Movie Review: Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942)
“From Conan Doyle’s gripping books! From your favorite radio mystery! THE MASTER MINDS OF MYSTERY…leap to life to challenge the menace of modern crime!”
Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942)
Director: John Rawlins
Cast: Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Evelyn Ankers
Synopsis: Sherlock Holmes goes on the hunt for a Lord Haw Haw-style Nazi propagandist.
Having either partaken of the elixir of youth or mastered the mysteries of time travel, Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone – The Woman in Green, Queen of Blood) and his portly sidekick (Nigel Bruce – Rebecca, Suspicion) are called upon by the British WWII government to help unravel the mystery of just how a Lord Haw-Haw type is managing to broadcast messages warning of espionage attacks at the precise moment they are taking place. This is no ordinary Britain though: this is a Hollywood Britain, filled with mountainous railroad lines between Liverpool and London.
Although the action has been transplanted from Victorian England to wartime Britain and involves the fight against Nazis, the credits state that the film is based on a Conan Doyle story – although I don’t recall which one. Anyway, it’s not one of Sherlock’s best, although it’s decent enough and the typically short running time means it doesn’t have time to get boring.
The one thing that does grate – other than the daft George IV hairstyle Holmes is saddled with – is the heavy doses of propaganda that are regularly plopped into the storyline like thick porridge. Aimed squarely at the working classes – you know: that particular ‘Lord Luvaduck’ type of working class who wear flat caps and scarves and drink in dingy underground bars – and beseeching them to overcome their inherent mistrust of authority in the common cause against Nazi Germany. Audiences were less sophisticated then, but I can’t help thinking even they might have found such patronising speeches a little difficult to swallow. Things improve immeasurably, however, when Holmes is saying things like ‘We’re all in grave danger,’ and ‘There’s not a moment to lose.’
(Reviewed 5th January 2012)