Sherlock Holmes’ Fatal Hour (1931)

SHERLOCK HOLMES’ FATAL HOUR (1931)
(a.k.a. THE SLEEPING CARDINAL)
Article #1147 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-5-2004
Posting Date: 10-2-2004
Directed by Leslie S. Hiscott
Featuring Arthur Wontner, Ian Fleming, Philip Hewland

Sherlock Holmes investigates a murder that takes place in the strongroom of a bank in which no money has been stolen.

As this movie was based on the tales “The Final Problem” and “The Empty House”, I found myself scanning the cast list to see who was playing Moriarity, and was somewhat surprised not to see the name appear. The reason is actually quite clear; the identity of Moriarity is a mystery for most of the movie. However, you should have no trouble figuring out his identity as it seems fairly obvious. This would be the first of five movies to feature Arthur Wontner as Holmes; Ian Fleming appears as Watson and would do so in most of the others as well. It’s fairly creaky, and the sound is bad on my print, but it’s also got a fairly entertaining story (which involves cheating at bridge, gold fillings, counterfeit money, criminal bootmakers and a talking painting) which should hold your interest. The fantastic elements are fairly slight; basically, there seems to be a bit of science fiction in the presence of one of those new-fangled weapons that may not exist in real life.

As a side note, here’s a little trivia quiz. I saw a gadget being used in this movie that surprised me, not because I’ve not seen it before, but rather because it has popped up in three times in the last month. I don’t know if the gadget is just a prop or an item that’s used in real life, but since it looks the same and has the same function in all three movies, I’m willing to bet it’s real and used commonly in the making of movies. Given the following clues, can anyone tell me what it does?

– It appears not only in this movie, but in THE CRIMSON CULT and THE MIRACLE RIDER.

– It’s a hand-held item with rotating fan-like blades.

Answer: It’s a machine that makes cobwebs.

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