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Saturday, August 24, 2013

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE VOICE OF TERROR (1942)

The first of the twelve modern SHERLOCK HOLMES stories with Basil Rathbone & Nigel Bruce made at Universal during the war years is quite different than the other eleven in the series, almost a road not taken. It’s the only one not helmed by Roy William Neill, but by routiner John Rawlings who gets excellent visuals from lenser Elwood Bredell. The anti-Nazi story, all about German-based broadcasts of doom, has some nice angles to it, a villain you won’t guess in advance, and more fine supporting turns than Universal Studios could typically muster. But what really sets this apart is its sense of scale. This is the only pic in the series with something of an epic feel to it, in spite of its brief running time and budgetary compromises. It largely comes out of the clever juxtaposition of private & public scenes, from the use of quick-cut details & portraiture shots used to punctuate turning points in the narrative, and from sets that plant small groups in over-sized settings. It’s hard to say how much of this comes out of the Lynn Riggs/John Bright script, but someone shaped this one differently, and took pains to maintain a high energy level right up thru its memorable curtain speech, written by Conan Doyle on the eve of WWI and just as apt for early ‘42. The film deserves a much better rep than it has.

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