Sherlock Holmes Faces Death (1943)

Article 2432 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-25-2007
Posting Date: 4-9-2008
Directed by Roy William Neill
Featuring Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Dennis Hoey

Sherlock Holmes investigates murders of the Musgrave family at Hurlstone manor. The murders appear to be tied to a nonsensical document family members are required to memorize known as the Musgrave Ritual. Holmes begins to suspect that the ritual is not nonsense at all…

With this movie, I complete my coverage of the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes movies of the thirties and forties. The majority of these movies have some fantastic content to them; apparently, enough of them do so that at least one source for my lists felt compelled to include even those that don’t have any, such as PURSUIT TO ALGIERS . This one has a spooky old house with secret passages and talk of ghosts. Nevertheless, the fantastic elements seem tacked on in this movie; the ghost talk never comes to anything, and, despite the dread hints about the Musgrave family in the opening scene, I found little horrific about them as such. The story is very loosely based on the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle story, “The Musgrave Ritual”; it takes a few plot elements and characters from the story, jettisons the rest, changes the ritual, and layers on a subplot about Hurlstone manor being used as a home for convalescent soldiers (thus putting a wartime spin on the story). The latter element is a bit of a smokescreen; though the movie hints that one of them may be the murderer, a quick consideration of the time the movie was made and the attitude of the movie industry towards the war effort, you can safely bet that none of the soldiers are guilty (I’m only surprised that the villain didn’t turn out to be a Nazi spy). All in all, this one is fairly good, with some fun dialogue, an interesting story, some great moments (I love the scene involving the raven and the rumble seat), and a sense of class; as always, I’m impressed with how the ending speech in the movie manages to subtly but effectively put out its propagandistic message.



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