With Gale Sondergaard providing a superbly malevolent adversary, this is one of the most striking entries in the Rathbone/Bruce Sherlock Holmes series. Making her social calls accompanied by an unnervingly unsmiling mute child who catches flies on the wing, she is secretly masterminding a devilish insurance racket, preying on the wealthiest men in London by using a dwarf to gain entrance to their homes and leave venomous spiders to do their bit. She also (hopefully) reserves a fiendish fate for Holmes at the carnival which serves as her HQ: Dr Watson proudly demonstrates his skill at the shooting gallery, unaware that behind the effigy of Hitler serving as his patriotic target, Holmes waits helplessly bound and gagged. Started by 20th Century-Fox (The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, both 1939), the series was revived by Universal with Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942), the new regime signalled by a switch to modern dress (neatly pointed by having Holmes select, then discard, his deerstalker as inappropriately old-fashioned). Although saddled with a tag-line or two of World War II propaganda uplift, and sometimes direct confrontation with evil Nazi agents, the watchword was Holmesian business as usual; and thanks to a gift for sinister atmospherics displayed by Roy William Neill (who directed the last eleven films in a series of fourteen, ended with his death in 1946), a remarkably high standard was maintained throughout this B movie series.
Cast and crew
|Director:||Roy William Neill|