Continuing on our list of Rathbone-Bruce Sherlock Holmes movies from best to worst (see Part One and Part Two):
6) The House of Fear (1945)
Each of these films is a little different from each other, and this one is a classic old house mystery. The plot centers around seven retired gentlemen who buy an old house and live together as the Good Comrades. Members of the group start dying under mysterious circumstances, leaving no identifiable bodies.
This one is a puzzler. The solution to the mystery was incredibly clever and took me totally by surprise. This one doesn’t have as much action or tension as some of the other films, but the mystery more than makes up for it.
5) Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1943)
This was the second of three Sherlock Holmes counterespionage movies. It places Holmes squarely against the Nazis and Professor Moriarty who is serving as a Nazi agent. The plot centers around Swiss scientists who come to the UK to supply the British with a powerful new weapon the Nazis would love to get their hands on.
These films liked to borrow an element from a Doyle story as a homage. Here, the Dancing Men makes for a fascinating puzzle as both Holmes and Moriarty try to beat each other to the punch. There’s a good battle of wits that’s worthy of the two geniuses with a prize that’s definitely worthy of their efforts: a weapon that could change the course of the war. This one had a nice mix of comedy in the midst.
It should be noted the final few minutes of the movie had almost a campy feel, with Holmes playing off of Moriarty’s intellectual vanity. Still, it was a very fun movie.
4) The Scarlet Claw (1944):
This film incorporated a greater horror element as Holmes receives a letter asking for help–written by a woman just before she’d been murdered. When Holmes comes to town, everyone is a suspect, including the woman’s husband, with whom Holmes had been having a spirited debate over the existence of the supernatural when they both learned of her death.
This film is perhaps the most frightening and tense of the series, as many of the locals suspect supernatural involvement. Similar to the Hound of the Baskervilles, the locals believe a supernatural beast of some sort made the odd marks on the body, while Holmes believes an implement was used.
The denouement of the mystery doesn’t disappoint. Just like with House of Fear, I was surprised by who the murderer was. (Although, the astute viewer may catch a clue when Watson references a Father Brown story in the middle of the film.)
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