Monday, May 29, 2017

Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1942)

What, Sherlock again? There’s fourteen of these suckers and I am determined to get through them by years end. So, this time Holmes and Yo-Yo transport a scientist out of Switzerland before he and his Secret Weapon fall into the hands of the Gestapo. This proves difficult because even eccentric scientists need a booty call every now and again. So when man and machine turn up missing, our heroes must track down both before the Evil Moriarty discovers their secrets. Based ever so loosely on The Adventure of the Dancing Men.

Ah, the middle section where I find something interesting about an actor or behind-the-scene happening. Yea, this is totally where I do that. It seems this Holmes series was factory production and they click off like clockwork. So …. good job, guys!

Crossing studios and eras, the Sherlock Holmes series is amazingly consistent in quality and tone, which is especially surprising as they don’t yet share writers or directors. In fact, different actors have played Moriarty. The story, humor, and atmosphere are what we come to expect. Chalk another nice watch for Holmes. AMRU 3.5.
“Brilliant man, Sherlock Holmes. Too bad he was honest.”

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942)

The inner council requests the help of Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) because the citizens of London are being terrorized by radio broadcasts from Nazis. Wait, what?

That’s right, Nazis. Holmes and Watson (Nigel Bruce) are transported about fifty years to the (then) present day to do their part in the war effort. This is possible because “the immortal character of fiction created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is ageless, invincible and unchanging”, so, yea. That. Not sure how a modern day Sherlock played to audiences back then, but since it’s been seventy five years since the movie came out, it still plays somewhat as a period piece.

Anachronisms aside, The Voice of Terror is a better than fair mystery (there's a spy) with all the wit and charm of the earlier films. Given my druthers, I’d prefer it set in Victorian London, but while America escaped the war to the cinemas, England had no such option. We had difficulty getting meat and gasoline, they were eating acorns. Universal did a good job picking up the franchise. AMRU 3.5.
“There's an east wind coming all the same, such a wind as never blew on England yet. It will be cold and bitter, Watson. And a good many of us may wither before its blast. But it's God's own wind nonetheless and a greener, better, stronger land that will lie in the sunshine when the storm is cleared.”

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

In a Lonely Place (1950)

Troubled but talented screenwriter Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart) is assigned to adapt a terrible novel for the screen. Hot coat check girl Mildred (Martha Stewart - No, not THAT Martha Stewart!) loves the book, so he invites her back to his place for her to describe the story to him. Or whatever else. He gets nowhere with the girl or the script so he sends her packing via taxi. When she turns up dead, Dix is the prime suspect. The only witness for his whereabouts is a hot neighbor (Gloria Grahame) who noticed him from her window. Love blooms.

So, rather than a who-done-it, we’ve got a did-he-do-it. We’re used to the old and decrepit Bogart playing the romantic lead, and he is no stranger to morally ambiguous characters, so this is right up his alley. But maybe a bit more morally ambiguous than we are used to. At the onset the audience and his alibi-then-lover are certain of his innocence but soon we both become unsure as his darker nature reveals itself. His relationship with too-young-for-him Graham rings true. Besides, she was about a year older than his real life wife.

Speaking of Graham, perhaps you recall me retelling of a certain friction between her and her second husband, director Nicholas Ray. Graham and Ray’s marriage was on the rocks while he was directing her here. You remember, dabbling with the step-son. That's a recipe for disaster.

Despite being the sole suspect for the murder, and Dixon’s violent tendencies which frequently get him into trouble, his friends all repeated say how much they love Dix. They love Dix so much! They'd never say no to Dix. Yea, sometimes I’m twelve.

In a Lonely Place is sometimes dark, sometimes amusing, and has great atmosphere. Don’t expect Bogart to be his regular hero character. He is far more real here. An excellent film-noir. AMRU 4.
“There's no sacrifice too great for a chance at immortality.”

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939)

Dr. Moriarty (George Zucco) is released from prison because, you know, reasons, and vows one last plan to ruin Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) before retiring. Why he says this to Holmes directly is beyond me. Anyhow, Holmes is appropriately suspicious when two cases cross his desk. The captain of Scotland Yard asks for help when he receives a vague threat regarding the Crown Jewels. But that’s not nearly as interesting as the hot young woman (Ida Lupino) who fears for her brother’s life because of a silly drawing. Suspicious boyfriend is suspicious.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes was based on a 1899 stage play which starred a young Charlie Chaplin in a small role. Cratchit boy Terry Kilburn plays that character here. I understand the two stories bear little resemblance. One strange thing here is that Holmes lives not at 221B Baker street with boy-toy Watson (Nigel Bruce) but instead in a great mansion with servants and stuff. The films opening was overshadowed by the Nazis invading Poland the same day. Way to ruin a party, Hitler!

Despite this story being new to me, it falls short of The Hound. There was the atmosphere and amusing moments, but little mystery. Because of some inside information it’s not hard for us to guess the outline of Moriarty’s plan. Sherlock, however, is mostly perplexed. Rather than solve the mystery, he follows all the wrong leads, then runs to the climax to wrestle with Moriarty.

Amusing and entertaining, The Adventures is a fun watch and worthy successor to The Hound. It was the last for 20th Century, the franchise being picked up by Universal three years later (with some changes!) AMRU 3.5.
“You've a magnificent brain, Moriarty. I admire it. I admire it so much I'd like to present it pickled in alcohol to the London Medical Society.”