The Scarlet Claw (1944)

Article #987 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-25-2003
Posting Date: 4-23-2004
Directed by Roy William Neill
Featuring Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Gerald Hamer

Sherlock Holmes investigates the death of a former actress who was supposedly killed by a monster.

As I’ve stated before, there is a certain bond between horror cinema and mystery cinema, and that is especially noticeable when dealing with Sherlock Holmes, whose stories have a fair amount of horror atmosphere to them. Of course, one of the differences between the two genres is our expectations; if we’re presented with a straight vampire story, for example, we expect to not be disillusioned about the existence of the creatures at the end of the movie, and we are disappointed if the movie does so. However, if Sherlock Holmes is on a case where there are supernatural aspects, we fully expect that the denoument will safely put any supernatural explanations aside and that a more rational explanation will prevail, so we aren’t disappointed. This is one of the basic differences between the genres; in one we want our irrational fears to be realized, in the other we want them to be explained away. Nonetheless, the mood and the scary touches may be very much the same.

So far, I’ve covered several of the Holmes movies, but most of them have only the slightest of horror touches to them. This is a marked exception; though it doesn’t take place in London (it’s one of the modern Holmes stories), there is plenty of fog and atmosphere in the Canadian town where this one takes place. It’s a truly satisfying movie as well, one of the best of the Holmes series that I’ve seen so far. I highly recommend this one to any horror fan who wants to check out an effective horror-themed mystery. Fine performances from all, especially Rathbone, Bruce and Hamer.


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