Monday, January 11, 2010


I recently watched two Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films with my family- Terror by Night and Dressed to Kill. They were on a two-fer DVD that I randomly grabbed off the library shelf, primarily based on John's recommendation. We actually enjoyed them quite a lot.

The pop culture stereotypes of Holmes and Watson get explained fairly early on in either film- Holmes's cold calculations contrast often humorously with Watson's amicable intuition-based reasoning. Watson's not a dolt, as he is sometimes portrayed, and if Dresssed to Kill is any indication, his unfocused ramblings often provide Holmes with the key to unravelling a particular puzzle, which makes in indispensible to Holmes in a way. I found myself wondering what such different personalities would find attractive about the other- though it's easier to see why the withdrawn, antisocial Holmes might cling in his own way to Watson's open acceptance, than it is to understand what Watson gets out of the friendship.

Nevertheless, it was far more entertaining to watch the two of them interact in either film than trying to understand the particulars of the plot, in the case of Terror by Night in particular. Its shorter length (60 minutes) hurts it, I think. Dressed to Kill was rather enjoyable, actually, even if you leave out, as was aptly commended in John's blog, Watson's fine duck impersonation. It was fun to see Holmes left for dead, Bond-style, and come back to thwart the bad guys. All of the classic elements were there, whereas Terror by Night takes place almost exclusively on a train. This plot device in itself does not necessarily mean a bad movie (Snakes on a Plane notwithstanding), but there was too much sitting around and talking about clues, and not enough of Holmes hanging onto the outside of the train for dear life. Still, all three of us are interested in seeing more of these films, and if IMDB is any indication, there are plenty left for us to choose from.

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