Director Terence Fisher skillfully tackled the Sherlock Holmes legend with Hammer Film's THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (1959), starring Peter Cushing in the title role and Christopher Lee as Sir Henry Baskerville. During a hiatus from Hammer in the early 60s, Fisher was hired by a German film studio to direct another Holmes adventure, this time with Lee as the famous sleuth and Hammer character favorite Thorley Walters as Dr. Watson.
Known to English speaking audiences as SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE DEADLY NECKLACE, it was actually a German, French and Italian co-production filmed mostly on a German soundstage, with some location shooting in other countries. Loosely based on the Arthur Conan Doyle story "The Valley of Fear" the screenplay is credited to Curt Siodmak, though the German producers had reportedly tampered with it. Shot in black and white, the film has more of a feel of the then popular Edgar Wallace-inspired German mystery movies, with shades of Universal's 30's and 40s Holmes series.
The plot has the evil Professor Moriarty (Hans Sohnker) as a felonious collector who has stolen a priceless necklace worn by Cleopatra. Holmes (Lee) and Watson (Walters) get entangled in the mystery, but they have a difficult time convincing the Scotland Yard police that Moriarty is the culprit.
SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE DEADLY NECKLACE is a film with an undeserved bad reputation, as it's an enjoyable little mystery. Most of the criticism is due to the fact that both Lee and Walters (as well as the rest of the all-German cast) have had their voices re-dubbed by other actors for the U.S. version. The voices are considerably unsuitable, but if you can look past that and concentrate on the physical attributes of Lee's performance, you'll witness what a wonderful Holmes he is. Lee's interpretation of the character is one of the finest ever, giving it his all and even donning some fun disguises in some of the better scenes. Walters is an engaging Watson (kind of a cross between Nigel Bruce and Andre Morrell) and Sohnker is a perfectly sinister Moriarty. Also in the cast is a young Senta Berger who would go on to be one of the sexiest international stars of the 60s and 70s.
Retromedia has presented SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE DEADLY NECKLACE on DVD with a disclaimer about the inferior print source utilized. The black and white image is full frame with evident cropping on both sides, as well as on the top and bottom of the screen. There are various speckling, dust particles, and lines that range from thin to heavy when present. Minor grain is evident, and black levels are not up to par, but the overall image is still pretty sharp. The mono audio is adequate with only some occasional surface noise during the last few minutes. While not pristine by any means, if you overlook the imperfections, the disc is still very enjoyable to watch.
While there are no extras on the disc (a trailer does not exist since the film was released directly to television in the U.S.), the back cover contains liner notes by Scarlet Street editor Richard Valley that includes a quote from Christopher Lee. (George R. Reis)
BACK TO REVIEWS