I will review Sherlock Holmes and the two films starring Basil Rathbone in the role of being Holmes. The two films I have watched recently in English are The Pearl of Death and The Scarlet Claw. I enjoyed the film: The Pearl of Death because it is based on “The Adventure of the Six Napoleons.” The film was made in 1944 in Hollywood and is updated to the 1940s London in the Blitz. Sherlock Holmes is in disguise very often.
He looks realistic to the person he is imitating, and there is no recognition of his original form. The unique feature in the film is the introduction of the Hoxton Creeper. In the story, the villain is Beppo, but we see Rando Hatton performing as the Hoxton Creeper. Holmes calls the Hoxton Creeper “a monster with the chest of a buffalo and the arms of a gorilla.” This is an exciting way to describe the Creeper – this makes us want to see what the Creeper looks like, and when we see him, we are not disappointed. The Creeper adds an excellent dimension to the story.
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He always appears in shadowy places, and he is an enormous actor who suffers from acromegaly. This is a progressive glandular deformity that causes enlargement of the extremities. This makes the film more deadly. The Hoxton Creeper’s face is only seen at the end of the film – he moves in silhouette through all the scenes. This is good positioning of the camera. This creates hesitancy. Our teacher said the film was horrifying, and it gave him nightmares when he was a boy. These days films are much more graphic and give many watchers more of a shock.
The Creeper breaks the backs of people who own a bust of Napoleon because in one of the busts is hidden the famous Borgia pearl. He smashes the bust and other plates to cover up what he is hoping to find. Rondo Hatton spent his formative years in Tampa, Florida. Once he graduated from his High school, he fought in World War 1. This led to him being gassed in 1917, and his health deteriorated. Hatton worked as a newspaper reporter. He was later noticed for the film industry in the mid-1930s, and he realized he had the potential of himself featuring in Hollywood films. He soon started working in the early 1940s for Universal Horror Films. Here is a picture of ugly Rondo Hatton.
Disguise is fantastic throughout the film. Sherlock Holmes uses disguise, so do several of the criminals. Giles Conover also disguises himself as a cleaner and a scholar of great age. Naomi Drake disguises herself as a match seller, shop assistant and one who washes up. The atmosphere throughout the film is sinister and clouded due to special effects and the black-and-white photography. The use of light and shade is excellent and adds tension to the audience, and this is great for a movie of this age. And also, when the Creeper moves, there is a very scary soundtrack, which gives a feeling of, ‘Something is going to happen for sure.’ I cannot miss this. It grabs attention!!!
My favourite scene was when the Creeper broke the back of Giles Conover and then tried to kill Sherlock Holmes. We see the Creeper’s face for the first time, and he is hideously ugly. Of course, Sherlock Holmes kills him with a snub-nose Bulldog revolver. Holmes then smashes the final bust of Napoleon and recovers the valuable Borgia pearl. This was an exciting and dramatic ending to the film. Dr. Watson’s comic acting was humorous. When he hid the pearl in his mouth to protect the precious stone, it was amusing because no one noticed where it had gone.
The original story, The Adventure of the Six Napoleons, did not have the Hoxton Creeper in it. Beppo is the killer in the original story but using Rondo Hatton as the Creeper was a brilliant idea and made people even more interested in the movie. I feel The Pearl of Death was a success basically because of the impression given by the Creeper. In The Scarlet Claw, another film starring Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes, disguise is also used. The murderer is a master of disguise and uses five disguises, including that of a woman! The postman Potts, the murderer, dresses up as Judge Brisson’s maid and tears out the judge’s throat with a garden weeder. This is the weapon he uses to kill all his victims.
The film is set in Canada in the lonely village of Le Mort Rouge. The setting is misty and creepy. There is a marsh next to the village where Sherlock Holmes chases the murderer but not catch him. This is a vivid scene that I enjoyed. In the end, though, Holmes foils the villain who is a mass murderer and master of disguise. Miles Mander plays two roles that are very different in the two films I have watched. Firstly, he acts as a villain on the loose: Giles Conover, and then he acts like a man totally scared and out of his wits: Judge Brisson. I like his role as Conover; it suits him because he looks like a very mean man who will do anything for his needs.
To conclude, I have enjoyed these films. But I was not scared by them. My English teacher says the Creeper is very scary but I think differently. I believe Rondo Hatton would have been scary to those watching in the cinemas half a century back. I think these films are not scary to a modern audience because there are far scarier horror films these days due to modern technology and special effects. I personally feel Basil Rathbone is an excellent actor; he was very good for the era he was in. I feel more tension is needed to make it up to the scratch of standard films today.
I feel that some of the characters are too one-dimensional and they need a little bit more feeling in their acting, but still, the camera work is excellent for a film of this age. The films seem very old-fashioned. I think improvements are needed to make them a bit more modern. There is fog, a lonely marsh, a bell ringing, and a monster on the loose. This creates a creepy, sinister atmosphere. But this gives me an impression that these were stories of many ages back. These days films are more interesting but these films are ace because of their many turns and twists.