The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939)

adventuressherlockExcepting 1939’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, perhaps the most famous installment of the 14-film Sherlock Holmes series starring Basil Rathbone is its second, also from that year: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Not based directly on any one particular story from the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle canon, the movie does a great job of culling from Holmes’ overall world, to the point where it seems like it could’ve preceded Hound in theaters.

The joy here is watching Holmes (Rathbone) try to remain one step ahead of his archenemy, Prof. Moriarty (George Zucco, The Mummy’s Hand), who’s declared not guilty of murder by the courts, but only due to lack of evidence. Holmes possesses such evidence, but arrives a minute too late, leaving Moriarty free, since no man can be tried for the same crime twice. He vows to Holmes that he shall pull “the crime of the century,” and that our hero won’t be able to stop him.

adventuressherlock1A jewel heist is involved, and events culminate in a tussle atop the impressively moody Tower of London. Both Holmes and Moriarty reveal themselves as masters of disguise, suggesting an even match. As with its predecessor, Adventures is a Hollywood classic. It’s not for nothing that Guy Ritchie’s 2009 Sherlock Holmes reboot lifted the amusing scene in which the detective experiments with a fiddle and a glass full of houseflies. —Rod Lott

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