Friday, 29 July 2016

THE RATHBONE HOLMES - THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (1939)






The opening credits play and, behind those most familiar of names stands Sherlock Holmes, in silhouette, pipe smoking and bullseye lamp casting its light as for clues. Closing on a cluttered desk, a book is opened. Inside, the opening page;


An English Court room. Four judges sit on the bench, as the Clerk of the Court asks a jury if they have reached verdict. They have. At the words 'The Prisoner will rise' a tidy, bespectacled man with a trim beard and scholarly air looks up from his note-taking. It is as if he were inconvenienced somehow, rather than awaiting news of his fate. Does the jury find the prisoner guilty or not guilty of willful murder?. According to the evidence, they have no choice; not guilty. That this verdict is followed by 'And may God forgive us' indicates the unease of almost all present. The presiding Judge, a man of great distinction notes that this is a gross miscarriage of justice. He feels it deplorable a man of such intellectual attainments should be in the prisoner's box charged with murder, yet he cannot find it in his heart to exonerate Professor Moriarty. He is discharged, but then comes a commotion at the door; Sherlock Holmes has arrived bearing evidence that proves Moriarty murdered Loray and that will destroy his alibi. Counsel for the Defence argues that alibi was established by three hundred members of the Royal Society, pointing out that, once acquitted, his client cannot be charged twice for the same offence.

Doctor John Watson and Sherlock Holmes; Nigel Bruce is Watson, Basil Rathbone Holmes.
Outside, in a typical London shower, Professor Moriarty waits for Sherlock Holmes to emerge from the Court. The Professor feels Holmes has a bad opinion of him. Coldly, Holmes states that, on the contrary, he holds him in the highest esteem – but only as a knave. Moriarty offers his foe a lift, cabs being scarce in the rain. Thus is it that the onlookers outside the Court building find themselves treated to the rare, perhaps even singular sight of the two adversaries walking side by side to a waiting Hansom. 

George Zucco is Professor Moriarty.

Once inside, Holmes acidly states he admires the Professor's brain so much, he would like to present it, pickled in alcohol, to the London Medical Society. Far from being insulted, Moriarty finds this amusing, stating it would make an 'interesting exhibit.' The journey continues, with Moriarty observing Holmes nearly brought him to the gallows. He then makes the most audacious boast – one that, in a lesser criminal, might well have elicited scorn. He plans to 'break' Holmes.

'I'm going to bring off
right under your nose
the most incredible crime
of the century -
and you'll never suspect it
until it's too late.
That will be the end of you,
Mr. Sherlock Holmes.
And when I've beaten and ruined
you then I can retire in peace.
I'd like to retire,
Crime no longer amuses me.
I'd like to devote my remaining
years to abstract science.' - Professor Moriarty

The hansom rolls to a halt outside 221 Baker Street and politely, Holmes regrets himself unable to invite the Professor in. They bid each other a civil 'Good night.'


In his nursery and element, Moriarty admires a remarkable example of an orchid. A flautist plays, a strangely-unsettling, repetitive melancholia. Examining his potted plants, however, the Professor is seized by a terrible suspicion; the dryness of the watering can confirms it!. Striding across to the bell pull, plant in hand he tugs at it savagely, summoning Dawes, an elderly servant. Dawes informs his Master of Mr. Bassick's arrival. His every word betraying his discomfiture, Moriarty directs the servant to return after Bassick's departure. 


Pausing to consider the uncanny Flautist, seen to us as mere shadow, Moriarty takes the lifeless plant to his desk. He examines it carefully, as if hoping to discover some hidden secret as Dawes shows Bassick in. This latter is a tall, stooped man in fashionable long coat, with military moustache and trimmed sideburns. He removes his top hat as he approaches the Professor's desk. Bassick states that the music gives him the creeps – Moriarty rather likes it. Handing the tall man an envelope, he instructs him to post it in the box at Portland Square a few minutes before twelve. This done, he is to return to his lodgings via Oxford Circus. There he is to remain, until sent for.


Refusing to be dismissed, Bassick wants assurances; he has a right to know what he's getting into. Moriarty tells him that he will take care of it. Uneasy, Bassick reminds Moriarty of the similar promise he made to 'Iggins on 'that Hammersmith job.' The Professor laments the loss. Poor Higgins!; all they found was his boots. The tall man dares correct his employer; 'One boot.' Massaging his right fist with his left, the Professor expands on this – Higgins was a valuable man, a cracksman, but he had Bassick's unfortunate habit of asking questions. Now, all that remains of him is one boot. Thinking this veiled threat over, Bassick backs down. He will obey the Professor's orders. Ameliorated by this subservience, the Professor rises to circle his desk. He tells his subordinate the bones of his plan. He intends to exploit a peculiarity of Holmes' brain, his restlessness even. Holmes again?.

'Always Holmes until the end.
He's like a spoiled boy
who picks watches to pieces
but loses interest in one toy
as soon as he's given another.'
- Professor Moriarty.

Moriarty plans to present the ingenious, fickle Detective with two 'toys', hoping to mislead him as to the significance of one and focus on the other. The first is the letter, the second?, Moriarty draws, shows him a most unusual and unsettling sketch.

Moriarty hopes that this intriguing doodle will so occupy Holmes that the letter will not. It contains the germ of a crime, a great crime – one that will stir the Empire. The letter is addressed to Sir. Ronald Ramsgate, the Constable of the Tower of London. Bassick secretes the letter in his topper as Moriarty ushers his visitor out, the Professor's attention returning to his poorly plant. Dawes enters and his Master berates him for neglecting to water his Anthurium Magenta*. In vain, Dawes protests innocence, but the watering can bears evidence to the contrary; a spider's web across the spout. Nothing is as important to the Professor as his flowers. His declaration that his servant has murdered a flower only serves to underline his lack of empathy with his fellow man. He should be broken on the wheel, drawn and quartered – boiled in oil. Dismissing the unfortunate servant, he returns to his desk where he snips the sole flower from the doomed plant to press it between the leaves of a Baedeker's guide to london. It just so happens the pages the flower lies between include a map of the Tower of London...
*No such plant existed at the time, however, one has apparently since been named in honour of the Professor.


221b Baker Street and Holmes plucks away at his violin, observing the reaction of some flies trapped in a brandy snifter as he plays a scale. Mrs. Hudson enters, un-noticed, sighing in dismay at her eccentric lodger's latest experiment. Going through to the landing, she finds the boy, Billy, sweeping in a girl's frock. Telling him he can dust next, she goes down-stairs. Cheekily, Billy sweeps the dust under a rug. A ring at the door diverts the boy; looking down to see Doctor Watson entering. Taking the stairs, Watson remarks on Billy's attire. Mrs. Hudson made him wear it, but he was afraid the Doctor or Mister Holmes would see him. Watson thinks it very becoming, going in to see his friend. Billy changed his name to Norman and bought a motel...


Avuncular, Watson saunters in to find the great Detective busy fiddling with his flies. Sherlock produces a note from his dressing gown. From an Ann Brandon, it states she wishes to consult him about her attendance at a garden party. She will call at eleven; the hour approaches. Holmes has researched Miss Brandon. Living with her brother – their father died mysteriously some ten years past, Miss Brandon is of good stock, wealthy from her family's mining enterprise. The party is to be held by Lady Conyngham, an eminently respectable personage, if her parties are a little dull. Watson feels Holmes ought to be concentrating his intellect on Moriarty, but Holmes has decided to do nothing. The Professor is as interested in his movements as the reverse. Moriarty will call on Holmes, he does not doubt it. And what is this fiddle and fly?. Holmes is observing the effects of the chromatic scale on the common housefly. Scathingly, Watson calls it a 'brilliant experiment', but Holmes insists such will be the case; if he can find the note to disperse the flies. This time, Watson is genuinely amazed. No, no, no... Elementary, my dear Watson... purely elementary. 
 

A knock; Doctor Watson predicts this to be the young Miss Brandon, Holmes plumps for an elderly man suffering with gout. Indeed, it is Sir. Ronald Ramsgate whom the Detective welcomes into his consulting room. Sir. Ronald produces Moriarty's letter, Holmes inferring from the apparently childish scrawl the author used their left hand. Holmes reads aloud; 'The Star of Delhi will never reach the Tower of London.' The missive is unsigned. Going to the fire, Holmes takes up a taper to light his pipe. The Star - possibly the largest Emerald yet found, is a gift to Her Majesty from the Maharajah of Raipur. Dismissing the letter as a typical crank note, Holmes reassures Sir. Ronald that no professional thief would go near the Star of Delhi, but agrees to the request to be present when the Star arrives, this weekend, when the cruiser Invincible docks.

Ida Lupino is Ann Brandon, seen here in a 20th Century Fox production still.
An agitated rapping at the door is followed by the entrance of a beautiful young woman, who excuses herself to cross to the window. Apologetically, she approaches Holmes, telling him she is certain of being followed to Baker Street. Reasoning this to be Ann Brandon, Holmes introduces the present company, but Miss Brandon is reluctant to talk. Sensing this perhaps, Sir. Ronald takes his hat, stick and leave, telling Holmes he is depending on him. Holmes, for his part asserts he will not fail him. Clearly agitated, Miss Brandon apologises for her melodramatic manner, but she had to see him. Charmingly, Holmes asserts it to be of no matter, there being no more informal household in London than his. He is unclear as to why she should consult him over a garden party. Her brother and the family solicitor, a man by the name of Jerrold Hunter are insisting she attend – she herself does not wish to. Watson suggests that perhaps she should attend; Lady Conyngham is eminently respectable. 



Miss Brandon is, however, frightened. Of?. Murder. At this, Holmes and Watson stiffen perceptibly. Urging her to sit, Holmes listens to her case. She explains that a drawing came for her brother Lloyd in the post two days ago; she shows Holmes Moriarty's albatross drawing, the date May 11 written clearly upon it. 




Holmes goes to his desk, laden with chemical experiments and snatches up his glass. Examining the sketch, he remarks it a field day for crank messages. Today is, indeed May the Eleventh. Ann states her father received just such a note before his own murder. Ten years ago, on May the Eleventh; Scotland Yard couldn't make anything of it. She saw his body herself, lying on the pavement. She stops with a shudder and turns away as if from that terrible image. Holmes asks if the date carries further significance to her family. She says no, nothing. Imploringly, Miss Brandon pleads with Holmes not to let 'them' murder her brother. A knock; Watson opens the door to a tall, young man with a resolute air of determination about him. Jerrold Hunter enters and chides Ann for coming here after he expressly discouraged it. He asks after the paper she took from his desk – she has it and means to keep it until the cryptic scribble is de-cyphered. Mr. Hunter apologises to his hosts, explaining as Mr. Brandon's legal representative, the note was placed in his safe keeping. It's of no concern to anybody except the two of them. Watson asserts murder to be the concern of every right-minded person, looking to Holmes whose silent gaze is affirmation in itself. Hunter claims it to be a trifle, the work of a mental incompetent perhaps.


Coolly, Sherlock removes his pipe, asking of Hunter whether it is true that Miss Brandon's father received just such a note before he was killed. The lawyer responds that since his client attaches no importance to it, he doesn't see why Holmes would. Pure co-incidence. 'Yes. But it would be unfortunate if the coincidence turned turned into a tragedy, wouldn't it?.' That is our responsibility, comes the answer. Hunter promises to forward Holmes' fee. As of yet, there is no fee; Holmes has yet to accept the case. The lawyer then tells Miss Brandon she has made herself ridiculous, but she insists if Mr. Holmes won't help, she will go to Scotland Yard. Leaning closer, his eyes appeal to hers, revealing an intimacy not hinted at before; 'Won't you trust me, Ann?' Her brother!. Gently, Jerrold insists Ann trust him; what will become of them if she doesn't?. She doesn't know and is clearly torn between her devotion to her Brother and loyalty to her fiancé. Seeing this, Holmes shrewdly interjects and offers his services. Sherlock Holmes has accepted the case. Furious, Hunter wheels and states he doesn't want his 'interference.' 'I interfere whenever and wherever I like, Mr. Hunter.' Jerrold Hunter tries to take Ann with him, but her refusal leaves him little choice. Politely, he departs.


Holmes asks to examine the note further, ringing for the boots. He wonders if Ann knows what kind of bird is depicted in the drawing, but, rather vacantly she tells him she knows little about birds. Procellariiformes is his guess, adding he should go to the Kensington Museum to investigate. Billy arrives in his buttons. Holmes instructs Billy to take Ann downstairs for some tea, then to whistle up a cab. Brightly, Billy repeats a past injunction of Holmes'; not to take the first cab in the line, nor the second, but the third. Holmes feels that precaution un-necessary in this case, but adds that Billy should then remove the dust he kicked under the landing rug. Fuming, Billy exchanges stares with Watson, who fixes him with a schoolmasterly glare. Escorting Miss Brandon out, Billy leaves, still shooting daggers at the Doctor.


No sooner than they have left, Watson reminds a distracted Holmes of his duty to safeguard the Star of Delhi. Waving his friend's caution away with an irritable scowl, Holmes exclaims 'Oh bother the Star of Delhi!.' There is a man's life at stake here, something grotesque about the whole business. Young Hunter knows more than he proposes to tell. He directs Watson to find out all he can about Mr. Jerrold Hunter and to meet him at the museum. Watson's protestations about lunch are brushed aside. You can have lunch at any time. Holmes hurries to dress.


In the Ornithological collection of the Kensington Museum of Natural History, Holmes goes through the archive files, pausing to ask Miss Brandon if anyone nursed a grievance against her father or family. She repeats what she's already told him, that her brother and herself live quietly. True, her father was a hard man, as men who go out into new worlds must be, but he was an honourable man. And Mr. Hunter?. She answers with a wistful look on her comely features; she has known Jerrold since they were children. Her brother and herself have always trusted him completely. His voice and countenance stern, Holmes asks if she or her family have ever heard the name of Professor Moriarty. She has not – is sure of it. Why did he ask?; Holmes had the feeling of renewing an old acquaintance. Just as the terrier knows the rabbit by it's habits, so too does the Detective recognise the faint aroma of intrigue. Returning his interest to the files, he sees Procellariiformes – large sea birds are located in the West Wing...


Nor has Doctor Watson been idle; he strolls the cobbled streets amongst carriages, postmen and bicyclists. Finally, he arrives at a building divided for businesses, the tenants being advertised by small plaques. Jerrold Hunter, Solicitor is on the Second Floor. Seeing someone about to exit the building, Watson assumes the pose of a loafer, whistling tunelessly. As the man departs, Watson ducks inside. No sooner has he taken the stair, however than Hunter emerges from his rooms shaking hands with a client, Watson leaps for cover and is unseen. Unseen by Professor Moriarty!


That they are in business together is in little doubt from the way Moriarty tells Hunter that he depends on him implicitly. The Solicitor advises him that there will be no difficulties and the Professor departs for his carriage, followed by Watson. The driver is none other than Bassick, who can hardly fail to notice Watson's obvious and rather clumsily betrayed interest. Upstairs, Hunter sits reading, but is interrupted by the arrival of Lloyd Brandon, Ann's brother. Jerrold had thought his friend would be sleeping, but how can he sleep with such a threat hanging over him?. Who was the client that just left?. Sympathetically, Jerrold tells his old friend he mustn't let himself go like this. Lloyd confesses he hasn't had a wink since the note arrived, in his own words he is 'beastly nervy.' Jerrold advises him to try to sleep, but, wide-eyed and visibly under immense strain, Lloyd reminds him of the date. Wherever he goes, whatever he does... he's going to be killed. Thinking it over, Hunter repeats his advice; go home, to bed. Surely the safest place in London is his address?. (Yes, I'm thinking the same thought here... Jerrold might as well pin a target to his friend's back.) Defeated, Lloyd has no fight in him. Piteously, he asks that if anything happens to him, Jerrold look after Ann. The Solicitor reminds him how he feels about Ann and, a little less-dispirited, Lloyd says he intends to walk home, to get some air. Jerrold assures him nothing can happen to him on a busy London street. Perhaps history isn't his area...


Lloyd departs with much the same air as Captain Oates, but then Jerrold hurries to his desk to retrieve a revolver. Taking his hat from the stand, he follows his friend out into the street. 
 

At the museum, Holmes and Ann compare a stuffed Albatross with the mysterious sketch. It is undoubtedly a representation of the famous bird, known as omen of good fortune to honest mariners, but a symbol of destruction for those that do it harm. Ann agrees it looks the same, but Holmes presses her; is she sure it has no meaning or association with her family?. No – the only thing it reminds her of is the poem. Water, water, everywhere... Excitably, Holmes realises she's hit upon it; 'and instead of a cross... the albatross about my neck was hung.' No childish prank this!, rather a cryptic warning of avenging death. They must go to her brother at once, but before they can leave, Watson comes blustering up. The Doctor is left to catch up and soon, they are in a speeding coach, one of those snazzy two-horsepower jobs. As they hurtle through the streets, its clear Watson is bursting with the containment of his news – Holmes urging him to divulge this. Moriarty! In league with Hunter; Watson saw the Professor leave his office. Then what of Hunter? - Watson doesn't know, having left at once to impart his discovery. Has he done wrong?. Holmes cannot yet be sure, but he particularly wanted Hunter's movements under observation today. Earnestly, Miss Brandon urges Holmes not to judge Jerrold too soon. He is, she feels, incapable of vicious action. Holmes has to take that on trust, adding that they must be on their guard. Watson was going to say something, but decides against it. Holmes fears his friend to be an incorrigible bungler. 'Afraid I am' responds a dejected Watson. Turning, the great detective pats his friend on the back, a gesture which produces immediate succour in the form of a smiling Watson.


A lamplighter steps down his ladder as the carriage takes a bend in the notorious London fog, the driver pushing his horses to sustained exertion. Agitated, Ann wishes they could go faster, soothingly, Holmes assures her the driver is going as fast as he can. Somewhere ahead, her brother walks, casting nervous glances behind him as he passes a familiar carriage, Bassick stood by. The villain ducks inside as Jerrold Hunter appears, hand conspicuously in his pocket. 


Clattering over the tram-tracks, Holmes' carriage continues at a desperate lick. Lloyd Brandon crosses the road to a park, where he seems to linger. Both sets of pursuers, wheeled and on foot are closing. Swinging his cane as if testing the air, Lloyd goes into the murky gloom of the park. Barely seconds later, the air is rent by a terrible scream. All around, heads turn and constables begin moving towards the park. The carriage pulls up sharply and Holmes and party alight to find a crowd has gathered around the body. Ann goes to her brother, who is beyond all aid. Gently, Holmes pulls her away from the terrible scene.


The Brandon home. Watson raps on the knocker urgently as Holmes carries the prostrate Ann. A constable opens the door, another guards the palatial hall as the house-maid Mrs. Jameson bustles up to her stricken mistress. Holmes assures the woman that Miss Brandon has only fainted, tasking Watson to her assistance. The Doctor asks for smelling salts. The Detective asks for Inspector Bristol and is told he is in the sitting room. The constable cautions Holmes against entering, as the Inspector is questioning a witness, but Holmes replies he will take the responsibility for the intrusion. Once inside, he finds the witness to be none than our old friend, Jerrold Hunter. Producing Hunter's revolver with a smug air, Inspector Bristol brags that he is ahead of Holmes on this case. 




Then he has already solved the crime?. He has found the murderer, a claim which Hunter refutes furiously. Rising, the young man claims that while Bristol badgered him, the real murderer has got away. If that is so, Bristol wonders, can he explain how he was found bending over the corpse with a heavy revolver in hand and 'him with his head bashed in.' If he won't talk, adds the policeman, he'll be held on suspicion of murder. Once again, the young Hunter protests himself to be innocent of the crime. Bristol states plainly that Hunter clubbed Lloyd to death. His manner one of barely suppressed irritation, Holmes interjects and suggests Bristol shouldn't go too far down that line. What, then, does he suggest?. Find the murderer. The Inspector – thrusting with the revolver for emphasis, asks if Hunter didn't club Brandon to death, who did?. Nobody. Brandon was strangled to death. The wounds to his head were administered post-mortem, of this Holmes is certain. Bristol can talk with the medical examiner if he has any doubts. Ordering Hunter to stay there, Bristol leaves the room. Offering Hunter a cigarette – he declines – Holmes considers the problem as he lights up.

'So, that blow on the back of the neck becomes an interesting element. It was unnecessary, therefore vicious. Intelligent criminals are seldom vicious except on special occasions. Though the apparent method of the crime was brutal, I'm convinced that the crime itself was intelligently planned.'

Hunter seems appalled the Inspector considers him capable of such an act, but Holmes explains that the nose of the police dog, though long, points in only one direction. Exasperated, Jerrold wonders why he should have killed his friend. Coldly, Holmes states the obvious; he managed his affairs, his estate. Stepping forwards, Hunter demands an explanation. Unfazed, Holmes expands - the Brandon estate is quite considerable. Miss Ann inherits and he is to marry Ann. Hunter is furious at this, but Holmes mollifies him, explaining it as a demonstration of how the police mind works. Indeed, Bristol is set on arresting him. Jerrold insists he stay free, to protect Ann. Indeed, Miss Brandon has entered the room, Watson at her side. Protect her from what? She asks. Coming forward to comfort her, Jerrold tells her he's sorry. She says that first they murdered her father, now her brother. Is she to be killed too?. Turning away, anguished, Jerrold states he doesn't know. He did his best to guard Lloyd, yet they found him all the same and on an empty street. He couldn't have been far behind. Suspicious now, Ann asks who are 'they?', accusing him of lying to her from the start, that he had known all along the note was a real threat. That's why he tried to send her away, why he followed Lloyd. Holmes watches this display with the greatest care, his analytical mind probing for the slightest inconsistency, that spark of untruth that becomes a torch in the right hands. If he knows who killed Lloyd, why won't he say?. 'I'll tell you why.' Watson steps in, adding he has been watching Hunter and he's found out... Ann asks what that might be, but Holmes cuts in; whatever Watson's found out, will become known inevitably. He has unbounded confidence in his lack of discretion. Before Watson can respond, he takes his arm and leads the Doctor from the room. Outside, Watson is crestfallen at being treated like a child, in another moment, he tells Holmes he would have had a confession about Hunter's link to Moriarty. Of course, this is precisely what Holmes wished kept quiet. If the Professor is behind this case, Moriarty will lead him to him.


Inspector Bristol returns from his talk with the medical examiner and, naturally Holmes right. Lloyd Brandon died from strangulation, 'Just as you and I thought.' This last elicits a smile which even Sherlock Holmes fails to suppress. He intends to arrest Hunter for questioning, inviting Holmes to accompany them to Scotland Yard. Declining politely, Holmes states his intent to visit the scene of the crime. He advises Bristol against an arrest; questioning will get him nowhere and anyhow, he hasn't a case. Why not keep him at large, under observation?. Scratching his chin, the Inspector considers this as Holmes adds his advice has been of usage in the past, gaining Bristol a lot of attention in the newspapers. And Holmes?, will he work the case? In the usual way?. Indeed, yes. The Inspector agrees to the proposal. Knocking, he tells Jerrold Hunter he is free to go. Alone once more, Jerrold hugs his fianceé to him, attempting to convince her of his innocence.




She doesn't know what she can believe in; if she cannot believe in him there's nothing she can count on. Suddenly, her face clouds and she pulls away. If he knew Lloyd was in danger, why did he try to stop her consulting Sherlock Holmes?, why follow her brother with a revolver in his pocket?. Sometimes, she's afraid, even of Jerrold. Anguished, he asks how she could say such a thing?. Sitting, she replies that she doesn't know what she's saying. She's tired, confused.


Watson finds the cross of chalk indicating where Lloyd Brandon was found. Dropping umbrella and gloves, he lays down on the spot and calls that he's ready, head resting on his fists. Holmes, meanwhile, is making a thorough study of the small park that Brandon walked through immediately before his death. A gentleman walks up to Watson and asks if something has happened. 'Definitely.' comes the response, Watson waving him back a few paces. Perhaps, the man asks, he could find a Doctor. Watson remarks; 'I'm a Doctor – what's the matter with you?.' The gentleman is all right – he was thinking of Watson. Why?. Isn't he ill?. 'Certainly not... I'm dead.' Alarmed, the poor fellow makes a hasty retreat. Holmes calls for him and Watson finds the detective poring over some footprints.




A club-footed man about five feet eleven from the length of his stride. Holmes points out a singular oddity; club-footed people invariably place their weight on the toe, whereas these footprints are balanced heel-to-toe. Just one more un-natural element to a peculiar case. The club-foot must have some compensatory deformity. Are these the footprints of a killer?. Possibly; Holmes goes to stand where they lead and finds he has a commanding view of the fatal stretch of footpath. He might project some kind of weapon. But what weapon strangles and crushes a man's head in?. 'If we knew that, my dear Watson, we'd be a great deal closer to the solution of the crime.' Going forward, Holmes finds a small shoot, severed from its tree somehow. Perhaps by something hurtling past. The sap is not yet dry, which tells Holmes it was torn off within the last few hours. Then he spots something tiny on the ground, a watch fob perhaps. It is a charm of some kind, Watson thinks it resembles a rabbit's foot, but Holmes tells him it is unquestionably chinchilla. The Doctor feels such trophies are in poor taste, Holmes remarks on the carelessness of leaving one at the scene of a murder...


Ann Brandon goes into her brother's room. There, in the darkened room is his body, lying beneath a sheet. Miss Brandon seems a very lonely, frightened woman. Outside, seated on his perch atop Moriarty's carriage, Bassick looks around nervously. Tears streaking her face, Ann looks up in sudden horror as a mournful dirge plays from a flute nearby. Professor Moriarty may enjoy this music, but Ann does not. Plucking her courage, she goes to the window, every note foreboding and filled with menace. Looking down through the fog, she sees him. Sitting on the kerb, behind Moriarty's coach is the flautist. Petrified by this ominous concert, she screams. Sound carries in fog and nearby, Holmes and Watson hear her cry. The flute-player flees, jumping aboard the carriage as it departs, his right foot encased in a heavy and clumsy boot. Club-footed!. Dashing across the street, Holmes and Watson are shown up to Ann's room by Mrs. Jameson. Fearing she may seem foolish, she describes the uncanny tuneless music she heard. Music without beginning, without end. What was it that frightened her so?. She has heard that tune before, once and in South America as a child. 


The night her father was killed. Doctor Watson suggests a hallucination, but she is insistent, describing the street beggar standing in front of the house (This is an error on her part; the man was sitting.) Holmes asks if she could recall the melody. She will never be able to forget it. Wishing he could spare her, Holmes states that time is important, asking her to repeat the tune. Ann crosses to her piano and attempts to replicate the exact sequence of notes. Finished, she declares 'There's death in every note of it.' At this, Holmes and the Doctor exchange glances. Weary, Miss Brandon asks to be alone and the two friends withdraw, leaving her with her thoughts. Thoughts of a terrible nature.

Back at 221b and Watson relaxes to a pipe and his paper, whilst over by the window, Holmes plays the notes on his violin. Billy finishes polishing his shoes while he plays. Holmes notes the tune and Billy asks him about the chinchilla foot. The boy asks to examine it and surmises that in Chile or Bolivia these must be carried for luck, in the same manner that we might carry a rabbit's foot. 


Laughing, Holmes spears Billy with his pencil in playful fashion and asks Watson if he has heard the exchange. Grumpily, the Doctor replies that his hearing is in no way impaired. Holmes asks Billy for his opinion on the origin of the charm's owner. The boy's view is that indeed the owner must be from South America. 'Well Watson, what do you say to that for a simple deduction?.' Discarding his paper, the irascible Watson growls that he has heard sea-shells make better sense. Why waste time like this?, half the women in the world own chinchilla wraps. 'You exaggerate, Watson – and half the women in the world wish you didn't.' Bright as his buttons, Billy helpfully points out the coats are made from skins, the only place to get a foot would be where the animal lives. Holmes gives the boy sixpence and, delighted, Billy rushes off to spend his tanner. Haughtily, Watson states he doesn't know why Holmes lets the boy into the flat, but the detective was, of course pulling his leg. Billy made certain observations that co-incide with his discovery. Eagerly, Watson joins his friend at the table. Holmes has identified the music. 'It's an ancient Inca funeral dirge, still used by the Indians in the remote Chilean Andes as a chant for the dead.' What this has to do with Moriarty or the Star of Delhi, Holmes does not know.


A knock at the door. Watson goes to answer leaving Holmes to fill his pipe from the disreputable old Persian slipper he keeps his tobacco in. Beaming in his avuncular manner, Sir. Ronald enters and makes himself comfortable. He wonders what Holmes has made of the note. Clearly, it had almost slipped Holmes' mind as he tells Sir. Ronald he hasn't had time to think about it. The Star of Delhi is not an immediate problem, he adds. 'Oh, but it is.' Sir. Ronald implores Holmes to help as he promised. The loss of a crown jewel!. Distracted by the chinchilla foot – Moriarty's plan working better than even he could have hoped for – Holmes asks when the Star arrives. Tomorrow night, with delivery at ten. The chinchilla occupies more of Holmes' attention. Once it arrives, it is technically within his custody. Holmes asks what he wants him to do. Could he be at the Tower at ten?. Holmes agrees and as well as Sir. Ronald's guards, suggests arranging a police presence. Leaving, Sir. Ronald steps out into Baker Street and bumps into Miss. Brandon, who is agitated and in a hurry. Stepping into a cab, Sir. Ronald asks to go to the Port Authority, Pier Nine. The cabbie – Bassick, of course – reaches for his whip and says 'Giddyap' to the horse.


Holmes greets the distraught Ann, who shows him a new note. The same sketch, with a new date.


They don't even give her time to bury her head. Appalled, Holmes invites her to sit, but she prefers not to. The note was delivered half an hour ago. What should she do?. May the 13th is tomorrow – the date of Lady Conyngham's party. Holmes notes the emphasis on the date – whether she should go or shouldn't. She mentions Jerrold. Watson goes to put his foot in his mouth, but Holmes silences him with a look. Moving around, Holmes places a hand on a chair-back. His tone sympathetic, he tells Ann Mr. Hunter has much to explain, but as yet he has yet to be proven guilty. Rushing forwards, she simply must know. If she really wants to know, she will have to attend the party. Ann feels this inappropriate given the circumstances, but Holmes is a rational thinker and explains. Lady Conyngham is an older woman and fond of Ann. Ann is alone, and in such circumstances going to her would seem natural. But her brother?. An appearance; nothing more. All she has to do is show herself at the party, taking a walk through the grounds. This will involve considerable risk, but if she is indeed the type of woman he thinks, Holmes feels she would rather take such a gamble than live life under the shadow of doubt and death. Bravely, Ann agrees to attend. Showing her out, he asks if she is not afraid – of course she is, but she will go through with it. After she has left, Watson remarks he certainly has let himself in for a busy night tomorrow. What about the Star of Delhi?, his promise to Sir. Ronald and his duty to the Crown. All that will be taken care of, never fear. Holmes will delegate to the most dependable man he knows, while he keeps an eye on Miss Brandon. And this mysterious ally?. Watson!. Clapping the Doctor on the back, Holmes smiles as Watson laughs a self-conscious little laugh.


Dawes shaves Professor Moriarty. Cruelly, the Professor states that Dawes would like to let that razor slip. Aghast, Dawes protests, but Moriarty hasn't finished yet. He has to have his fun. He accuses Dawes of being a coward – if he wasn't he would have slit his throat long ago. The manservant gives him his word such thoughts never entered his mind. 'Then you're worse than a
coward. You're a fool. You have as much hatred for me as I have contempt for you.
' Surveying Dawes' handiwork in the mirror, Moriarty's narcissistic side is satisfied; he looks quite different without the beard. Deferentially, the elderly servant tells him without it, he looks like his own son. Going through to his study, Moriarty pockets a heavy revolver, giving Dawes the rest of the evening off. They exchange polite 'Thank You's' and the Professor takes his leave. Outside, Bassick growls down to the clean-shaven and un-bespectacled gent that he is engaged. The crook only recognises his Master when he speaks. Knocking up, Moriarty sits back as the speaking flap opens, asking Bassick what he found out. As he said, they are taking the goods off the boat tonight. The men 'is waitin'.' Excellent news; Moriarty orders his driver to hurry.

Arthur Hohl plays Bassick, Moriarty's driver. Hohl appeared as Journet in The Scarlet Claw (1944) and as Gilflower in The Spider Woman (Also 1944)
Lady Conyngham's residence. The party is in full swing, a band playing in the gardens. Elegant guests chatter gaily on the lawns and in the house, where Miss Brandon approaches her hostess. Lady Conyngham herself is welcoming, with an open face and a smile that belies her age, which would seem to be somewhere towards middle. Kindly, she asks if Ann is feeling all right; she thinks so. And has her son behaved himself towards her?; he's been awfully kind. Distracted, Ann is afraid she's been tiresome, but her hostess won't hear of it. Generously, Lady Conyngham insists the girl stays with her over the weekend. Nervous as a rabbit, Ann wonders if anyone has asked for her tonight. No-one that Lady Conyngham knows of – is she expecting someone?. She isn't sure. Tony Conyngham – an affable twit - then steers Ann off to see the entertainment. Sitting her on a bench, he wants her to see a Music Hall chap that might prove amusing. The band strikes up and a Cheeky Cockney Chappie comes out, straw boater, whites and boating blazer and launches into 'I do like to be beside the sea-side.' Luckily, no-one has a gun. Larking up and down the Brilliantined and moustached idiot gives it his all, much to the assembled guest's amusement. Only poor Ann is unaffected by the jollity. Finishing his routine, Mister Comedy exits, returns for applause and leaves with a cheeky little kick. 
 

Tony offers to fetch Ann an ice, leaving her alone. Just as she is unattended, the Cheeky Chappie pops up from the bushes to ask if she's all right. Panicked, she asks what he wants, and, in his own voice, he reminds her that they did have an appointment. Going closer, she suddenly recognises Sherlock Holmes!. 




The disguise is uncanny, but he shushes her before she can reveal his identity. Leading her into the bushes, he tells her they mustn't be seen together. Has anything happened?; nothing so far... does he think she could be in danger here?. Holmes doesn't doubt it, advising her to stay in the lights and crowd, not to talk to strange people. She returns to the terrace to find what looks and sounds to be a South American gaucho orchestra playing. The flautist seems rather fixated on her. Tony returns with the ices and confirms Ann's suspicion that it is indeed a gaucho orchestra. Understandably spooked, Ann claims to be cold and goes inside with the affable Tony. 


The Tower of London, officially Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London, built by William the Conqueror. Armoury, treasury, Royal residence and even menagerie. Prison to Sir. Walter Raleigh and Elizabeth Tudor both, the Tower has stood as a symbol of English justice and impenetrability for centuries. Inside its forbidding moat and walls lie the treasure that is known as the Crown Jewels. Inside a vaulted chamber, Sir. Ronald stands, arms folded as Watson paces anxiously between the Guardsmen that only a fool or one who is tired of life dare challenge. Sir. Ronald is disappointed in Holmes, who had given his word he'd be there. Watson informs him of Holmes' decision to send him in his stead and it is all Sir. Ronald can do not to laugh; he cannot keep the scorn from his face. Piqued, Watson tells him he could do considerably worse. Where, at least are the policemen he promised to send?. A sergeant and two constables are en route, picked men. A sergeant of guards steps in with a snappy salute; police officers, to see Doctor Watson. A sergeant of police strides in and offers a salute, asking for Watson. The sergeant is Moriarty!; the two constables behind him include Bassick and another confederate. Sergeant Moria-I mean Bullfinch, cheekily asks for Watson's identification and examines his card. The 'sergeant' then removes his helmet and shows Watson his warrant paper by return.


Led by two Naval officers, a detachment of soldiers escorts the Star of Delhi to the gatehouse of the Tower. 'Captain Mainwaring of the Royal Navy reporting to Sir. Ronald Ramsgate.' Sir. Ronald appears at the portcullis with Watson and the three spurious policemen. Sir. Ronald orders the portcullis raised and shakes hands with Mainwaring. Perhaps unwisely, the Captain hands Sir. Ronald the box containing the jewel there are then. Open, the box contains an emerald bigger than a penny!. Sir. Ronald tells the Captain the Star has caused him great anxiety, the old duffer continuing that he will be relieved to have it locked up in the Tower. Moriarty's eyes are on stalks, but he keeps his composure and the pretence up a little longer. Declining the Captain's offer of accompaniment to the vault, Sir. Ronald bids him and his party goodbye and takes the Star into the Tower, followed by Watson, the three frauds in the rear. They go up the ancient stone steps to an imposing vaulted chamber, which is in darkness. Lit only by a Guardsman's lantern, a massive ironwork grille is revealed, the size of a large seaside pavilion of the type recently made fashionable in some of the gaudier resorts. Inside this lie the Crown Jewels, revealed in a majestic blaze of glory as the lights are lit. 


Handing Watson the Star, Sir. Ronald feels himself safe enough to show the jewels. The accumulated wealth of ten centuries of English kings. It is not often this door is unlocked – he produces an over-sized key and proceeds to unlock the door.


Moriarty calls out one word; 'Now!' and the lights are extinguished, plunging the chamber into chaos. Attacking the guards, his two 'constables' dash outside, closing the door behind them. Oddly, one then places the Star on the floor where it will easily be discovered!. The two faux-constables then make good their escape. The lights restored, the policemen are gone and Sir. Ronald realises he has been tricked; they were not policemen at all. Bursting out, the Guards take the stairs, both up and down, Watson and Sir. Ronald about to follow – when the Doctor spots the case. The Star is regained!. Small thanks to Watson's brilliant friend Sherlock Holmes!. Mockingly, Sir. Ronald recalls Holmes' opinion that no thief would dare steal the stone. Tompkins, the sergeant of guards returns from his search to report no-one is there. Sir. Ronald is unperturbed, returning the Star to the vault. He tells Watson he's minded to give the story to the press. It would certainly put Holmes in his place. Watson advises against it, after all he has the Star. Locking it away, Sir. Ronald's spirits are restored. He promised the Doctor's courage will be reported in due course, to the authorities. An Officer arrives to report the thieves have escapes, in the direction of Tower hill. They left without what they came for, Sir. Ronald tells him. The Officer orders Sergeant Tompkins to extinguish the light as they leave the vault.


No sooner than he's alone, Moriarty pops up from his hiding place behind the jewels, inside the grille-work. Lighting a lamp, he examines the treasure, his eyes afire with greed. Opening the latch, he reveals a small wooden block which, in the brief confusion, he used to prevent the lock closing fully. In seconds he has the door open and his hands on Saint Edward's Crown, the first thief to do so since Colonel Thomas Blood in 1671.


At Lady Conyngham's residence, the festivities are over and the servants are packing up in the gardens. The Lady herself is seeing the last of her party-goers out with her customary grace and elegance. Ann comes up to her, her head dropping. Seeing how tired she is, Lady Conyngham tells her to go to bed. She will look in on her – and if she isn't asleep she promises to be 'terribly severe.' This cheers Ann somewhat, but looking up the stairs, she stiffens. Whatever is the matter with her?. She has noticed the time, the clock on the landing. It is almost midnight. In another eight minutes, it won't be May the 13th any more. Confused, her hostess nonetheless offers to escort her up. 'Have a good rest, my dear – and be sure to sleep late, its an inviolable custom of the house.' Ann goes to her fate, locking the door behind her and looking about for any hidden danger. Outside, in the shrubbery, a man walks, treading the earth with his club-foot. Removing her ear-rings, Ann freezes as she hears the dreaded melody once more, coming up from the grounds outside. Rushing to the balcony, she sees only swirling mist around the trees, the music stopping as she emerges. Rushing from her room in abject terror, she is surprised to see a butler with a message for her. There is a man on the terrace asking to see her, insisting it is most important. Mr. Holmes!. She goes down-stairs to meet him, emerging into the mist to see a figure smoking by the terrace. Going to him, she finds it is Jerrold Hunter. 




