Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce were without doubt the definitive Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson. Rathbone was perfectly cast as the peerless detective and Bruce was great fun as his rather bumbling but good hearted sidekick. The two made a number of films together in an enduring and successful partnership. This film brings together many of the elements that made them such a success. Although I should add that I feel the best film made about the great detective has to be awarded to Billy Wilder for his affectionate and intelligent film "The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes".
This short film directed by Roy William Neill contains elements of Conan Doyle's "The Sign of the Four", "The Dying Detective", "The Final Problem", "The Speckled Band and "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes". Our two heroes are transported from their traditional Victorian stamping ground to World War two London, and have aged remarkably well. This tangled web of nefarious criminal activity concerns an evil femme fatale, the hideous spider Lycosa Carnivora, the pygmy "Bongo from the Congo" and some very cunning disguises from Holmes. The great detective fakes his own death in order to investigate the suspicious "Pyjama suicides". He is forced to go undercover as Rajni Singh. But he is up against a very cunning and fatally attractive adversary.
The film has dated remarkably well and is great fun. Bruce has a field day and steals many scenes. Particularly funny was when he mistakenly believes an unlikely character to be Holmes in disguise. The dim witted Scotland Yard detective Lestrade also makes another welcome appearance, even managing to acquire one of Holmes distinctive pipes as a keepsake. Quite a collectors item I should say! The chemistry between the three adds greatly to the atmosphere of light hearted fun. The conclusion is particularly imaginative. I would like to think that if the Holmes creator Conan Doyle was able to watch the film he would have had a good chuckle. It is that sort of film!