‘The Scarlet Claw’ (Film)


Please feel free to comment on my review.

In La Morte Rouge, Canada with Basil Rathbone’s Sherlock and Nigel Bruce’s Watson

Many critics and fans would consider ‘The Scarlet Claw’ to be the best of the twelve ‘Sherlock Holmes’ films made by Universal, starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. I do honestly believe that.

The film’s DVD audio commentary by David Stuart Davies makes that statement. I also vaguely recall seeing the movie’s second half on TV one time when my parents and I visited my Nana in Newport. 🙂

That was when the ‘Sherlock Holmes’ films starring Basil Rathbone were shown on TV throughout a weekend on Turner Classic Movies (TCM). It was my introduction to Basil Rathbone as Sherlock then.

‘The Scarlet Claw’ is of course the eighth film of the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce series of ‘Sherlock Holmes’. Roy William Neill was the director of this film and ten more in this certain ‘Sherlock’ series.

In ‘The Scarlet Claw’, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson visit La Morte Rogue in Canada where a woman is discovered dead. Her throat has been ripped open. Thankfully we do not see any blood. 😀

Or if we do, it’s in black-and-white. 😀 The tiny village of La Morte Rouge is alarmed and the people believe that the death was caused by a legendary monster that roams the marshes about the village.

Holmes and Watson of course don’t believe in the ‘monster’ and suspect the culprit to be human. They attempt to cut through the town’s superstition and prevent another attack within the village. 🙂

This film doesn’t claim to be based on any particular Sir Arthur Conan Donan story as it’s an ‘original’ story by Paul Gangelin. The film claims to be based on the characters by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle here.

However, ‘The Scarlet Claw’ does seem to bear a significant resemblance to ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’. Dr. Watson even makes a reference to that story, although that occurred in the 1880s. 😐

It’s so surreal to watch the Universal-produced ‘Sherlock Holmes’ films take place in the 1940s whilst the first two films by 20th Century Fox occurred in the 1800s. Holmes and Watson have not aged. 😀

‘Doctor Who’ writer Alan Barnes, who also wrote the book ‘Sherlock Holmes On Screen’ describes ‘The Scarlet Claw’ as ‘owing much’ to ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ and he lists their similarities. 😀

This includes the aforementioned remote marshland setting, a painted-phosphorescent but thought-supernatural terror, an escaped convict on the loose and a killer ingratiating himself within society. 🙂

There’s also a subplot involving cast-off clothing and Holmes’ method of unmasking the murderer by making to return home but actually remaining behind to catch the villain red-handed. It is profound.

Once again, Basil Rathbone continues to deliver an excellent performance as Sherlock Holmes. He even quotes from Winston Churchill at the film’s conclusion, indicating the film was made in 1944. 🙂

Nigel Bruce also continues to be excellent as Dr. Watson. I found it funny how Watson got irritable with Holmes’ handling of solving the crime case. Watson ends up in a bog twice throughout the film.

The film features Paul Cavanagh as William, Lord Penrose. Lord Penrose receives the message that his wife Lady Penrose has been murdered. Could his lordship be involved with his wife’s death here?

There’s also Gerald Hamer as Alistair Ramson and Arthur Hohl as Emile Journet. Hohl apparently dubbed over Basil Rathbone’s voice in a scene where Holmes disguised himself as Journet in the film.

There’s Kat Harding as Marie Journet, Miles Mander as Judge Brisson and David Clyde as Sergeant Thompson. Ian Wolfe returns in this ‘Sherlock Holmes’ movie to play a butler character called Drake.

The first time Ian Wolfe did a ‘Sherlock Holmes’ film was ‘Sherlock Holmes in Washington’. He later appeared in two more ‘Sherlock Holmes’ films which are ‘The Pearl of Death’ and ‘Dressed to Kill’. 🙂

There’s also Victoria Horne as Nora, a maid, and Gertrude Astor as Lady Lillian Gentry Penrose, the unfortunate woman who gets killed with her throat ripped open. Again, the cast are superb here. 😀

I find ‘The Scarlet Claw’ to be another enjoyable instalment in this ‘Sherlock Holmes’ film series. I can see why people rate it highly and it was intriguing to see it similar to ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’.

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

‘The Scarlet Claw’ rating – 8/10

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