Watson's (Nigel Bruce) friend Stinky (really - played by Edmund Breon)
has bought a music box at an auction, which, without his knowledge, was
produced in prison by masterthief Davidson & which, together with 2 other
music boxes, contains secret information about the hiding place of
two engraving plates from the bank of England in its tune's notation. And a certain Colonel Cavanaugh (Frederick Worlock) is most anxious to lay
his hands on the box.
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Soon, Stinky is robbed, & of all things, one of his music boxes
is stolen, but not the one Cavanaugh wants. Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone),
when learning about it, thinks little of it ... but soon after, Stinky is found
Holmes now sets out to track down the owners of the 2 other boxes what were
also sold off at the auction (as does Cavanaugh), without knowing their actual
secret, but always seems to be one step behind Cavanaugh & his aides, the
brutal driver Hamid (Harry Cording) & the actress & expert in disguise
Mrs Cockney (Patricia Morison), until he manages to get his hands on the
third box & decides to set a trap for Cavanaugh & company.
And thanks to his pefect hearing, Holmes can remember the tunes of the
boxes, including their little mistakes, just from hearing them once, &
slowly decipher the message. But during his further investigatins he falls into
a trap of Mrs Cockney & Cavanaugh & once again his life is in peril
(this time he is supposed to be killed by car exhaust gasses) ... but of course
though he manages to free himself (in a rather underwhelming scene, though).
Mrs Cockney manages of course to steal Holmes' musical box from right under
Watson's eyes, but Holmes figures out the whereabouts of the engraving plates
anyhow (in a rather unbelievable plottwist), & in a rather boring finale he
catches Cavanaugh, Mrs Cockney & Hamid redhanded & has them arrested.
last, & probably the dullest of the Universal-Basil Rathbone-Sherlock
Holmes-series, since the story unfolds itself pretty much in the first
5 minutes, when we see the music box produced in prison, & it takes
painstakingly long for Sherlock Holmes to come to the conclusion the dedicated
viewer has come to long ago - which totally takes the suspense out of the
story. & not enough with that, at the same time many of Holmes'
conclusions, & many of the plottwists are so wild (even wilder than usual)
that the plot's believability suffers greatly from it.