(director: Albert Parker; screenwriters: from a play by William Gillette/Marion Fairfax/Earle Brown/based on the characters from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; cinematographer: J. Roy Hunt; editor: ; music: Ben Model-2009; cast: John Barrymore (Sherlock Holmes), Roland Young (Dr. Watson), Gustav von Seyffertitz (Professor Moriarty), Reginald Denny (Prince Alexis), William Powell (Foreman Wells), Carol Dempster (Alice Faulkner), Peggy Bayfield (Rose Faulkner), Percy Knight (Sid Jones), David Torrence (Count Von Stalburg), Robert Fischer (Otto), Louis Wolheim (Craigin), Robert Schable (Bassick), Anders Randolf (James Larrabee), Hedda Hopper (Madge Larrabee), Lumsden Hare (Dr. Leighton), John Willard (Inspector Gregson); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: F.J. Godsol; Kino (Goldwyn); 1922-silent)
“A flawed Sherlock Holmes thriller.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Seasoned filmmaker Albert Parker(“The Black Pirate”/”Troubled Waters”/”Eyes of Youth”) directs a flawed Sherlock Holmes thriller (too dry in the middle) that is nevertheless still the best silent version of the sleuth. The film was lost, but its semi-destroyed negatives were found in 1970. George Eastman House Motion Picture Department supervised its restoration with the help of Brit film historian Kevin Brownlow and the elderly director (who died before it was fully restored). It’s based on the play by William Gillette that opened on Broadway in 1899 and starred Gillette. The play was based on several stories from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The screenplay is by Marion Fairfax and Earle Brown.
The plot has Cambridge student Prince Alexis (Reginald Denny) accused of a robbery he did not commit. His friend Watson (Roland Young) refers the case to a fellow student, an aspiring sleuth, Sherlock Holmes (John Barrymore). Alexis puts them on the trail of the underworld lord, Moriarty (Gustav von Seyffertitz), a master criminal whose vast criminal empire can’t be stopped. From here on it’s about Holmes matching wits with the elusive crime genius, living off the grid.
Holmes is able to clear the Prince’s name, and save him from an international scandal. But it takes a few years later for Holmes to outwit his nemesis, Moriarity, and capture him and his agents before he can blackmail the Prince for murder. Moriarity schemes to get his hands on the love letters written by the Prince’s would-be English wife Rose Faulkner (Peggy Bayfield), now in the hands of her sister Alice (Carol Dempster). Rose committed suicide in the Swiss Alps when the Prince dumps her because he can no longer marry a commoner because of the Royal law in his country of Harlstein., as he becomes a crown prince as a result of his two older brothers suddenly dying.
The film marked the screen debut of the 29-year-old William Powell, who was the future Thin Man (1934) and played here a reformed villainous associate of Moriarity. It also marked the screen debut of Roland Young, the future Topper (1937).
REVIEWED ON 6/28/2015 GRADE: B https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/