"Unwatchable" say some;
"Enjoyable" say others. Pursuit to Algiers is not a favorite
among Sherlock Holmes fans. David Stuart Davies writes, "Pursuit to
Algiers showed a decided decline in inventiveness and proved to be the
weakest of the series." (Holmes of the Movies, New
York: Bramhall House, 1968, p. 92) However, even the weakest
film in a good series can be good entertainment. I find Pursuit to
Algiers very enjoyable.
Holmes' and Watson's plans to hunt grouse in Scotland are derailed when
mysterious men in dark alleys give them clues which eventually lead them
to representatives from the kingdom of Rovenia. The Prime Minister
explains that King Stefan has been assassinated, and now his son Nikolas
(who is in England) is in danger. He implores Holmes to escort His Majesty
King Nikolas back to his homeland. Holmes promises to do his utmost to make
sure that the young king reaches Rovenia in safety.
Holmes and the king plan to fly to Rovenia in a small plane. The prime minister says
there is no room on the plane for Watson, so Watson plans to go by ship
and meet Holmes in Rovenia. Watson sails on the S.S. Friesland, a Swedish African
ship, which also happens to be the subject of a Sherlock Holmes radio
play, broadcast on November 8, 1943, "The Shocking Affair of the S.S.
Friesland." Everyone on the ship is a red herring in this story, looking
and acting suspiciously: Sanford the steward, Miss
Woodbury the singer, two men who whisper conspiratorially, and Miss Agatha Dunham, an
annoying spinster with a
gun in her handbag.
Watch the trailer for Pursuit to Algiers:
Watson reads on the bulletin board that a small grey plane crashed over
the Pyrenees and the occupants are assumed killed. Horrified, he believes
that Holmes has been killed. But it turns out that Holmes and the young
king have been hiding in a cabin on board the ship. Holmes suspected that
the plane would be shot down, so he made arrangements to secretly board
the ship with the king. He now asks King Nikolas to pose as Watson's
In the lounge, when Sherlock Holmes is introduced to Miss Woodbury, she looks shocked, and leaves
without explanation. Holmes quips: "Really, Watson. I've never thought of myself as handsome, but that's
the first time a woman has run away at the sight of me."
Three sinister-looking men come aboard the ship at an unscheduled stop
in Lisbon: Gregor, Gubec and Mirko. Mirko looks familiar to Holmes, but
Holmes can't place him. It becomes clear to viewers that these three
men are on a mission to kidnap the young king, and they are willing to
kill Holmes in order to accomplish that objective. That evening Mirko
attempts to kill Holmes by throwing a knife through the porthole of
Holmes' cabin, but the knife
hits an empty pillow and Holmes slams the porthole cover down on Mirko's wrist.
"How unfortunate, Mr. Mirko," remarks Holmes. "These porthole covers are
notoriously treacherous. I am afraid you've broken your wrist. You
shouldn't have played shuffleboard today, you know. When I saw that
skillful hand and that unerringly accurate eye of yours, I remembered the
Circus Medlano in Paris and your amazing exhibition of knife throwing.
Now that we know the other passengers are no threat to the young king,
Holmes effortlessly solves the mysteries of their suspicious behavior. He
says it's not unusual for a woman traveling alone—in this case, Miss Agatha Dunham—to carry a gun. The two conspiratorial men are
archeologists, who were nervous because at the start of the voyage they
hadn't received permission from the Egyptian government to dig up "the
body of a king" (a mummy). Once they received the permission, they relaxed
and talked openly about it.
"Circumstances would indicate that the jewels you found in your
music case are both stolen and valuable."
"I don't think either of us is going to get much sleep tonight.
... This is the last opportunity our three friends will have to
prevent our successfully carrying out our mission."
Holmes notices that Miss Woodbury has not let her music case out of her sight.
He confronts her and suggests that she is the unwitting courier of stolen emeralds. She was
when she discovered them in her bag, and is grateful to Holmes when he
offers to return them for her.
As the ship approaches Algiers, Watson sings "Loch Lomond" and tells
the story of "The Giant Rat of Sumatra." When the ship drops anchor,
Watson goes ashore to meet the king's protectors.
During the voyage Holmes has thwarted three attempts on Nikolas' life:
falling off the boat, drinking poisoned coffee, and exploding a
party-favor bomb. But now it appears that the detective has failed. Gregor,
Gubec and Mirko have taken Nikolas, and left Sherlock Holmes bound and
gagged in his cabin. Appearances can be deceptive, however. When Watson
returns with the royal bodyguards, unties Holmes and asks, Where is
Nikolas?, Holmes tells him to ring for the steward. The steward arrives
and reveals himself to be the real King Nikolas—Watson's
"nephew" was a decoy! Thus Holmes proves once again, as he did in Sherlock Holmes and
the Secret Weapon, that the best place to hide something is in plain
sight. The king reports that the three men have been arrested and the
decoy Nikolas is safe—Holmes is again triumphant.
Viewers may remember Morton Lowry (the steward) as Stapleton in The Hound of the Baskervilles.
A bit of trivia is that Martin Kosleck (Mirko) and Leslie Vincent (the
decoy King Nikolas) were lovers at the time this film was made.
The working title for this film was The Fugitive.
Latest of Series Has Enough Suspense to Win the
Approval of Melodrama Fans.
The fact that it is far from being one of the best of the Sherlock
Holmes series will not prevent "Pursuit to Algiers" from gaining the
full support of those who relish the type of entertainment
represented by the current exhibit.
This time Holmes' assignment is to safeguard the heir to a
mythical kingdom's throne after the king has been slain by plotters.
Aided by Dr. Watson, the super sleuth conveys his charge home from
England, where the latter has been going to school. Our hero has
some close calls before he succeeds in thwarting the villains.
Roy William Neill, who produced and directed the picture under
the supervision of Executive Producer Howard Benedict, has kept the
action sufficiently suspenseful to hold the interest alive virtually
all the way. The Leonard Lee screenplay, based on characters created
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, makes good use of routine melodramatic
The film has been capably acted. Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce
once more complement each other as Holmes and Watson, respectively.
Marjorie Riordan plays a mystery woman whose exact place in the
story isn't made clear until the film is near its end.