I’m not a Sherlock Purist, so this didn’t bother me:
In fact it gave me a ray of hope; so dismal and stagey were the previous entries that I hoped for some snap & pizazz, even at the expense of making Watson a what-ho-now-I-dare-say blumbercoop. By the time this film was made (1945) the appearance of the pair preceded their names or the title, because that really said it all.
But we do need a title. Is like the Bulldog - Moto - Wontner-Holmes style, such as "Sherlock Holmes In Peril" or "Sherlock Holmes Shoots, Scores"? No:
It's black and white, so we'll have to take their word for it.
It’s great. I don’t think this was an attempt by the "100 Mysteries"programmers to make a lesser effort shine by comparison with the other wan spongy loaves of Holmes-related boredom. I don’t want to even think about giving them that much credit.
The plot: women are being found murdered in the alleys of London, as happens from time to time. A hallmark of the grisly, fiendish crime: each has a finger hacked off. HACKED? On the contrary, barks Holmes. This was expertly removed. This is why I like Basil Rathbone; he’s imperious, sharp, dramatic, moody. For millions of us, he will always be the Sean Connery of Sherlocks.
For once, there‘s actual suspense. Actual sets. Actual dialogue. And there’s Blofeld Morality, too - except this time he’s not a pig-skulled brute, but a smooth, weary, elegant mastermind.
I won’t even spoil the plot. But I will note a few things. You can tell femme fatale is a bad girl as soon as we get back to her place:
Bad girls always had places entirely in white. Right down to the piano, which probably didn’t even have black keys. Kept women had white apartments in the 30s; they lounged around in white gowns and answered white phones. Good girls lived in places that suggested sensible domesticity. Later, when a fellow comes back to her place to ask some questions, the camera goes Batman-lair titly on us:
In short, it’s aces, considering the standards of 100 Mysteries. And it had this scene, which of course has to go on the index page of the Matchbook Museum. (Flash vid, yada yada yada, mouse over)
I know some don't like the Rathbone Holmes, but c'mon:
Born to the role, I say.