Thursday, April 1, 2010

Comparison shopping: "A Study in Scarlet" (1933) and "Terror by Night" (1946)

With my home computer in the shop for repairs, I've taken the time to rummage through my DVD library to find something to pass time. Over the last two nights, I played a pair of Sherlock Holmes mysteries available via public domain.

"A Study in Scarlet", from 1933, casts Reginald Owen as Holmes and Warburton Gamble as Dr. Watson. While the title is that of the first Holmes story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the plot deviates from Doyle's script and borrows a plot point from Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None". Owen is also credited as a co-writer, and acquits himself well as Holmes.

The plot is rather simplistic. A shady lawyer (Alan Dinehart) at the head of a secret society arranges for the society's members to be eliminated, one at a time, while collecting their money, properties, and personal effects for his own gains. Holmes admits to having had earlier encounters with the shyster, but was never quite able to put him away. This time, however, may turn out to be a different matter altogether.

Edit: 4/11/14: I've added "A Study In Scarlet":

For many Holmes fans, the definitive screen portrayer of the master detective is Basil Rathbone, who starred in a total of 15 films and several radio productions. In "Terror by Night", Holmes & Watson (Nigel Bruce) are on a train bound for Scotland, tasked to protect the Star of Rhodesia. Watson meets a man claiming to be his old friend, Major Duncan-Bleeck (Alan Mowbray, who played Inspector Lestrade in "Scarlet"), but in truth is Col. Sebastian Moran, a former aide to Holmes' arch-enemy, Professor James Moriarty. Suffice to say, this game of human chess is worth the price of admission alone.

Edit: 4/11/14: And here's "Terror By Night":

Bear in mind that this was the first time I'd seen Owen as Holmes, and I have to say I was quite impressed. I have not yet seen Robert Downey, Jr.'s version of the legendary sleuth, but I would venture that he had a lot to live up to.

Ratings: "A Study in Scarlet"--A-. "Terror by Night"--A+.

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