Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942)
Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942)
Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.
Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror Photos
as Sherlock Holmes
as Doctor Watson
as Sir Evan Barham
as General Jerome Lawford
as Anthony Lloyd
as R.F. Meade
as Fabian Prentiss
as Capt. Ronald Shore
as Voice of Terror
as Taxi driver
as Mrs. Hudson
as Jill Grandis
as Air Raid Warden
Critic Reviews for Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror
This is the first entry in Universal's modernized version of the Sherlock Holmes series.
John Rawlins, normally a minor director, did a smashing job in framing the story with moody noir-style cinematography.
Audience Reviews for Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror
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.
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.
The worst of the Rathbone/Bruce films. It just doesn't satisfy as a mystery. Holmes' deductions come out of nowhere (even more than usual), which are often explained with reference to a clue that the audience was not privy to. That's just unfair. The few twists are clearly broadcast and there's almost no tension. And the attempt to modernize the Holmes universe is, as always, disappointing. On the bright side, Rathbone's performance is especially good in this installment.
Discuss Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror on our Movie forum!