What is he doing here?. He has been terribly worried about her, but as he goes towards her, she shrinks back in fear. He wanted to be sure she was safe, but she asks why he thought she might not be. Whatever has come over her?. Backing away, she tells him not to touch her. Surely she cannot be afraid?. He sees she is, after all the years... angered, Jerrold fails to notice her fear is simply magnified by his raised voice and manner. She thinks he wants to hurt her? - he doesn't know why he doesn't!. Unsurprisingly, Ann is petrified and runs from him. Realising his folly, Jerrold calls after her, but she is brushing through the dense shrubbery, desperate to get away. An oversized boot appears and something heavy clubs Jerrold about the head. He falls, unconscious to the ground. Ann is at the mercy of a killer.


And what of the much-vaunted Sherlock Holmes?. Has he failed Miss Brandon as abjectly as Sir. Ronald?. No, he is in the garden in the deer-stalker and Inverness that are so familiar to us now. Bullseye lamp in hand, he goes about the business of detection, examining the mis-shapen footprints left by the Gaucho. Again that diabolical music. Holmes hears it and straightens, looking about in attempt to locate the mist-shrouded flautist. Ann hears it too, slumping exhausted against a tree as the killer's footsteps close quietly on her, his flute silent.


Holmes is dashing through the undergrowth, but unknown to him, he is not alone; Watson is here with two constables, leading them from the terrace into the gloom. Running once more, Ann is remorselessly pursued by the steady steps of the Gaucho. Fighting the dense foliage, her progress is slow. His was never quick to begin with. Always the same, relentless pace. Relentless death on foot. Coming into a landscaped clearing with a small fountain and a statue depicting one of the classical goddesses. Swaying, Ann is on the verge of collapse when she sees her fate emerging from the mist. The Gaucho has murder, hatred in his eyes. She screams, the sound alerting Holmes. Drawing the bolas from his belt – he swings the three balls around his head and Ann is as good as dead.


At the very second of release, Holmes erupts from the bushes to tackle Ann to the ground, the deadly bolas whipping overhead to wrap around the statue's neck, the balls smashing into the head and toppling it from the shoulders. Had it been Ann, she would be dead. The Gauncho sees his deadly attack has failed and turns to flee, a shot from Holmes' revolver finding him. He slides down a tree trunk and falls to the ground. Watson and the constables arrive. Holmes? - never better and Miss Brandon has merely fainted. Holmes details a constable to take her back to the house. Seeing the decapitated statue, Watson wonders what the mysterious object is wrapped around the neck. Holmes explains and tells him it is the instrument that killed Lloyd Brandon.  



Holmes introduces Watson to the murderer, lying there in agony. Pulling open the gaucho's shirt, Watson examines him briefly and concludes he is in a bad way. The remaining constable asks if he can be moved – Watson says he can – and wants to take him to the Yard. Pulling the orthopaedic boot from the man's foot, Holmes finds he has no deformity. A clever ruse, but not clever enough. Who thought of it?. The Gaucho names the Professor, who said he'd fix it so the man wouldn't get caught. Moriarty!. The killer vows to kill the Professor, but Holmes is scornful of his chances. Watson feels that clears up the case. Clears it up?, they've only just begun; Holmes grabs hold of Watson and they tear off to Moriarty's home.


Professor Moriarty's residence. Stealthily, Holmes and Watson enter through the darkened nursery. Revolver in hand, the Detective goes silently onwards, but clumsy Watson slams the window shut and compounds his sins by stepping into a water trough with a terrific crash. Shaking his leg produces a noise like a shark thrashing around in shallow water. Suddenly, Holmes returns and cautions him not to move, to keep his eyes open. Holmes goes forward into the house, up the stairs.



A tendril brushes Watson's face and, frightened, he grabs at it. Charging back down the steps it is clear Holmes has no further usage for stealth. There is no-one here... lighting the lamp in the Professor's study, he looks about and Watson sees the lilly pond he crashed into. Quickly, Holmes goes through into the small room where Dawes shaved Moriarty, finding the shaving brush damp and some of his beard. Moriarty's worn that beard for years, he speculates – why shave it off now?. Returning to the study, Holmes makes a cursory search of the desk, spotting the Baedeker. What would Moriarty be doing with a guide book?, he knows London better than a cab driver. Opening it to the page containing the pressed flower. 




The Tower!. Suddenly, Watson remembers Sergeant Bullfinch; Moriarty without his beard!. Then it was he who stole the Star of Delhi. Holmes wonders what exactly he did do, or is indeed doing. Watson doesn't know what to make of this. 'Don't you see, my dear Watson. Moriarty concocted that Brandon case with all its fantastic convolutions expressly to divert my attention at the the time the Star of Deli was delivered.' Watson points out that the crime was foiled, but Holmes is convinced that was never Moriarty's plan. He caused a man to be murdered and solely to distract Sherlock Holmes. He staged the fiasco at the Tower and then his boast comes back to Holmes. 'I'm going to bring off right under your nose the most incredible crime of the century.' He said he would do it and he's doing it now, the most stupendous crime of the century. The crowning act of his career, in fact... his own words hit Holmes in sudden revelation. Flicking through the Baedeker, Holmes finds the entry for Saint Edward's crown. He reads it, of Colonel Blood's attempt. The Regalia is currently valued at... Three Million pounds!. Rather late, Holmes realises the Crown Jewels are imperilled. The two adventurers hurry to stop the crime of the Century.


Dashing up to an unattended cab, Holmes decides there's no time to waste finding the driver. Watson dives in as Holmes takes the reins and the cab lurches off into the night. Watson hangs on for dear life as Holmes whips the horse up. Inside the vault, Moriarty takes his time prising jewels from the crown. In the road ahead, a carriage is turning, the road blocked. Holmes takes the pavement, the horse's shoes skidding desperately on the flags, the poor creature only just staying upright. Despite Watson's heated rebuke from below, Holmes keeps up the pace. At the Tower, the Guardsman at his post behind the portcullis cannot believe his eyes as, suddenly, from the gloom of a Thames fog, the cab comes crashing into view, hits a raised section of kerb and overturns.


Holmes is thrown to the cobble-stones and lies there for an instant, stunned. The poor horse is thrown onto it's side and Watson is in there somewhere. The Guardsman calls out the guard, explaining why. They go to Watson's aid and rush to get the petrified horse to it's feet. Holmes sneaks off into the fog as Watson is questioned. Where is the cabbie?; he doesn't know. The Guard commander orders Watson taken to the postern room. Going through a door, Holmes finds himself inside, but the next door swings to behind him and, suspicious, Moriarty looks up at the faint sound, but continues unscrewing the cross from the orb.


The staircase leading to the vault is eerie, deserted – apart from Sherlock Holmes, who stands, revolver in hand surveying the scene. Cautiously, he takes the steps, but Moriarty hears the faint scuffling of his shoes and douses his lamp, advancing behind the heavy oaken doors with pistol in hand. 



