Tag Archives: Basil Rathbone

The Set of 400: #46 – My Favorite Albatross

Today! Because I’m going to break you, Holmes. I’m going to bring off right under your nose the most incredible crime of the century, and you’ll never suspect it until it’s too late –

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939)

Directed by Alfred Werker

Starring Basil Rathbone (x5), Nigel Bruce (x4), George Zucco (x3), Ida Lupino, Alan Marshal (x3), Henry Stephenson, E.E. Clive (x2), Arthur Hohl (x3), Terry Kilburn (x3), Mary Gordon (x3), Holmes Herbert, Peter Willes

The best film in the Rathbone/Bruce Sherlock Holmes series, the second one chronologically, and the fourth to the make this list, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes was released six months after The Hound of the Baskervilles and still enjoyed all the support and budget Twentieth Century Fox was willing to offer. Thus, it’s a beautifully designed Victorian yarn pitting Holmes and Watson opposite George Zucco’s Moriarty, the most dynamic in the film series (he would appear twice more in the later Universal films, played by Lionel Atwill and Henry Daniell). The ingeniously simple plot – relying more on Moriarty’s understanding of the Holmes’ psyche than twisting complexity – culminates with an all-time classic showdown between the two at the Tower of London.

Much earlier in the film they split a cab, which was an economical way to see London in the 1800s, and still is today

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The Set of 400: #141 – My Favorite One-Handed Cake Devouring

Today! Because when the ghosts have a midnight jamboree/They break it up with fiendish glee –

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)

Directed by James Algar (x2), Clyde Geronimi (x3), Jack Kinney

Starring Bing Crosby (x2), Basil Rathbone (x4), Eric Blore, J. Pat O’Malley (x2), Oliver Wallace

The only movie I’m guaranteed to watch every Halloween (which is kinda awkward, as The Wind in the Willows isn’t scary in the least), The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, I’ll admit, is not the way I’ve always seen it. Growing up, I had no idea it existed in this combo fashion, only having a copy of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow portion recorded off TV, I want to say. And that is primarily why this movie made the list still – but that’s not necessarily to shortchange the opening half of the film.

Ah, that classic tale of a playboy amphibian

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The Set of 400: #176 – My Favorite Phosphorus Disguise

Today! Because there’s no such thing as ghosts and monsters. Haven’t I made that clear to you?

The Scarlet Claw (1944)

Directed by Roy William Neill

Starring Basil Rathbone (x3), Nigel Bruce (x3), Gerald Hamer, Paul Cavanagh, Arthur Hohl, Kay Harding, Miles Mander

Happy New Year, folks! The best of the Universal Sherlock Holmes films, The Scarlet Claw was the eighth Rathbone/Bruce pairing, and the rare adventure set in Canada (!), concerning a series of murders in the town of La Mort Rouge (talk about being right on the nose). In a lot of ways, the plot parallels The Hound of the Baskervilles, even if the story is technically one of the originals produced for the movies. The Doyle estate’s deal with Universal was for two adaptations per every three films, which was honored only basically.

This was also the first original they made which wasn’t updated to the present day – as discussed some in #291 The Voice of Terror (which itself technically is based on the story “His Last Bow”) – and they make good use of the freedom, concocting a more wide-ranging mystery than normal. It’s still a pretty tight film, and it’s not overflowing with suspects, but it doesn’t have the locked-in quality of a number of the movies around it – Sherlock Holmes Faces Death entirely set in a mansion, The House of Fear also set in a mansion, Pursuit to Algiers on a boat, etc. It also features the best non-Moriarty villain in the series, even if it is a surprise adversary, in the form of the constantly-disguised Alistair Ramson, first masquerading as a legendary monster haunting the village, and then as a number of townsfolk.

This movie has a ton of gorgeous posters, too

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The Set of 400: #291 – My Favorite Nazi Heckler

Today! Because it’s help me or help the Nazis –

Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942)

Directed by John Rawlins

Starring Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Evelyn Ankers, Reginald Denny, Henry Daniell, Leyland Hodgson, Mary Gordon, Hillary Brooke, Thomas Gomez, Montagu Love, Harry Cording

The best of the Rathbone/Bruce Sherlock Holmes series with the updated World War II setting, and the only one on this list, The Voice of Terror has a standard mystery film of the era title – The Voice of Terror? What? And like many of the later films in the series (and by later, I mean everything after the first two), this one appears to have been cranked out on the cheap, skimping on sets and run time to maximize the efficiency necessary to churn out multiple movies a year.

However, they stumbled into a pretty effective yarn with Voice of Terror. Based loosely on the original Doyle story “His Last Bow” and the real-life adventures of the Nazi villain Lord Haw-haw (!), this third movie in the group (and the first at Universal, after leaving the big budgets of 20th Century Fox) concerns the government bringing Holmes in to help identify the source of the terrorist radio broadcasts of the Voice, announcing major British setbacks at the hands of the Nazis seemingly as they happen. There are a load of suspects – Holmes quickly figures a member of the illustrious war council may be behind this plot – and plenty of stock footage utilized to depict catastrophes far and wide in Great Britain.

This dude’s wrist is a key plot point

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The Set of 400: #333 – My Favorite Missing Boot

Today! Because here’s something an old squire like you could use, sir – a whistle for calling your sheepdog –

The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939)

Directed by Sidney Lanfield

Starring Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Richard Greene, Wendy Barrie, Lionel Atwill, John Carradine, E.E. Clive, Barlowe Borland, Beryl Mercer, Morton Lowry, Ralph Forbes, Mary Gordon

The Hound of the Baskervilles was the first and one of the best films in the long-running 20th Century Fox/Universal Sherlock Holmes series of the ’30s/’40s starring Rathbone and Bruce, and kicks off our little mini-marathon of these movies over the next year. A lot of these movies don’t really hold up – they were cranking them out two or three a year for the better part of the next decade, so naturally some weren’t going to be stellar – but they’re all at least pretty watchable due to the excellent work of the leads and their specific takes on the iconic roles.

Baskervilles is particularly interesting for a few reasons. While many of the movies are based on Doyle stories, most needed massive alterations and changes to make the screen – not so much here, as Baskervilles is also one of the rare book-length Doyle tales. Also, Sherlock is off-screen for a large portion of the middle of the film – leaving the heavy lifting to Watson, and the lead-billed, nominal star of the movie, Richard Greene as Henry Baskerville (Greene is probably best known for his work as TV’s Robin Hood in the 1950’s for ITV/CBS). And as a fun fact, this is the only Rathbone/Bruce Sherlock film to reference in any way Holmes’ cocaine use, a topic so eagerly covered in the very solid Seven-Per-Cent Solution with Nicol Williamson some years later.

It’s also got Robert Duvall as Watson and Alan Arkin as Sigmund Freud! Not pictured – Olivier himself as Moriarty!

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