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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sherlock Holmes Double Bill: Spider Woman (1944) & The Pearl of Death (1943). Universal Pictures.

These are two of the films from the series starring Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson and both are very enjoyable. In the Spider Woman a series of "Pyjama" suicides occurs in London, Holmes suspects that they are in fact artfully concealed murders. His investigations lead him to Adrea Spedding, a wonderfully competent villain played by Gale Sondergaard. With elements taken from a wide range of stories this is a nicely convoluted story and a great climax at a fun fair. The source for the Pearl of Death is The Six Napoleons and the plot from that story is nicely nestled with another story about a very elusive and murderous master criminal. The plot is straightforward and the momentum is nicely maintained throughout, the final unveiling of the monstrous Hoxton Creeper is very well staged and remains enjoyably horrifying.
Basil Rathbone is superb as Sherlock Holmes, he is arrogant and autocratic in his manner, he has the restless energy required for the part. There is a wonderful verbal duel in the Spider Woman between Sherlock Holmes and Adrea Spedding where the unspoken conversation is as thrilling as the audible one. The fact that the villain in each film is competent and ruthless enough to present a genuine threat to Sherlock Holmes is one of the major pleasures of the films, the end is never in doubt, the journey is great fun.
Nigel Bruce is wonderful as Dr. Watson, he is bluff, hearty and just a bit slow on the uptake,without ever being simply comic relief. With excellent extras this DVD is a treat.

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