1935. Holmes, descending into retirement, takes one last case to catch the elusive Dr. Moriarty. He gets involved, somewhat obliquely, and Holmes ‘catches’ him at the end. Sigh. It was moderately entertaining, but the sound quality is pretty terrible on the 1930s movies in this set, so it was difficult to follow. I enjoyed the bespeckled sidekick and Watson’s bumbling, and the image of Holmes fishing out the window with an umbrella worked pretty well for me. I also liked the moment when the detective, assured by Holmes that they had no more need of the body in situ, tells the butler that he can remove the body now. Geez.
The film also features a long flashback sequence told by the widow of the victim. She tells what essentially turns out to be a hard-boiled detective story, about her husband the renowned Pinkerton detective who broke up a vicious gang of thugs that ran a small coal town. (The photo above shows the boss of the Scowlers threatening Cecil, the man whose death brings Holmes to the manor.) These thugs swore revenge and it was through Moriarty’s help that they found the victim. The priceless name of these bastards could have come straight from a Dick Tracy story: they’re The Scowlers.
Worth my thirty-eight cents:
Throughout the film, Holmes keeps snubbing Watson by forgetting to introduce him whenever they meet someone new. Watson, for his part, gets bent out of shape about it, nudging Holmes in the ribs and getting a constipated look on his face. Here’s the usual exchange:
Police Inspector: Mrs. Witness, may I present Sherlock Holmes.
Mrs.Witness: How do you do, Mr. Holmes?
Holmes: How do you do, Mrs. Witness?
Watson [elbows agitating furiously]: ahem
Holmes: Ah yes. May I introduce my colleague, Dr. Watson.
Mrs.Witness: How do you do?
Watson: How do you do?
Holmes: On the night of the murder…
There is obviously some humor already at work in this setup, but it gets doubly funny when one considers that Watson is played by Ian Fleming, of James Bond fame. I like the imagine that Bond is suave and debonair in all the ways Watson was not, and that perhaps Fleming imagined himself not as the bumbler of these films but rather as we see Bond fifty years later.
Follow-up: As I finished writing the above, it occurred to me that the Ian Fleming in these films was pretty old to be in espionage 5 years later. So I checked IMDB and found this sentence: “Not to be confused with the creator of James Bond.” Well, shit.
This is a big mental jump, but it makes me want to go back to my idea for the namesake series. In looking back at that post, I see that Jeff Rice’s suggestion of Charlie Brown and Chuck D has been lost. I think Brian Doan also suggested some. Darn. Anyway, there seems to be some Derridian value in the idea that the man who played Sherlock Holmes’ sidekick and the man who created James Bond had the same name.