Friday, January 5, 2024


I think I first saw the Rathbone/Bruce Sherlock Holmes films on my great-aunt's TV on Saturday afternoons while I was still grade school age. There was no television then at our house. Basil Rathbone remains my favorite Holmes and I like Bruce although he is definitely not Arthur Conan Doyle's Watson. The guys at this site decided to rate the fourteen films from worst to best:
.... We decided to head into Doyle-ian territory via old Hollywood and do a Super Draft of the fourteen Sherlock Holmes films made between 1939 and 1946 that starred Basil Rathbone as Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson. Darryl Zanuck over at 20th Century Fox reluctantly got the ball rolling with an adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles. He was so unconvinced that a Holmes movie could be successful that he gave top billing to Richard Greene as Sir Henry Baskerville and really pushed the romance in the film with Wendy Barrie’s character.

Zanuck needn’t have worried: the chemistry between Rathbone and Bruce crackled onscreen. The film was a big success, prompting Fox to greenlight a sequel, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. And then – they quit! Fortunately, Universal expressed interest, and Rathbone and Bruce went on to make twelve more pictures as the world-famous detective duo. The only caveat: Universal decided to place our pair in modern-day England and send them off to fight the Nazis!!! Universal sought to explain it all away with a title card at the start of the first film:
“Sherlock Holmes, the immortal character of fiction created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is ageless, invincible, and unchanging. In solving significant problems of the present day, he remains – as ever – the supreme master of deductive reasoning.”
And you know what? For the most part, Holmes and Watson indeed proved themselves to be timeless, especially after the Nazis were set aside in favor of more atmospheric films. Not that the studio didn’t make the most of Holmes as a propaganda tool: at the end of these films, Rathbone as Holmes would deliver a stirring speech to Bruce-as-Watson, using the words of Doyle himself, or Churchill or Shakespeare, to galvanize public support for the war effort. That, and a final shot asking everyone to BUY WAR BONDS, did what it was meant to do! .... (more)
The list, from worst (but not really bad) to best:
14. Sherlock Holmes in Washington
13. The Woman in Green
12. Pursuit to Algiers
11. Dressed to Kill
10. Terror by Night
  9. Sherlock Holmes Faces Death
  8. The House of Fear
  7. Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon
  6. Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror
  5. The Spider Woman
  4. The Pearl of Death
  3. The Hound of the Baskervilles
  2. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
And the #1 Rathbone/Bruce Sherlock Holmes film of all time...
  1. The Scarlet Claw
I have all of them on DVD. They are available from streaming services as well, and, I read, on YouTube. I think I may watch a couple of them this evening.

Brad Friedman, "The Rathbone/Bruce Sherlock Holmes Super Draft," Ah Sweet Mystery!  January 5, 2024.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated. I will gladly approve any comment that responds directly and politely to what has been posted.