Watching the Detectives: Basil Rathbone is Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon

Holmes does his bit for King and Country as he endeavours to keep a new bomb site out of German hands and once again faces his nemesis Professor Moriarty.

This second Universal Holmes movie is far more entertaining than its predecessor, Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror. Rathbone, sporting the same windswept hairstyle as he did in the earlier film, seems to be enjoying himself far more here, no doubt resigned to the fact that the Universal were never going to match the two Fox films for class. Nigel Bruce’s Watson seems to get dumber and yet more lovable with each film, you get the feeling he’d fall for the old “your shoelace in untied” trick, and not just once either. Of course the fact that Holmes puts his life in the hands of the bungling Doctor and the equally incompetent Inspector Lestrade at the films conclusion shows a level of trust that’s hard to qualify given what’s gone before.

 The Holmes/Moriarty confrontations are a joy as Lionel Atwill gets to ham it up as the yin to Holmes Yang. The film even manages to squeeze in a reference to Sherlock’s drug habit with Moriarty quipping “The needle to the last, eh, Holmes?” as Holmes details how, were he in the Professor’s shoes, he’d drain his blood in order to prolong his suffering.

The film finishes with Rathbone quoting Shakespeare – “This fortress – built by nature for herself; This blessed plot, this Earth, this realm, this England.” – and thanks to Universal Holmes would continue to do his patriotic duty for another ten films.

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