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Monday, July 20, 2009

THE SCARLET CLAW (1942)


An unusually compelling opening combines with strong atmospherics for a high-grade Sherlock Holmes outing from the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce outfit. Set in a small Canadian town which helps to hide the modernization Universal insisted upon, the film has an emotional charge not attempted elsewhere in the series though it’s still compromised by a need for tastier players than Universal had at its disposal The tale cleverly reworks some elements from THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES with a phosphorescent monster on the prowl o’er the local marshlands. Naturally, Holmes pooh-poohs any occult explanation to unravel the twisty, tasty theatrical truth. Considering Conan Doyle’s actual descent into spiritualism, the script misses a lot of opportunities, but this handsomely mounted adventure is nothing to sneeze at.

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