Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Yes, I did see this one on TV, years ago. Brag, as I do, about my memory of steel, the only scene I recalled was the last. It’s another of those Sherlock Holmes movies, starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. This is The Woman in Green, and it came out in mid 1945, when I would have been four going on five. It was originally released by Universal Pictures, but I caught it on Amazon Prime Video, the source of these screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle was a 19th century man, and most of the original stories were set in that era. Movie makers gave Holmes a modern setting, modern meaning the mid 20th century. The setting for this is London.

Here Scotland Yard is bedeviled by a modern day Jack the Ripper. Some fiend has murdered three disparate young women in London, each time severing and apparently keeping an index finger. Some light comedy prevails as official parties to a conference joust over a window being open or closed.

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A fourth murder is committed, and Holmes (Rathbone) confers with Inspector Tobias Gregson (Matthew Boulton) in an establishment called Pembroke House. Holmes can’t help noticing, nor can the audience, a striking couple sitting at a table behind them. He is Sir George Fenwick (Paul Cavanagh). She is Miss Lydia Marlowe (Hillary Brooke). He has grand designs. Her’s are grander.

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At Miss Marlowe’s digs later in the evening, Sir George falls under her spell, literally. He wakes up the next morning with headlines blaring of yet another murder. Worse, there’s a strange index finger in the pocket of his jacket.

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Even worse, a character who holds the answer to Sir George’s puzzlement is arch criminal Professor Moriarty (Henry Daniell). He informs Sir George he witnessed the crime, and a monetary settlement will keep it quiet.

Shortly, a charming young woman calls on Holmes and Dr. Watson (Bruce). Even as she exits her car on the street below at 221B Baker Street, Holmes has figured out everything about her. Almost. She turns out to the the daughter of Sir George Fenwick. In that bag she is unloading from her automobile is a small box containing an index finger. Gross!

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A quick visit to Sir George’s digs reveals he has just been murdered. Shot in the back. Holmes characteristically deduces that Moriarty is involved (the blond woman, as well), but he needs to prove it.

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Figuring hypnotism has been invoked, Holmes locates Miss Marlowe at the local Mesmer society and pretends to fall under her spell. She proposes to hypnotize him as a demonstration and hands him a pill to take to assist the process. He switches the pill for another that deadens pain. This allows him to pass the pain test when Moriarty emerges to verify Holmes is, indeed, under the spell.

Holmes is enticed to, almost literally, walk the plank. He is told the terrace ledge high above a London street is a walkway, and he is instructed to proceed to the end, most literally. And here is the part I remember from years ago. Holmes walks to the end, and then, and then Dr. Watson and the police burst in to save the day. When Watson attempts to coax Holmes off the ledge he reveals he has only been play acting, waiting for them to arrive.

Cuffed, Moriarty makes a break for it, out along the window ledge. He slips, and… And that’s the end of the end for Professor Moriarty.

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This print has not been well maintained. We’re probably looking at a copy of a copy of a copy… It’s black and white, of course, but tonal quality is poor. A lot has been lost. Sharpness is lacking. Sound quality is somewhat below standard for the day.

To be sure, the plot diverges widely from a typical Conan Doyle story. Doyle’s Holmes had scant interaction with the criminals of interest. Compared to a Doyle plot this one is practically a running gun battle.

The chance observation of Miss Marlowe and Sir George is also uncharacteristic. Never once in a Doyle story do you have Holmes cornering Watson and saying something like, “I just observed a bank robbery. We need to investigate.” Coincidence is the device of a writer lacking imagination.

This is one of 14 in the series that ran from 1939 to 1946, all featuring Rathbone and Bruce. Some of the films made during the war had a patriotic message involving spies, and a few others reflected original Doyle story lines.

Rathbone did not participate in that war, having served with distinction in the previous. He had himself disguised as a tree so he could escape detection and scout out enemy positions.

For a noted English character actor, Nigel Bruce had an interesting beginning. He was born in Baja California. He also served in the Great War, taking eleven bullets in his left leg. Especially during World War Two the Sherlock Holmes movies were produced in California, where his beautiful daughter (one of two) met and married British air ace Geoffrey Page.

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One thought on “Bad Movie of the Week

  1. Pingback: Bad Movie of the Week | Skeptical Analysis

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