The last entry in Universal’s modern-day SHERLOCK HOLMES adventures marks a modest return to form after the halfhearted TERROR BY NIGHT/’46. This is the one with a secret code hidden (somehow, somewhere) inside three music boxes; a puzzle so tricky it takes a couple of unintentional clues from Nigel Bruce’s Dr. Watson to jog Basil Rathbone’s Holmes into action.* There’s a bit of physical derring-do for the great man; an actual ‘follow-that-taxi’ moment; and a couple of effective stand-offs with Patricia Morrison’s smooth, stylish villain. If only helmer Roy William Neill had also found a bit of style (and atmosphere) for the first half of the film. Will this turn out to be the first ever fog-free HOLMES? Fortunately, things perk up once Holmes goes down to a London dive for some musical advice from an old, disreputable client. And the film maintains a proper course from then on. Did they know the series was ending? If they’d only thought to have tossed in some philosophical musings for Sherlock at the end, this would have made for a dandy (and graceful) exit.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *Baby-Boomers will note how much Watson’s unknowingly helpful comments to Holmes are like Manfred the Mighty Wonder Dog was to Tom Terrific.