The Pearl of Death

The Pearl of Death. Universal Pictures 1944.
The Pearl of Death. Universal Pictures 1944.

Before watching the movie:

Sherlock Holmes pops up so often here that he has his own genre category. So it was fairly inevitable that I’d get to the series starring Basil Rathbone eventually, even though I haven’t been very up on that version in the past. This is mostly by reputation at this point. Rathbone is considered definitive by some, and by others a poor portrayal that damages subsequent attempts. I have seen one installment before, but not much of it held my attention and my own opinions have changed since then.

At the time, I found the idea of setting the stories contemporary to their WWII production was lazy. The BBC’s current hit, Sherlock, however, has since demonstrated to me how much brilliance can be involved in making that kind of leap, and I should be judging it on the quality of the shift, not on the presence of it. Additionally, I was annoyed that they apparently tied Moriarty to everything, but most other adaptations do that too, and I should be judging it on how much they made that make sense, starting from the basis that a Napoleon of Crime would in fact have his fingers in a lot of crime. Finally, at the time I wasn’t aware that this series has been accused of practically lobotomizing Watson next to Doyle’s character, influencing many subsequent takes.

There’s a delicate balance in reviewing an installment from a film series. I try to avoid sequels that build on events from their predecessors, but this is more of the franchise type, with each individual film standing alone. In fact, it’s practically a television series before the popularization of television, due to the sheer number of films, the turnaround time between each, and the length of each (this one is only 69 minutes, and seems fairly typical). So how did I select which one? I have access to the third volume of the collection and this was the most interesting one in it. It’s based somewhat on The Adventure of the Six Napoleons.

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