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.