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Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes


crazyblonde7
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I prefer THE PEARL OF DEATH to SCARLET CLAW only because it has all the London trappings, including Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson.

 

Rathbone's performance as Holmes matured greatly over the years. In the beginning he was overly clipped and too often dismissive of Watson. As the series progressed, he relaxed and his portrayal became much more natural. Part of this is due to the tasteful and restrained direction of Roy William Neill. People often carp about Nigel Bruce, but in a filmed interview, Conan Doyle referred to Watson as Holmes' "stupid assistant". The films were huge hits during the War and both Rathbone and Bruce were tireless campaigners for War Bonds. America owes a lot to the Hollywood community of that era for its patriotic efforts.

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I love them all, but I think that, even though it takes place in Canada, The Scarlet Claw is my favorite. Very creepy and atmospheric, with fine supporting performances. There are so many favorite scenes that come to mind from the various films: the dialogue between Rathbone and Gale Sondergaard in the Spider Woman; the scene with the man (played by Edmund Breon) and his music boxes in Dressed to Kill; the music hall numbers that pepper the films, particularly the song in Dressed to Kill; Mrs. Monteith, the utterly dour housekeeper, in House of Fear, the movie with the orange pips, etc. etc.

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LOL, the fun as others have pointed out is in the English-ness of it all (with Mrs. Hudson, Inspector Lestrade, et. al); but they seem to have imparted good English ambience to the one film in the series set amongst our friends to the north, in a town called "La Mort Rouge." Is that town near where you live, Miss W.?

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J'aime La Mort Rouge. I love The Scarlet Claw. The furtive glances of Emile Journet, the salon keeper are classic. The coup de grace is the performance of Gerald Hamer as Potts / Tanner / Ramson. C'est magnifique.

 

I purchased Basil Rathbone in the Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection on Blu-ray this summer. It includes all 14 films in the series. Picked it up for $42 new from an Amazon marketplace seller. Presently, it's rather dear.

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Whenever this subject comes up, The Scarlet Claw seems to come out on top, which I agree with. I don't think the early movies in the Universal series that deal with WW II subjects are very interesting anymore, though they're okay. My other favorites are Faces Death,

House of Fear, Pursuit to Algiers, and Terror by Night, the last two because I like mystery movies set on ships and trains.

 

Watson in the original stories is a little slow on the uptake, as is just about everyone in relation to Holmes, but he isn't the bumbling idiot as played by Nigel Bruce. I guess that upsets the purists, but I don't see it as that big a deal.

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While I agree that Scarlet Claw is the most effective of the updated Universal Sherlock Holmes films, my favourite Rathbone outing as the Baker Street super sleuth is without question one of the two handsome Fox original productions.

 

ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES boasts, among its glories, strong production values, Rathbone and Bruce in great form in their roles, a young pre-stardom Ida Lupino in impressive dramatic form as your standard heroine-in-distress, the best of all Moriartys with diabolical George Zucco, as well as Rathbone's personal favourite Holmes disguise sequence of all the films in the scene in which he most amusingly played a Cockney music hall entertainer.

 

The film also has a genuinely exciting climax in which Lupino is persued by a club footed murderer.

 

images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQxA5xqZAo6ZpRa4uvI6kM

 

Yep, that's Sherlock in disguise!

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My favorite Holmes disguise is as an aged postman who delivers some mail to 221 B Baker Street and Watson is fooled by the disguise, of course. The postman refers to a supposedly 'dead" Sherlock Holmes, who was supposed to have drowned on his Scottish holiday, as an old 'erring gut and an 'easy chair Johnny'. Watson is incensed until Holmes tells him to call off the dogs. It's hysterical. Rathbone had such panache and what a voice.

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> Rathbone had such panache and what a voice.

 

What a voice indeed!

 

I have a few copies, in both vynil and CD, of "Peter and the Wolf", and the old 78rpm( yes, I do have a player) of Rathbone narrating is still a favorite.

 

The first Sherlock Holmes movies I ever saw were with Rathbone, and they're the standard I use to measure the many others. And no surprise, due to that the others ALL fall short.

 

Sepiatone

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I've never seen The Scarlet Claw; it's always shown at a time when I'm not available to see it. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is the best of all the films, but I've never seen all the Universal films. Rathbone's Holmes is the best -- that voice, the razor sharp intelligence, even the physicality that he gives the role. Also, he has a subdued sexiness (perhaps that's what we pick up in all those villainous roles). Holmes is written as asexual, but there's a definite vibe in Rathbone's scenes with women.

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I have at all times felt that: *Pursuit to Algiers* (1945) was an oddity in the series. It had many of the stock elements but the "feel" of the movie was very different. I have long wondered if the ending line was meant as an inside joke.

 

I like most Sherlock Holmes movies and programs. The Christopher Lee versions are among my least favorites but that is due to poor writing and lack of production values. I liked the Ronald Howard television series because it was more from Dr. Watson's viewpoint.

 

I like very much the series starring Benedict Cumberbatch. It is in many ways more true to the spirit of the stories than many of the movies demonstrate.

 

I feel that Arthur Wontner embodied the character perfectly!

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Pursuit to Algiers was described, I think, as "the Love Boat" of the series. I still enjoy that one, which is shown often. One point to note, the mildly flirtatious attitude Holmes takes to the young woman on the ship. There is also some nice work by Nigel Bruce at one point when he believes Holmes is dead.

 

For Basil fanatics, I highly recommend two sites www.basilrathbone.net and http://thegreatbaz.wordpress.com/

 

Both sites reveal dimensions and new information about this respected and multi-talented actor.

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As several others have hinted at, the Rathbone / Holmes films are great to watch because of the actor's talent but the films also have good tight scripts and direction. Roy William Neill did a great job on all of the Universal films. They may have "B" movie budgets but they have an "A" quality feel to them. The supporting casts (some people appear in several films as different characters) all give solid performances. The only potential knock on these films is Nigel Bruce's Dr Watson character. But I look at it as an interpretation of Watson that's supposed to lighten the tone of the story and there's no question that Rathbone and Bruce worked very well together. Rathbone always defended Bruce's work in the films. By the way Nigel Bruce also served in WWI with distinction. And sadly, Rathbone's brother was killed in the war.

 

Edited by: mrroberts on Nov 28, 2013 11:30 AM

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And let's not forget the last line of The Hound of the Baskervilles: "...Watson! The needle!"

 

That line was what made The Hound of the Baskervilles a college cult classic in the 60's and early 70's, but I've always loved all of the Rathbone / Bruce movies. OTOH what drives my fondness for their version of Holmes up a notch isn't Rathbone - - - as good as he is - - - but rather Bruce's lovable and clueless take on Watson, which on the observable IQ scale barely registered one step above Ballard Berkeley's "The Major" character in Fawlty Towers, and was every bit as entertaining. They can keep remaking Holmes for the next 1000 years, but Rathbone and Bruce will always hold the keys to the franchise.

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mrroberts, Nigel Bruce was injured in WW1 hence the funny walk. rosebette, I will check out those sites you mentioned, Thanks! I can't pick a favorite of the 14 because mine changes every few months. I love the scene in the Algiers when the girl tells Watson she is from Brooklyn[because I am from Brooklyn]. Anyway, I think the chemistry between Rathbone and Bruce is Great. Nigel Bruce adds a little humor to the part. And just like nobody comes close to Rathbone's Sherlock, nobody comes close to Bruce's Watson. Anyone ever see THE YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES? Very good!

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