There have been roughly a billion Sherlock Holmes movies made over the last century and the master detective has been portrayed by enough people to populate a full reenactment of the California Gold Rush. But only a handful of these actors became so identified with the role that their physical appearance influenced most future visions of the character. Basil Rathbone played Holmes onscreen fourteen times and in hundreds of radio programs. His voice so perfectly captured the public imagination that his mannerisms and style of speech became the standard for Holmes for decades afterward and he is still considered one of the best to have ever attempted the role. Rathbone’s acting often elevates movies and he brings a level of competence and skill to his Sherlock performances that can help even the weakest of them entertain effectively. Luckily, he was often working with a cast that matched his abilities and a story that was worthy of the Holmes name. Not that there weren’t problems to overcome…..
Universal’s series of Sherlock Holmes adventures are considered a part of the studio’s 1940’s horror output and certainly several of them qualify as scary movies. But not all of them are so obviously part of that genre with most leaning into the expected mystery/suspense field. Strangely, their first Holmes film would stray from mystery more than most and ends up playing more like an espionage story with Holmes as a spy master. This grows out of the decision to set the Holmes and Watson characters in contemporary times instead of their usual Victorian or Edwardian period. This means the war with Germany takes center stage allowing the brilliant Holmes the opportunity to add his efforts to the battle against fascism. But does the change of time period and the repurposing of this great character as a WWII combatant work? We’ll be glad to let you know our thoughts in this episode.
Troy and I are joined by Sherlock Holmes aficionado Beth Morris for this (and all future Holmes films). She adds her own perspective on Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce and the 1940’s version of the characters filtered through her obsessive reading of the original Doyle tales and every pastiche story that she can get her hands on. We discuss the film’s story, the extraordinary cast, the brilliant lighting and the lack of detective work the film has for Holmes. I dig into the way the film treats Evelyn Anker’s character Kitty, probably spending far too much time railing against the Hay’s office rules that force certain irritating actions at the film’s conclusion. I get a bit salty about it and I apologize for my enthusiasm and inability to let it go but it is infuriating!
We end the show with an email giving details about this year’s Blob-fest in Lehighton, PA. If you live near enough to attend, we envy you. I’ve really got to try to get to that show one year.
If you have any comments or suggestions firstname.lastname@example.org is the email address and we’d love to hear from you. Thank you for listening to the podcast and we’ll be back soon!