‘Terror by Night’ (Film)


Please feel free to comment on my review.

Diamond Theft aboard a Train with Basil’s Sherlock Holmes and Nigel’s Dr. Watson

‘Terror by Night’ is the thirteenth and penultimate film in the ‘Sherlock Holmes’ film series, starring Basil Rathbone as Sherlock and Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson. It involves a diamond theft aboard a train.

In my opinion, the train mystery featured in the film is better than ‘Murder on the Orient Express’. It could be more or less on par with Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Lady Vanishes’ film from 1938. I enjoyed it.

The film’s plot is mostly an original story not directly based on any of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s works. However, minor plot aspects of ‘The Adventure of the Empty House’ and ‘The Sign of Four’ are used.

There are also elements of ‘The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax’. It’s interesting as to what seems to be similar and different in terms of adaptations from the original ‘Sherlock Holmes’ stories.

In the film, Sherlock Holmes is hired by Lady Carstairs and her son to protect a priceless and famous diamond aboard the London to Edinburgh Express. However, complications do occur on the journey.

Lady Carstairs’ son gets murdered in the film and the jewel is stolen en-route. The master detective must use all of his powers of deduction in order to recover the jewel and to expose the murderer. 😐

Basil Rathbone once again delivers a sensational performance as Sherlock Holmes in the film. I like how he often plans ahead as far as keeping the diamond secure and exposing the killer is concerned.

It was a surprise that Sherlock Holmes kept switching the diamond around to confuse the killer/thief.  I wasn’t very sure whether the diamond Sherlock stole was real or not when watching the film itself.

It’s a shame that he couldn’t prevent the death of Lady Carstairs’ son. Holmes covers all angles involved in this case when boarding the train. He’s even good to suspect fake Scottish policemen. 😀

Nigel Bruce is very good as Dr. Watson. His heart’s in the right place, especially when he’s willing to help solve the murder investigation. His questioning of a certain passenger doesn’t go quite to plan.

Watson makes early assumptions to Holmes about who the killer/thief is without suspecting that it could be his oldest friend Major Duncan-Bleek. Watson manages to stop the villain by the film’s end.

I wish Watson was there to rescue Holmes when he’d been attacked by Sands the street criminal. Thankfully Holmes was able to get back inside the train and return to Watson inside a compartment.

By the way, I found it funny when Watson suspected an old married couple to be the culprits and it turns out all they had stolen was a teapot. Even Holmes smirked away whilst Lestrade was annoyed.

Alan Mowbray stars as Major Duncan-Bleek who is later revealed to be Sebastian Moran. It’s intriguing how the film reveals him to be the culprit before Holmes and Watson deduce themselves.

Dennis Hoey makes a return as Inspector Lestrade in the film. I knew we hadn’t seen the last of him. It’s so interesting how he comes aboard the train and is involved with solving a case from the get-go.

The film also features Renee Godfrey as Vivian Vedeer and Frederick Worlock as Professor Kilbane. These two are rather dodgy suspects when Holmes and Watson are interrogating them on the train.

Mary Forbes stars as Lady Margaret Carstairs with Geoffrey Steele as the Honourable Roland Carstairs who gets killed in the film. Mary Forbes was in Frank Capra’s ‘You Can’t Take It With You’. 🙂

There’s also Skelton Knaggs as street criminal Sands, Billy Bevan as the ticket collector, and Harry Cording as Mock the coffin maker. Not everyone is as they seem whether aboard the train or not. 😐

I like how the film concluded with Holmes deducing that the Scottish policemen led by Boyd Davis as Inspector McDonald weren’t as they seemed. They were in cahoots with Sebastian Moran after all.

Holmes also manages to handcuff Moran before he gets a chance to escape. Lestrade also poses as Moran to be captured by the Scottish police before he captures the thieves at the railway station. 😀

‘Terror by Night’ is another enjoyable ‘Sherlock Holmes’ film set aboard a train. I like the train atmosphere in this film, especially in black and white, and Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce are great!

The DVD special features are as follows. There’s the ‘Restoring Sherlock Holmes’ featurette, production notes by Richard Valley, a photo gallery and an original theatrical trailer.

‘Terror by Night’ rating – 8/10

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