The Scarlet Claw
(1944), 74 min. b&w

Nigel Bruce and Basil Rathbone

The eighth entry in the Rathbone/Bruce series of Sherlock Holmes films, The Scarlet Claw is one of the best. This brilliantly-crafted mystery keeps the viewer guessing until the end. A completely original story, not based on any of the Conan Doyle stories, it takes place in Canada, so Mary Gordon (Mrs. Hudson) and Dennis Hoey (Lestrade) are not seen in this film. The foggy marsh, and the tolling bell in the old church create a foreboding atmosphere, and the acting is first rate.

The story begins in a little Canadian village called La Morte Rouge, where something has been killing sheep by tearing their throats open. The body of Lady Penrose is found with her throat similarly ripped open. In Quebec, where Holmes and Watson are attending a convention of the Occult Society with Lord Penrose, Holmes learns that Lady Penrose has been murdered. When Holmes receives a letter from her stating that she fears her life is in danger, he and Watson travel to La Morte Rouge to investigate. Holmes comments to Watson, "For the first time we've been retained by a corpse."

Holmes reads the letter from Lady Penrose

Watson and Holmes Holmes can't make out the killer's face in the dark.

The villagers believe the killer is a legendary monster or phantom that lives in the marshes. Holmes, however, believes the fiend is flesh and blood, with a motive for killing Lady Penrose. When Holmes sees the body of Lady Penrose, he recognizes her as the actress Lillian Gentry, who disappeared several years previously. Eventually he deduces that the murderer is Alistair Ramson, an actor who was imprisoned for killing another actor in a jealous rage over Lillian Gentry. When this man escaped from prison, he came to La Morte Rouge. Using various disguises and his talent as an actor, Alistair Ramson has lived inconspicuously among the villagers for the past three years. Holmes must figure out which of the villagers is the murderer. Holmes says to Watson, "Alistair Ramson has established a character, perhaps several others, who are by now familiar to the people of La Morte Rouge and quite above suspicion." Two other people whose lives are in danger are Judge Brisson, who sentenced Ramson, and the innkeeper Journet, who was a guard at the prison. Holmes sets a trap for the killer using Journet as the bait. Ramson's disguise is revealed, solving the mystery.

Lord Penrose and Holmes Journet has killed Ramson with his own "scarlet claw"

The final scene shows Holmes and Watson driving to the coast, from where they will sail to England. Holmes closes the film with a speech which he credits to Winston Churchill: "Canada -- lynchpin of the English speaking world, whose relations of friendly intimacy with the United States on the one hand and her unswerving fidelity to the British Commonwealth and the motherland on the other. Canada -- the link which joins together these great branches of the human family."

"Did Churchill say that?" "Yes, Watson. Churchill."

More pictures on Page Two and Page Three.

Cast

 

Credits

 
Basil Rathbone ............. Sherlock Holmes Production Co. ............. Universal
Nigel Bruce ................... Dr. Watson   Producer ........................ Roy William Neill
Gerald Hamer .............. Potts   Director ......................... Roy William Neill
Paul Cavanaugh .......... Lord Penrose   Screenplay .................... Roy William Neill and
Arthur Hohl ................ Emile Journet     Edmund Hartmann
Kay Harding ............... Marie Journet   Cinematographer .......... George Robinson
Miles Mander .............. Judge Brisson   Editor ............................. Paul Landres
David Clyde ................ Sgt. Thompson   Music  Director ............ Paul Sawtell
Ian Wolfe ..................... Drake   Art Directors ................ John B. Goodman
Victoria Horne .............. Nora     Ralph M. DeLacy
George Kirby ............... Father Pierre   Special Effects ............ John P. Fulton
Frank O'Connor ........... Cab driver      
Harry Allen .................. Taylor (storekeeper)      
Olaf Hytten .................. Hotel Desk Clerk      

.

Images on this page and pages 2 and 3 are from the film The Scarlet Claw.

 

Back to Sherlock Holmes films

The Scarlet Claw is available on DVD:

Click to order
DVD also available as part of The Sherlock Holmes Collection, Volume 2:

Click to order

.

 

click to go to top of page
Top of
Page

Site Map

All original content is Marcia Jessen, 2010