THE PEARL OF DEATH (1944)
Article #1022 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-1-2004
Posting Date: 5-30-2004
Directed by Roy William Neill
Featuring Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Dennis Hoey
When Sherlock Holmes inadvertently becomes responsible for the theft of a rare pearl, he matches wits with a man named Conover to recover the pearl.
This is another enjoyable entry in the Universal Sherlock Holmes series, and it may be one of the most horror-oriented of the series. A good deal of this has to do with the presence of Rondo Hatton as the back-breaking character known as the Creeper, who was so popular that two other movies (HOUSE OF HORRORS and THE BRUTE MAN) were made around the character. Here he is given no dialogue and remains in the shadows for most of the movie; in fact, the final confrontation marks one of the rare times I’ve ever seen Holmes to look really scared. In all respects, this is a solid entry in the series, with both Bruce and Hoey providing a fair amount of comic relief.
On a side note, some of these Sherlock Holmes movies were made during the war, so it’s not surprising when the wartime propaganda creeps in. However, in both this entry and THE SCARLET CLAW, I couldn’t help but admire the tasteful and dignified way that this was handled, with final speeches by Holmes that were both subtle and stirring, while avoiding overt preachiness. Though I am not fond of propaganda, I can admire how effective it can be when done well.