(director: Roy William Neill; screenwriters: Bertram Millhauser/from a story The Adventure of the Empty House by Arthur Conan Doyle; cinematographer: Virgil E. Miller; editor: Edward A. Curtiss; music: Hans Salter; cast: Basil Rathbone (Sherlock Holmes), Nigel Bruce (Dr. John H. Watson), Hillary Brooke (Lydia Marlowe), Henry Daniell (Professor Moriarty), Paul Cavanagh (Sir George Fenwick), Matthew Boulton (Inspector Gregson of Scotland Yard/Narrator), Eve Amber (Maude Fenwick), Frederic Warlock (Dr. Onslow), Tom Bryson (Corporal Williams), Sally Shepherd (Crandon, Marlowe’s maid), Mary Gordon (Mrs. Hudson); Runtime: 68; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Roy William Neill; Universal; 1945)

“A solid entry in the Holmes series.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Based on Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventure of the Empty House. This Holmes vehicle is directed as usual by Universal’s Roy William Neill. Bertram Millhauser provides the taut screenplay. It’s a solid entry in the Holmes series. It has a sinister look as Holmes cavorts about town in a foggy London trying to help Scotland Yard crack the case of a serial killer of women. All the women have their right forefingers severed from their hands. The police believe this to be the work of a madman, but Holmes attributes the crime to a grander scheme. It leads to Holmes’ nemesis Professor Moriarity (Henry Daniell), who is not dead as the public thought but managed to find a way of escaping the gallows. Moriarity is in league with the beautiful blonde hypnotist Lydia (Hillary Brooke), who apparently is wearing a green dress but that can’t be determined by the black and white film.

Moriarity’s devilish scheme involves blackmail, getting wealthy prominent rich codgers like Sir George Fenwick (Paul Cavanagh) to be hypnotized by Lydia and then forcing them to pay the blackmailer or else exposed as a brutal killer. It’s up to Holmes to smoke out that Moriarity is behind these murders and bring him to justice. How he does it is quite entertaining.

Basil Rathbonedefined the Sherlock Holmes role and is splendid here. The bumbling Dr. Watson (Nigel Bruce) provides the comic relief; in one scene he proclaims only the weak-minded can be hypnotized, but soon after he’s easily put under. Henry Daniell makes for a scary villain; while the dark London background provides the proper creepy atmosphere for the murder story.

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