PEARL OF DEATH, THE (aka: SHERLOCK HOLMES IN PEARL OF DEATH)
(director: Roy William Neill; screenwriters: from the story “The Six Napoleons” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle/Bertram Millhauser; cinematographer: Virgil Miller; editor: Ray Snyder; music: Paul Sawtell; cast: Basil Rathbone (Sherlock Holmes), Nigel Bruce (Doctor Watson), Dennis Hoey (Lestrade), Evelyn Ankers (Naomi Drake), Miles Mander (Giles Conover), Ian Wolfe (Amos Hodder), Charles Francis (Digby), Holmes Herbert (James Goodram), Richard Nugent (Bates), Mary Gordon (Mrs. Hudson), Rondo Hatton (The Creeper); Runtime: 69; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Roy William Neill; Universal; 1944)
“The suspenseful film was entertaining.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This was the seventh of twelve Sherlock Holmes mysteries produced by Universal between 1942 and 1946. It’s loosely based on the Arthur Conan Doyle 1904 short story The Six Napoleons and is written by Bertram Millhauser. Director of note for the series, Roy William Neill (“The Black Room”/”Black Angel”/”Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man”), does his usual capable job. The B-film was shot in the studio’s back lot. The suspenseful film was entertaining.
Master thief Giles Conover (Miles Mander) has his pretty accomplice Naomi Drake (Evelyn Ankers) steal “the Borgia Pearl” from the courier (Holmes Herbert) of Britain’s Royal Regent Museum aboard a boat arriving at Dover. Naomi is thwarted in her attempt to smuggle it in by Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone). He’s in disguise as an elderly minister, who was asked by her to take her camera through customs so that her film won’t be confiscated since he won’t be searched. The clergyman gets through customs and returns the camera without the pearl that was hidden there and with a note telling her the clergyman was Sherlock Holmes. The Borgia Pearl is then returned to the museum and is placed on display, as Holmes and his sidekick physician friend, Dr. John H. Watson (Nigel Bruce), express concern about the loose security with the clever Conover still on the loose. But the arrogant museum curator Francis Digby (Charles Francis) proudly demonstrates the elaborate new alarm system. Holmes shows how that system is flawed and during his demo he shuts down the security system. But Giles, posing as a museum worker, runs off with the pearl. He’s soon caught, but the pearl is missing.
London is now plagued by a series of murders, each victim is found with his back broken and surrounded by smashed china. Holmes deduces that the murders are the work of the Hoxton Creeper (Rondo Hatton), a member of Conover’s gang thought killed during a prison escape. After examining the broken bric-a-brac from the various murder scenes, Holmes deduces that was a cover-up to hide that the gang was after a plaster bust of Napoleon where Giles hid the pearl when fleeing the museum while running into a workshop that had six busts of Napoleon drying on a table.
Rondo Hatton suffered from a rare pituitary glandular deformity (acromegaly), which made his face look monstrous, and despite his brief appearance his sinister performance as the disfigured homicidal maniac still registered quite effectively–having Sherlock become very fearful when the Creeper started after him.
REVIEWED ON 12/31/2009 GRADE: B https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/