Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror Reviews

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Super Reviewer
December 30, 2011
20th Century Fox dropped Holmes after just two films. They were soon picked up by Universal. They decided to keep Rathbone and Bruce, a winning combination, but decided to make a huge change. They changed the setting from the original Victorian London, and placed it firmly in present day war torn London. This is a huge change done for the sole reason of using a familiar character to dish out some propaganda. It's a bit of a shame really, as the scenes involving patriotism are so heavy handed they stop the movie dead. One scene has a lengthy speech about being British and how not helping Holmes is the same as helping the Nazis. Holmes is called in to find the Voice of Terror, a member of the Third Reich, making radio announcements about Nazi attacks on British soil. Rathbone keeps his character intact using the usual skills to bring evil to justice. Universal have lost all of the ominous atmosphere of the previous films. It often feels very clinical in its construction. Bruce is barely noticeable and his sole purpose seems to be asking Holmes how he possibly could have known such a thing, allowing Holmes to explain to the audience. The supporting cast are of a high calibre, but their actions do seem more geared towards stopping Holmes out of pride, than about protecting their country. It certainly is short, and there is enough to keep you entertained. However, when the final shot is encouraging you to buy War Bonds, you kind of wish they had left Holmes out of this and just used an original character.
½ December 26, 2008
Love Love Love Basil Rathbone, he was and always will be the best Sherlock Holmes out there. Excellent performences and great story. This is one of the "not so good" ones though...but I still loved it, just cause. I think the classics are still awesome and I wish they would go back to making movies like that...
February 7, 2007
The first "modern" era Holmes adventure. This is one of the best in the "modern" series of Universal's treatment of classic detective. This film definitely reflects its times. The war was raging in Europe and the enemy is the NAZIs. This leads to all kinds of great lines about the evilness of the NAZIs. While it may be politically incorrect in retrospect, it is a great treat to see the patriotism that rallied the sleeping giant once again.
June 3, 2014
Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce battle Nazis in the first of the "modern day" Sherlock Holmes adventures. Director John Rawlins lends the typical formula (many suspects, but one true and surprising villain) a distinct noir look with lots of shadows and some down-and-out London locales. Fortunately, the comedy is downplayed - but its absence is filled by patriotic fervor, designed to rally the troops in support of embattled Britain (at the end there is an ad for war bonds). For those who like these kind of genre pics, this is a good 'un. Plot: a radio announcement from the Nazis is delivered at the very moment that acts of sabotage occur but no one can figure out the source or stop the next terrorizing attack.
½ September 5, 2012
The mysterious voice on the radio announces a series of gruesome and violent attacks on some of the most powerful places on the British Islands. There is no one better to discover who's behind the whole conspiracy than the bright and handsome Sherlock Holmes. Although the noir-like cinematography is mesmerizing, the plot isn't as engaging as one might hope it would be. Nevertheless, It's remarkable that in only 65 minutes John Rawlins was able to present such a complex story about betrayal and sabotage in the times of World War II.
July 9, 2012
very good storyline..the voice of terror is very much frightening too...
July 20, 2010
An exciting movie based on the famous detective.
April 20, 2010
Hitler's armies devour mainland Europe, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson (Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce) are retained by British Intelligence to stop the activities of Nazi saboteurs being coordinated by the mysterious Voice of Terror in radio broadcasts that hijack the British airwaves once a week. Holmes soon comes to suspect that the broadcasts portent something far more sinister and dangerous than the horrific acts of terrorist... and that the enemy within England itself is more powerful than dreamed of in the worst nightmares.

Loosely based on Conan Doyle's "His Final Bow" (where Holmes came out of retirement to catch a German spy at the beginning of WW1) and the real-life Nazi propaganda broadcasts that overrode BBC signals during the early 1940s, "Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror" is the first of a dozen Holmes movies starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce that transports the Great Detective and his loyal sidekick to modern day England. (Modern-day being the 1940s.)

Holmes' methods receive a slight upgrade--the key to unlocking the mystery behind how the Voice of Terror is able to coordinate the broadcasts and the sabotage involves analyzing different types of broadcast with cutting edge audio equipment--he trades in his deerstalking cap and tweed cape for an fedora and overcoat, and the speed of modern travel and communication also impacts the story, but overall the character of Holmes is as it's found in the pages of Doyle.

Although partly a war-time propaganda movie with the patriotic speeches and dastardly Nazi villains that encompasses, the film sets the tone for most of the Universal efforts that will follow. Holmes is a renegade genius, Watson is a doddering moron that seems like he is going senile (even if he isn't quite as dimwitted here as he seems in later pictures), and the villains are of a stripe that would make even the worst of the worst that inhabited the pages of pulp fiction magazines in the 1930s give them a wide berth. But the stories are exciting and fun, so the bad treatment of Watson can be overlooked... as well as the absolutely rediculous hair style that Holmes sports in these early Universal films. (Transporting Holmes to modern-day was the idea of Basil Rathbone who felt the Victorian era was too old fashioned, so I wonder if he was also the genius behind that awful hair.)

While Watson as a ninny didn't originate with the Rathbone/Bruce pictures--there were hints of it as far back as the Arthur Wontner pictures--but it was these pictures that solidified the approach as "standard." The same is true of Holmes as nearly 100% hands-off as far as physical altercations go; when a brawl breaks out between Nazi agents and Limehouse ruffians hired by Holmes as muscle, you almost get the sense that Holmes is afraid to get in the middle of the fight. The Rathbone Holmes seems like he would never throw a punch but would instead leave it to others even in the most dire of situations, so it is with these films that the idea that a "action-oriented" Holmes isn't truthful to Doyle began.

Basil Rathbone is excellent as always as Sherlock Holmes (even if I will always prefer Peter Cushing's portrayal) and Nigel Bruce is solid as the comic relief, perhaps even moreso than in future sequels as less of the humor is at the expense of his character than will become the norm. Other standout performances are delivered by Henry Daniell (who will return to the series again and again, as a different villainous character almost every time) and Reginald Denny as power-brokers in British Intelligence, either of which could be a double-agent and the Voice of Terror himself. Finally, Evelyn Ankers has a small but important part as a Limehouse bar girl who helps Holmes track the Voice of Terror's main operative for deeply personal reasons.

Universal started the film with a title card that described the character of Sherlock Holmes as timeless, a character that works equally well in his "native world" of late 19th century London or the "modern day" of the 1940s. This film, and the sequels that followed--several of which saw Holmes cross wits with Nazis and their agents--show this to be true. Heck, they even make a person wonder what Holmes might do with the Internet and modern science if he were to be transported to the PRESENT modern day.
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