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SHERLOCK HOLMES FACES DEATH (director: Roy William Neill; screenwriters: Bertram Millhauser/from the story The Musgrave Ritual by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; cinematographer: Charles Van Enger; editor: Fred Feitshans; cast: Basil Rathbone (Sherlock Holmes), Nigel Bruce (Doctor Watson), Dennis Hoey (Lestrade), Arthur Margetson (Doctor Sexton), Hillary Brooke (Sally Musgrave), Halliwell Hobbes (Brunton), Minna Phillips (Mrs. Howells), Milburn Stone (Captain Vickery), Gavin Muir (Phillip Musgrave), Gerald Hamer (Langford), Vernon Downing (Clavering), Olaf Hytten (Captain MacIntosh), Frederic Worlock (Geoffrey Musgrave), Peter Lawford (Drunk Sailor); Runtime: 68; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Roy William Neill; Universal; 1943)
“Suspenseful and moderately entertaining.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This thriller is loosely based on the story The Musgrave Ritual by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and is written by Bertram Millhauser. Director Roy William Neill (“The Black Room”/”Black Angel”/”Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man”)keeps the whodunit suspenseful and moderately entertaining, as there are plenty of suspects to a series of bizarre murders. It’s set during modern times in Northumberland, England.

There are several military officers convalescing at Musgrave Manor where they are treated by Dr. Watson (Nigel Bruce) and his assistant Dr. Sexton (Arthur Margetson). One of the soldiers is the American flyer Captain Vickery (Milburn Stone), who is in love with Sally Musgrave (Hillary Brooke). Her older brother Geoffrey (Frederic Worlock) and younger brother Phillip (Gavin Muir) both object to their sister’s choice of the Yank.

When Dr. Sexton is assaulted while walking on the grounds, Dr. John Watson returns to London and his detective colleague Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) decides to investigate the attack fearing one of the patients might be disturbed enough to be a possible murderer.

As soon as they arrive at the manor, Holmes uncovers the murdered body of Geoffrey under a pile of leaves outside the greenhouse. Dumb Scotland Yard Inspector Lestrade (Dennis Hoey) suspects Vickery, but when Phillip is later murdered after firing the snooping tipsy long-time butler Brunton (Halliwell Hobbes) Holmes suspects a ritual murder–something to do with figuring out the “Musgrave Ritual,” as Holmes believes that the floor of Musgrave castle resembles a huge chess board that has something to do with the ritual murders.

It ends with a patriotic speech by Holmes of the hope for a new world and that “The days of grab and greed are over.”


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”