Slyly, he goes to the angle of the wall by the stairs before looking down to see the instantly recognisable silhouette coming up towards him. The Professor goes up the stairs from the landing and Holmes spots him, flattening himself against the ancient stone. 



Rushing up on tip-toe, Holmes reaches the flight directly below his deadly enemy, only the columns supporting the staircase hiding one from another. Dashing to the next floor, Moriarty dodges back into the shadows, taking aim at his pursuer, who comes around up after him. When it seems he cannot miss, Moriarty pulls the trigger – a loud click betrays him and informs him his pistol has mis-fired. Whirling behind a column, Holmes fires at the same time as his foe, who shoots the revolver from the detective's grip. Now it is Holmes who is the rabbit and Moriarty the terrier, chasing Holmes up still further. With no chance remaining of getting hold of his precious loot, the Napoleon of Crime abandons his unheralded larceny in favour of a more tantalising prize; the death of Sherlock Holmes.


Downstairs, Sir. Ronald and Watson with the Officer on duty rushes out to his men, who all heard the shots. The Officer calls on him to follow and they charge upstairs. Holmes goes along to a final set of stairs which take him out, inevitably, onto the roof. Moriarty soon follows. Holmes is trapped. Divesting himself of his cape, Holmes goes around a pillar, out of sight. Climbing still higher, he goes around the stonework, above Moriarty. Just as it seems Moriarty must look up, Holmes leaps some twelve feet or more onto his antagonist. 


A desperate struggle ensues, both men fighting for their lives. Moriarty drags the revolver towards Holmes, but the detective is possessed with exceptional strength in the forearm and fingers, wrenching the weapon away to fire harmlessly into the night air. 


Getting the pistol clear, Holmes and his nemesis roll over and over to some steps, where the detective deals him a heavy blow with his fist. Rocking back, Moriarty grabs ahold of Holmes and the grapple on the ramparts. One moment Holmes hangs between the crenelations, the next it is the Professor. Finally, Holmes delivers a staggering punch to the jaw and Moriarty falls back into the tower courtyard, the Guards below watching as he plummets to his certain death.


At a local hostelry, Holmes smokes a cigarette as a delighted Watson reads aloud from the paper, a band playing in the background. The society pages announce that the marriage of Ann Brandon, twenty-one to Jerrold Hunter (twenty-nine) took place this morning at the Caxton Hall registry office. Watson still can't understand how young Hunter became involved in the mystery. Holmes calls to Alfred, the violinist to borrow his instrument, plucking away at it with the same distracted expression he wore with his fly-experiment. Perfectly simple, he states, whatever was done was to protect young Miss Brandon. This won't do for Watson, who blusters 'But I saw him myself, closeted with Moriarty.' 'My dear Watson, I expected even you to see through that trick. Moriarty went to him with a trumped-up lawsuit to put us off the track.' Holmes starts his chromatic scalery again, but Watson has a more effective method. Rolling the paper, he thwacks it down hard onto the offending insect. Smiling, Holmes is not taken aback by his friend's direct action; 'Very effective, my dear Watson.' Returning to his paper, Watson responds; 'Elementary, my dear Holmes... elementary.' Sherlock Holmes cannot hold back the laughter this time.


So ends the last of the 20th Century Fox Holmes films starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. Big-budget 'A'-pictures both, The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939) was followed by Adventures later in the same year, as War was breaking out across Europe. Following Fox's decision to drop the films, Universal picked them up and ran through twelve 'B'-pictures of varying quality. All fourteen were a success. 

Publicity shots; Rathbone hangs dramatically from the portcullis on the Tower of London set.
Rathbone and Lupino.


For many, Rathbone remains the Holmes, incisive, witty, elegant and flawed. Unlike the perfect reasoning engine of Doyle's stories, this Holmes falls into traps, makes mistakes and allows himself to be distracted. Nigel Bruce's staunch ally is rather more useful than the Universal version allowed him to be, but still a bungler by nature. This partnership endears and endures as the greatest Holmes/Watson, perhaps rivalled only by Jeremy Brett's remarkable synergy with David Burke and, later Edward Hardwicke.

Basil Rathbone in distinctive pose. In deer-stalker hat, Inverness cape and with his pipe and glass, this remains, for many the quintessential image of Sherlock Holmes.

 However, the Rathbone series distinguishes itself by diverging from the Doyle source material. Only Hound follows an original story and the latter ones were far from faithful – the decision to update Holmes to modern times to deal with events such as the War partly explains this. George Zucco specialised in screen toughs and his Moriarty is a delight; the cultivated, trim bearded and bespectacled Professor contrasts nicely with the naked avarice and desperate cunning displayed by his counterfeit constable. Ida Lupino's career was faltering by 1939; this film restored her to prominence. 

Ida Lupino rehearses with Basil Rathbone.
Her Ann Brandon is taut, fragile and pretty, giving Holmes a strong motivation to neglect his duties to Sir. Ronald and the Star of Delhi. Peter Willes is Lloyd Brandon, playing the role earnestly and with effect. Alan Marshal played Jerrold Hunter with plain screen-idol style, in a convincing performance. Mrs. Hudson is Scots actor Mary Gordon, a role she would repeat for ten of the series, as well as the radio show. Terry Kilburn is Billy – he had already made his mark as a child actor in 'A Christmas Carol' (1938) and Goodbye Mr. Chips (1939). The most famous name attached to the role of Billy the Buttons, however, remains Charles Chaplin. Often mis-cited as his first stage role (It certainly was not), his performance as Billy was so popular that he was sent for by William Gillette, the first Stage Holmes. He was to play the role in three nationwide tours, culminating with a run in the West End. The rest, as they say, is history.
Charlie Chaplin as Billy in the William Gillette Stage-play.
The film is based, extremely loosely on the 1899 stage play of the same name by the aforementioned Gillette. Most of the main cast are English-born and this adds some verisimilitude. There are some glaring problems; Holmes wastes time going to Moriarty's house when he should have rushed to the Tower of London – or he should have been at the Tower all night, with Watson and some under-cover police mingling with the guests at Lady Conyngham's party. The way he allows his mind to wander when faced with two problems indicates a lack of what we would now call 'multi-tasking.' Some of the film feels laboured, with un-neccesary explanations that might have enlighted a late-thirties audience, but seem painful today. By now, our love of 'goofs' will be plain, but apart from Sherlock's pipe disappearing (At around 16:40 into the film), the song 'I do like to be beside the seaside' wasn't even written in the 19th Century (1907 for the record) and, very briefly, Moriarty's lamp in the Tower Vault is revealed to be electric – a wire going into his cuff betrays this – though we see him pretend to light it with a match. Later, Holmes carries an identical lamp, also with cable.


All in all, then, we come to the tawdry business of rating art. After no small consideration – to say nothing of chromatic scales – we award The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes...

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