SHERLOCK HOLMES IN DRESSED TO KILL (AKA: Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Code-UK version)

(director: Roy William Neill; screenwriter: from the story by Arthur Conan Doyle/Frank Gruber/Leonard Lee; cinematographer: Maury Gertsman; editor: Saul A. Goodkind; music: Jack Brooks; cast: Basil Rathbone (Sherlock Holmes), Nigel Bruce (Dr. ‘Fatso’ Watson), Patricia Morison (Mrs. Hilda Courtney, aka Mrs. Williams), Edmond Breon (Julian ‘Stinky’ Emery), Frederic Worlock (Colonel Cavanaugh), Carl Harbord (Inspector Hopkins of Scotland Yard), Harry Cording (Hamid, Cavanaugh’s chauffeur), Holmes Herbert (Ebeneezer Crabtree, auctioneer at Gaylord Art Gallery), Patricia Cameron (Evelyn Clifford), Ian Wolfe (Commissioner of Scotland Yard), Wally Scott (Joe Cisto, pub pianist); Runtime: 72; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Roy William Neill; Republic Pictures Home Video; 1946)

“This is another enjoyable well-paced and acted mystery thriller in the series with the usual pleasant banter between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This is the swan song for the Sherlock Holmes series at Universal. The pipe smoking sleuth with the green tweed suit and fedora has enough after 14 such films and turns down a contract renewal, instead returns to the stage (starred in the Heiress) and making other kinds of movies such as swashbucklers. This is another enjoyable well-paced and acted mystery thriller in the series with the usual pleasant banter between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. It’s directed with assurance by Roy William Neill., also producer, and is taken from a story by Arthur Conan Doyle. The screenwriters are Hollywood Western writer Frank Gruber and Leonard Lee.

Dr. Watson’s (Nigel Bruce) old school chum Julian ‘Stinky’ Emery visits Baker Street at night to tell that he was just robbed in his home of a cheap music box, which seems odd since he’s a collector of music boxes and has many that are valuable. Stinky shows off his collection to Holmes and Watson, and in particular shows him a cheap wooden one that plays a strange tune just like the one stolen. Stinky says he bought it the other day at an auction for £2. Later that night Stinky is visited by Mrs. Hilda Courtney (Patricia Morison), an acquaintance (odd coincidence!). She gets the unsuspecting Stinky to show her the music box and then her chauffeur Hamid throws a knife into the hard luck guy’s back. This murder gets Sherlock’s attention and he visits the auctioneer, who spills the beans that a well-dressed man, whom we will learn later is Colonel Cavanaugh, gave him some money for the addresses of the three people who bought the music boxes. The auctioneer informs that the boxes were made by the convicts in the local prison, which piques Holmes’ curiosity. When Holmes rushes to warn one of the buyers, he’s too late as the music box was pinched. But he does get in time the third box from the owner of a toy store. At the Scotland Yard’s commissioner’s office, Holmes deduces the music boxes have something to do with the Bank of England’s £5 printing plates which were stolen seven years ago by the same convict who made the music boxes. The plates were never recovered, and the convict is due to be released. Holmes believes he’s sending through the three music boxes clues to his confederates where he hid the plates.

The plot is not too strong, but the characterizations are perky and it moves along at a nice pace. Holmes must stumble through another couple of murders and get out of a trap in order to hunt down the three villains. Nothing to write home about, but it does follow the successful formula line of the series and should please Holmes fans (which I count myself as one).