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Kill and terror
E. A Solinas | MD USA | 08/03/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Until Jeremy Brett put on the deerstalker, Basil Rathbone was considered the one and only Sherlock Holmes, cinematically. His excellent performances make both of these movies -- the mediocre "Dressed to Kill" and excellent "Terror by Night" -- definite must-sees, even if you have to deal with some crackling.
"Dressed to Kill" opens with several people bidding on peculiar music boxes, including Watson's pal "Stinky." Stinky ends up with a knife in the back and his music box stolen, which Scotland Yard regards as a curiosity -- and Holmes (Rathbone) regards as a dangerous intrigue.
Now they are in a race against time, against a gang of criminals led by a glamourous woman, who are determined to get their hands on every music box. Holmes manages to get his hand on one of them, but he will have to deal with the gang's desperation -- and their secret plot hatched in Dartmoor Prison.
"Terorr By Night" is somewhat different -- Holmes is hired not to solve a mystery, but to guard the astounding Star of Rhodesia on a train to Edinburgh. Lestrade and Watson are also on board, but all that doesn't stop its owner's son from being murdered, and the jewel (naturally) from being stolen.
Now all three of them -- Holmes, Watson and Lestrade -- begin their own investigations, sometimes with ridiculous results. Holmes quickly unravels a bizarre plot involving the Star, a coffin, a number of unsavory characters... and Professor Moriarty's dastardly sidekick, in disguise.
These movies are not the best of the old Holmes series -- "Dressed to Kill" is somewhat simplistic and overly straightforward for a Holmes flick, while "Terror By Night" is tighter, tauter and more suspenseful, though also more comic at times. There's also a nice twist at the end, with Lestrade and Holmes in a conspiracy that will fool even viewers.
Basil Rathbone was a really amazing Sherlock, with languid demeanor until he finds a mystery -- then he practically crackles with intelligence. Nigel Bruce makes a lovable if bumbling Watson, trying his hand at investigation (and offending his suspects) and making Donald Duck noises at a crying little girl.
This is one of Diamond Entertainment's less impressive pieces of work, although it's decent enough if you want two classic movies cheaply. The soundtrack has that "canned" quality, but is clear except for a bit of crackling (and that pervasive train noise in "Terror"). The picture wobbles a bit and is somewhat blurred by age, though "Terror by Night" is substantially clearer than "Dressed to Kill."
While the prints of this are merely decent, the two Holmes movies on here are still worth watching, if nothing else for Rathbone's wonderful performances."