Sherlock Holmes Faces Death

(1943), 68 min. b&w

Holmes is intrigued.The sixth film in the Sherlock Holmes series starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, "Sherlock Holmes Faces Death" is an entertaining and intriguing mystery. 

"Sherlock Holmes Faces Death" is based on the Arthur Conan Doyle story "The Musgrave Ritual." While it is not the same story, there are many similarities. The names of some characters (Brunton) and places (Hurlstone) appear in both the story and the film. Both story and film involve something valuable, which is hidden in the cellar of an ancient manor, and clues to its location are hidden in a series of questions and answers, called The Musgrave Ritual. And in both the story and the film Sherlock Holmes deduces the meaning of the ritual and solves the mystery. At the beginning of the Conan Doyle story, Watson writes about Holmes adorning the wall of their London flat with bullet pocks. Sure enough, in Holme's first scene he is at 221B Baker St., shooting his gun at a figure drawn on the wall!

Lestrade and Holmes Watson and Holmes

Thankfully the mystery in "Sherlock Holmes Faces Death" has nothing to do with Nazis, and the characters of Holmes and Watson are more in keeping with the way Conan Doyle wrote them. That makes this film especially enjoyable for a Holmes fan. Musgrave Manor is a splendid, spooky old mansion, complete with secret passageways and howling wind outside.Holmes, Watson, and Sally Musgrave The Musgrave siblings, Geoffrey, Phillip and Sally, have opened their home to convalescing soldiers. Dr. Watson and Dr. Sexton are also staying at Musgrave Manor, taking care of the patients.

Holmes comes to the Manor after an attempt is made to kill Dr. Sexton. Shortly thereafter both Geoffrey and Phillip are murdered. Upon assuming her inheritance Sally must recite the centuries-old ritual, which is meaningless for her.Holmes at the chess board Holmes realizes that the words in the ritual describe movements of chess pieces, which are in fact clues to the location of something. Since the black and white floor of the main hall resembles a chess board, Holmes has the rest of the household move as human chess pieces. Eventually he finds a crypt in which is hidden an ancient land grant signed by King Henry I. Also in the crypt is the body of the butler. Holmes very cleverly devises a plan to lure the killer back to the crypt later that evening, and traps him into confessing all the murders. Holmes then fakes his own death and allows the killer to leave -- but he walks right into the hands of Lestrade and half a dozen policemen.

Watson, Dr. Sexton and Holmes Sherlock Holmes faces death!
It may be of interest to note that Captain Vickery, the love interest of Sally Musgrave, is played by a young Milburn Stone (Doc Adams of "Gunsmoke" fame). A 20-year-old Peter Lawford appears in the pub scene at the beginning of the film. He plays the sailor at the bar who bandages his friend's hand and says "Blimey!" when he hears about the raven.

See more photos on Page Two.

Holmes ties up loose ends

.

Cast

 

Credits

 
Basil Rathbone ............. Sherlock Holmes Production Co. ............. Universal
Nigel Bruce ................... Dr. Watson   Producer ........................ Roy William Neill
Dennis Hoey ................ Inspector Lestrade   Director ......................... Roy William Neill
Arthur Margetson ........ Dr. Sexton   Screenplay .................... Bertram Millhauser
Hillary Brooke .............. Sally Musgrave   Cinematographer .......... Charles Van Enger
Halliwell Hobbes ......... Brunton   Editor ............................. Fred R. Feitshans, Jr.
Minna Phillips ............ Mrs. Howells   Music Director .......... H.J. Salter
Milburn Stone ............ Capt. Vickery   Art Directors ............. John B. Goodman
Gavin Muir ................. Phillip Musgrave     Harold MacArthur
Gerald Hamer ............... Maj. Langford      
Vernon Downing ........ Lt. Clavering      
Olaf Hytten ................. Capt. MacIntosh      
Heather Wilde .......... Jenny      
Frederic Worlock ........ Geoffrey Musgrave      
Peter Lawford ......... 2nd sailor
Harold de Becker ..... Pub Proprietor      

.

Images on this page and page 2 are from the film Sherlock Holmes Faces Death.

 

Back to Sherlock Holmes films

Sherlock Holmes Faces Death is available on DVD:

Click to order
DVD also available as part of The Sherlock Holmes Collection, Volume 1:

Click to order

.

 

 

click to go to top of page
Top of
Page

Site Map

All original content is Marcia Jessen, 2010