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Includes:The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939) The Scarlet Claw (1944) The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce make their second screen appearances as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Ostensibly based on the stage play by William Gillette, the film owes nothing to the play beyond the characters of Holmes, Watson, Billy the page boy and Professor Moriarty. Played with relish (and a bit of pickle) by George Zucco, Moriarty plots to steal the Crown Jewels, and also to confound Holmes by obliging the Great Detective to be in two places at once. Ida Lupino costars as an imperiled young woman who is seemingly plagued by an ancient family curse--a plot development that has been carefully stage-managed by the malevolent Moriarty. Basil Rathbone is excellent not only as Holmes but also in the guise of a cockney music-hall entertainer (if indeed that is Rathbone performing a buck-and-wing in longshot). The second of Twentieth Century-Fox's Holmes films (Hound of the Baskervilles was the first), The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes was the last in which Rathbone and Bruce were seen in a 19th century setting. In the subsquent Sherlock Holmes series at Universal, the exploits of Holmes and Watson were updated to the World War II years. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide The Scarlet Claw Though it is not based on any Conan Doyle story, The Scarlet Claw is regarded by Baker Street aficionados as the best of Universal's Sherlock Holmes series. Holmes (Basil Rathbone) and Watson (Nigel Bruce) journey to Canada to investigate a series of mysterious murders. All the victims have been found with their throats ripped out (yecch!). Halfway through the film, Holmes deduces that the culprit is a demented actor, wreaking vengeance on those who've wronged him in some way or other. The actor is a master of disguise, and could be anyone in the village -- from the constable to the postman to the reclusive, violence-prone innkeeper (Arthur Hohl). Alas, the publicity photos sent out with The Scarlet Claw gave away the identity of the killer -- something we have no intention of doing here. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide
Includes - The Maltese Falcon (1941), MPAA Rating: NR The Big Sleep (1946), MPAA Rating: NR The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), MPAA Rating: NR Dial M for Murder (1954) The Maltese Falcon After two previous film versions of Dashiell Hammett's detective classic The Maltese Falcon, Warner Bros. finally got it right in 1941--or, rather, John Huston, a long-established screenwriter making his directorial debut, got it right, simply by adhering as closely as possible to the original. Taking over from a recalcitrant George Raft, Humphrey Bogart achieved true stardom as Sam Spade, a hard-boiled San Francisco private eye who can be as unscrupulous as the next guy but also adheres to his own personal code of honor. Into the offices of the Spade & Archer detective agency sweeps a Miss Wonderly (Mary Astor), who offers a large retainer to Sam and his partner Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan) if they'll protect her from someone named Floyd Thursby. The detectives believe neither Miss Wonderly nor her story, but they believe her money. Since Archer saw her first, he takes the case -- and later that evening he is shot to death, as is the mysterious Thursby. Miss Wonderly's real name turns out to be Brigid O'Shaughnessey, and, as the story continues, Sam is also introduced to the effeminate Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre) and the fat, erudite Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet, in his film debut). It turns out that Brigid, Cairo and Gutman are all international scoundrels, all involved in the search for a foot-high, jewel-encrusted statuette in the shape of a falcon. Though both Cairo and Gutman offer Spade small fortunes to find the "black bird," they are obviously willing to commit mayhem and murder towards that goal: Gutman, for example, drugs Spade and allows his "gunsel" Wilmer (Elisha Cook Jr.) to kick and beat the unconscious detective. This classic film noir detective yarn gets better with each viewing, which is more than can be said for the first two Maltese Falcons and the ill-advised 1975 "sequel" The Black Bird. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide The Big Sleep The definitive Humphrey Bogart/Lauren Bacall vehicle, The Big Sleep casts Bogart as Raymond Chandler's cynical private eye Philip Marlowe. Summoned to the home of the fabulously wealthy General Sternwood (Charles Waldron), Marlowe is hired to deal with a blackmailer shaking down the General's sensuous, thumb-sucking daughter Carmen (Martha Vickers). This earns Marlowe the displeasure of Carmen's sloe-eyed, seemingly straight-laced older sister Vivian (Bacall), who is fiercely protective of her somewhat addled sibling. As he pursues the case at hand, Marlowe gets mixed up in the murder of Arthur Geiger (Theodore von Eltz), a dealer in pornography. He also runs afoul of gambling-house proprietor Eddie Mars (John Ridgely), who seems to have some sort of hold over the enigmatic Vivian. Any further attempts to outline the plot would be futile: the storyline becomes so complicated and convoluted that even screenwriters William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, and Jules Furthmann were forced to consult Raymond Chandler for advice (he was as confused by the plot as the screenwriters). When originally prepared for release in 1945, The Big Sleep featured a long exposition scene featuring police detective Bernie Ohls (Regis Toomey) explaining the more obscure plot details. This expository scene was ultimately sacrificed, along with several others, in favor of building up Bacall's part; for instance, a climactic sequence was reshot to emphasize sexual electricity between Bogart and Bacall, obliging Warners to replace a supporting player who'd gone on to another project. The end result was one of the most famously baffling film noirs but also one of the most successful in sheer star power. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide The Postman Always Rings Twice James M. Cain's novel received its first authorized screen treatment in this MGM production. Drifter Frank Chambers (John Garfield) takes a job at a ro