Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace
 

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson

a Sherlock Holmes adventure

The film draws an idea from A. Conan Doyle's novel
The Valley of Fear, but is not based on the book.

Directors: Terence Fisher, Frank Winterstein
Writers: A. Conan Doyle (characters); Curt Siodmak
Cast:

  • Christopher Lee — Sherlock Holmes
  • Hans Söhnker — Professor Moriarty
      
  • Thorley Walters — Dr. John H. Watson
  • Hans Nielsen — Inspector Cooper
  • Senta Berger — Ellen Blackburn
  • Ivan Desny — Paul King
  • Wolfgang Lukschy — Peter Blackburn
  • Leon Askin — Charles
  • Edith Schultze-Westrum — Mrs. Hudson

Central Cinema Company, 1962
black & white

84 minutes November 2010

  
Sherlock Holmes and the ill-plotted adventure

Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace is not a very well-made movie, but it has its moments and I am rather fond of it. The first thing to note is that it really isn't based on a Sherlock Holmes story by A. Conan Doyle, but does draw its major characters and atmosphere from that series.
  

The action takes place around 1928, judging by the automobiles we see in London street scenes. The plot involves an elaborate necklace attributed to Cleopatra which had been discovered in Egypt and promptly stolen. This theft and a related but later murder occur before the story opens. The thief is lying low pretending to be a country squire; Professor Moriarty, "the Napoleon of crime" and also an archaeological expert, is after the necklace.

Unfortunately the plot is rife with awkward and unlikely turns. Why does Moriarty need to spring two crooks from an Egyptian prison and bring them to England, when he has a variety of low-lifes and bully-boys right at hand? Why would either Holmes or Moriarty agree to meet in person at a lonely spot in the city, with both relying more on luck than planning to keep them alive? For that matter (and this applies to Doyle's own stories as well), why hasn't master-criminal Moriarty arranged for Holmes' murder long ago?

There are appalling failures to take obvious precautions and deploy reasonable security measures by virtually everyone, from Mrs. Hudson on up to Sherlock Holmes and down to Professor Moriarty. Why does the "country squire" (the original thief) pry a jewel loose from the necklace's box while in a large open room rather than a small closed-off one? Why is police security so casual, and auction-house security invisible, for such a fabulous treasure? Readers of Doyle's stories have inured themselves to Holmes' first line of home defense being his housekeeper Mrs. Hudson; but why is Moriarty's loot-stuffed mansion in this film even less guarded?
  

The production budget seems to have been modest, which would explain some very low-budget sequences including a brief street view consisting of a still photo which honking auto horns fail to enliven. The movie was made in Germany and although filmed in English, has been overdubbed, perhaps to render bland the polyglot accents of the actors. Cleopatra's ancient necklace looks like glassy costume jewelry.
  

Some gems sparkle through the fog

So what is right in Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace?

Considering the often awkward plot and lapses of plain common sense, the film moves quickly and stays interesting with frequent surprises. There's not much Holmesian mystery or detection, but as an adventure it works well enough. I'll speculate that a script revision before filming, clearing up a half-dozen of the plot lapses mentioned above, could have made this into a solidly good movie.

The best right aspect is the fine actor Christopher Lee playing the great detective Sherlock Holmes, and doing it very well. Holmes dons disguises, illumines obscure clues, pulls off coups de theatre, and tosses witticisms with superb aplomb.

Hans Söhnker plays Professor Moriarty with an intelligent subtlety which presents him as a foe worthy of Holmes' opinion of him.

We are given some nice indoor settings exuding period atmosphere, including a sailors' bar, Moriarty's house, and Holmes and Watson's own digs on Baker Street.
  

So I've enjoyed Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace more than once, because despite its flaws it definitely has its moments.

  

© 2010 Robert Wilfred Franson


  
JMF advised on this.

Christopher Lee's site
  


  

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