The Speckled Band (1931)

Article #560 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 9-26-2002
Posting date: 2-19-2003

Sherlock Holmes investigates the situation of a woman who is afraid that her stepfather is intent on murdering her.

Fans of Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories will immediately recognize the title as belonging to one his most memorable stories; so memorable, in fact, that I’ve never forgotten the denouement. The upshot of this is, of course, that I went into this movie with a fairly solid idea of how it would end as long as it stuck to the story. And it does, once you get past some clumsy backstory in the first half and a strange sequence in which Holmes interacts with an intercom (or a tape recorder, or both; I’m not quite sure) and an early type of computer (unless I’m badly mistaken about that machine, but that’s what it looks like); obviously the series has been moved out of nineteenth century London. Actually, knowing the ending, rather than ruining the movie for me, helped me to enjoy it; rather than identifying myself with Watson (which is how you usually feel when reading a Sherlock Holmes story for the first time), I identified myself with Holmes, and could see that he knew the solution and was merely looking for the necessary details to back up his theory. It may not be quite as enjoyable if you don’t know the solution in advance; I can’t really say. But having been made in the early years of sound, it is slow-moving, stagey, and static. It does strike a home run in one way; Raymond Massey is a wonderful Holmes, spirited, witty and thorougly enjoyable; I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed this man as a performer quite as much as I did here.


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