Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror
VIDEO of Sherlock Holmes – The Voice of Terror – Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce
|Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror|
1942 US theatrical poster
|Directed by||John Rawlins|
|Produced by||Howard Benedict|
|Written by||Robert Hardy Andrews
|Based on||His Last Bow
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
|Music by||Frank Skinner|
|Edited by||Russell F. Schoengarth|
|Distributed by||Universal Studios|
Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror is the third film in the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce series of Sherlock Holmes movies and the first to be produced by Universal Pictures. Made in 1942, the film combines elements of the Arthur Conan Doyle story “His Last Bow“, to which it is credited as an adaptation, and loosely parallels the real-life activities of Lord Haw-haw. Horror film “scream queen” Evelyn Ankers appears as leading lady.
The film begins with a title card describing Holmes and Watson as “ageless”, as an explanation as to why the film is set in the 1940s rather than Holmes’ era of 1881–1914, as the preceding 20th Century Fox films were. There is a nod to the classic Holmes, in a scene where Holmes and Watson are leaving 221b Baker Street, and Holmes picks up his deerstalker. Watson protests, and Holmes reluctantly puts on a fedora instead.
Holmes is called into the “Inner Council” of British Intelligence by Sir Evan Barham (Reginald Denny), to assist in stopping Nazi saboteurs operating in Britain, whose activities are announced in advance in radio broadcasts by “The Voice of Terror”.
Gavin (Robert Barron), one of Holmes’s operatives, is killed with a German dagger in his back. Before he dies, Gavin utters the word “Christopher.” Later, Holmes and Watson go to the Limehouse district of London, where they meet with Gavin’s wife Kitty (Evelyn Ankers).
Holmes tells the council that, through the use of an oscilloscope to carefully analyze and compare sound wave patterns from radio broadcasts of live vs. pre-recorded voices, he has determined that “The Voice of Terror” is actually recorded on phonograph records in England, but broadcast from Germany. Using a tip from Kitty, Holmes and Watson go to the old Christopher Docks, where they are followed by Sir Anthony Lloyd (Henry Daniell) of the council. The three men are captured by a group of Nazi spies led by a man named Meade (Thomas Gómez), although Meade manages to escape through a trap door to a waiting speedboat.
Kitty pretends to be a thief on the run and joins Meade. She finds out that Meade plans to go to Sir Evan’s country estate that night. There Holmes and Sir Evan watch a German plane attempt to land, but gunshots fired by Sir Evan disrupt the Nazi rendezvous; all the while Meade hides in the dark.
After one of Holmes informants traces Meade and Kitty to the south coast of England, Holmes forces the council to go there with him. With the support of British troopers, Holmes captures Meade and a group of German soldiers stationed in an abandoned church.
There he reveals the true identity of “The Voice of Terror” as Sir Evan Barham, who happens to be an impostor. Holmes then reveals that in World War I, the real Barham was a prisoner in a German war camp and had an uncanny resemblance to a Heinrich Von Bock, a member of the German Secret Service; one day the real Barham was taken out and executed; the gentleman who called Holmes into the case was Von Bock himself who had been posing as Barham for 24 years; Holmes then adds that Barham had no immediate family, so his private life was well studied by Von Bock, who also studied at Oxford and had knowledge of the English language and manners. So, with a little help of plastic surgery, not to mention the resemblance to Barham in the first place, the deception was carried out thoroughly. Holmes also concludes that the real Sir Evan Barham carried a scar from childhood, the one Von Bock carried from plastic surgery was approximately 20 years old – the clue that gave away the fact that he was an impostor.
Holmes then informs the spies that the German invasion force has been destroyed. The angry Meade shoots and fatally wounds Kitty, but is killed himself as he attempts to escape. The Council stand around the murdered Kitty and swear that her heroic death will not be in vain.
The film ends with a direct quote from “His Last Bow”:
- Watson: It’s a lovely morning, Holmes.
- Holmes: There’s an east wind coming, Watson.
- Watson: I don’t think so. Looks like another warm day.
- Holmes: Good old Watson. The one fixed point in a changing age. There’s an east wind coming all the same. Such a wind as never blew on England yet. It will be cold and bitter, Watson, and a good many of us may wither before its blast. But it’s God’s own wind none the less. And a greener, better, stronger land will lie in the sunshine when the storm is cleared.
- Basil Rathbone – Sherlock Holmes
- Nigel Bruce – Doctor John H. Watson
- Evelyn Ankers – Kitty
- Reginald Denny – Sir Evan Barham (alias of Heinrich von Bock) / Voice of Terror
- Thomas Gómez – R.F. Meade
- Henry Daniell – Sir Anthony Lloyd
- Montagu Love – General Jerome Lawford
- Olaf Hytten – Admiral Sir John Fabian Prentiss
- Leyland Hodgson – Captain Roland Shore
- Arthur Blake – Crosbie
- Leslie Denison – Air Raid Warden Dobson
- Gavin Muir – BBC Radio Announcer (voice)
- George Sherwood – London Cab Driver
- Arthur Stenning – British Officer
- Harry Stubbs – Taxi Driver 3016
- Ted Billings – Basement Dive Bartender
- Harry Cording – Camberwell, Basement Dive Patron
- Alec Harford – Grimes, Basement Dive Patron
- Charles Jordan – Duggan, Basement Dive Patron
- Michael “Mike” Morelli – Bar Patron
- John Rogers – Basement Dive Patron
- Donald Stuart – Grady, Basement Dive Doorkeeper (unconfirmed)
- Herbert Evans – Smithson, Barham’s Butler
- Fred Graham – Meade’s Henchman
- Rudolph Anders – Schieler, Nazi at Church
- John Wilde – Heinrich, Nazi at Church
- Mary Gordon – Mrs. Hudson
- Robert Barron – Gavin
- Hillary Brooke – Jill Grandis
- Edgar Barrier – Voice of Terror
- Davies, David Stuart, Holmes of the Movies (New English Library, 1976) ISBN 0-450-03358-9
- Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror at the Internet Movie Database
- Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror at AllMovie
- Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror at the TCM Movie Database
- Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror at the American Film Institute Catalog
- Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror on Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce fan site