, Nazis, and some additional war propaganda all at once might have been a touch too jarring for me to be able to take that all in and then go about properly enjoying the movie. It also doesn’t help that I kinda sort of was talking over the first half a minute of dialogue, so it took me about fifteen minutes to figure out what the hell the Voice of Terror actually was. However, that is no fault of the movie. The propaganda there at the end really did throw me a bit because throughout the rest of the movie, it wasn’t anything too overt, except for maybe Kitty’s speech at the bar which was a bit different than hearing it literally from Rathbone himself. So, while I totally am not knocking the movie and I did really love bits and pieces of it quite a bit, I don’t necessarily think that this movie was perfectly suited to my tastes. But hey, I got 65 minutes of Basil Rathbone, so I ain’t complaining!

Nick: So, with that being said, what is your official rating for this particular entry?

Cat: I award this movie 3.5 deerstalkers! Still a pretty freaking good movie, just not entirely for me. And you. Nick?

Nick: Well, I’m going to have to go with my gut and give this one a perfect score. I really don’t give many things a perfect 5 out of 5 but I feel like this one really is deserving. I REALLY like this movie and it’s towards the top half of my all-time favorite Sherlock Holmes movies.

Up to this point our scores have been exactly the same. Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror has proven to be something of a point of debate for us. We can guarantee that it won’t be the last time…

Nick's Rating

Catharine's Rating

Next Time: The so-called "Nazi Trilogy" continues...