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The Pearl of Death

USA 1944
produced by
Roy William Neill for Universal
directed by Roy William Neill
starring Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Dennis Hoey, Evelyn Ankers, Miles Mander, Ian Wolfe, Charles Francis, Holmes Herbert, Richard Nugent, Mary Gordon, Rondo Hatton, J.W. Austin, Harry Cording, Leslie Denison, Connie Leon, John Merkyl, Arthur Mulliner, Lillian Bronson, Harold De Becker, Eric Wilton
screenplay by Bertram Millhauser, based on the story The Six Napoleons by Arthur Conan Doyle

Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone), Universal's Sherlock Holmes, the Creeper

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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The priceless Pearl of the Borgias is stolen from a highly secured museum, and it's all Sherlock Holmes' (Basil Rathbone) fault, as he has tried to point out faults in the museum's security measures - a bit too successfully, it would seem. The thief is one Giles Conover (Miles Mander), a masterthief nobody has ever been able to pin a crime on, but that makes Holmes all the more determined. Conover is even caught near the scene of the crime, and he has worked as a maintenance man at the museum at the time fo the crime, but the pearl cannot be found on him, and thus the police has to let him go. Soon after, several people are found dead, their necks broken in a gruesome manner and their China smashed. Sherlock Holmes immediately ties the killings to the case of the stolen Pearl of the Borgias, insists that Coover's malformed but believed to be deceased henchman the Creeper (Rondo Hatton) is the actual killer, and claims the whole affair is just part of Conovers attempt to get back the pearl he must have hidden somewhere shortly after stealing it - in one of six Napoleon-busts, as Holmes soon finds out. Five busts were already smashed, and their owners killed in most cse, yet it seems Conover hasn't found what he was looking for, so Holmes rushes to the location of the sixth bust to welcome Conover and the Creeper there and have a showdown. At first it seems Holmes has bitten off more than he could chew on, taking on both men by himself, but then he turns the Creeper against Conover - whose neck gets fatally broken in the process -, then shoots the Creeper dead ... and finally gets hold of the pearl.

Series regulars Nigel Bruce and Dennis Hoey can be seen in their usual roles of Doctor Watson and Inspector Lestrade, respecively, while Evelyn Ankers plays Conover's disguise-happy partner in crime.


Pearl of Death is by no means a great film, not even a great crime flick, but it's an ok series film with a better than usual cast: Rathbone is at his usual great as Holmes while Miles Manders turn as villain is at least interesting, Evelyn Ankers as woman of many disguises adds colour to the proceedings, and real-life acromegalic Rondo Hatton is scary to look at I'm afraid to say (even though I'm well aware that this is not a politically correct statement).


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
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On the same day
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A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
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Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD