The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939)

2008 #39
Alfred Werker | 79 mins | DVD | PG

The Adventures of Sherlock HolmesNever mind waiting two or three years for a sequel these days — after the 1939 Hound of the Baskervilles was a box office success, Fox had a sequel out just five months later! I reviewed that first Rathbone/Bruce film back in February, promising an irregular series reviewing the further thirteen pictures the pair starred in. Well, I’ve finally got round to watching the second, and while I was a tad harsh on the first I found myself enjoying this one more.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes pits the titular detective against his arch-nemesis, Moriarty, in what’s really speaking a relatively weak plot — most depressing of all is how easily Moriarty’s plan to distract Holmes almost succeeds. But never mind that! There’s rain-lashed, fog-drenched Victorian London streets! Brutal murders by foul foreigners! Dastardly plots against the crown! Galloping carriages! Romantic subplots! A smattering of comedy! A song-and-dance number! (No, really, there is.) And a final shoot out… in the Tower of London! You can’t escape the joyous feeling that this was designed as pure entertainment, literally including something for everyone.

Bruce’s Watson may bumble about too much for the purists (me included, more often than not), the murder plot lacks proper explanation (the production notes on Optimum’s DVD pleasingly expand on this), Rathbone’s characterisation of Holmes may be a touch too friendly… but by then I’m just nitpicking. This sequel is atmospherically, entertainingly and excitingly executed, and that’s plenty good enough for me.

4 out of 5

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