Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942)

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*. A title card comes up telling us that Sherlock Holmes is an “immortal character of fiction . . . ageless, invincible and unchanging.” Which explains why he’s still around fighting Nazis. It was 1942, after all, and England needed all the help it could get.
*. And as if the Nazis weren’t enough, he’s also got to take on the Invisible Man! That’s where the shot of the train falling off a cliff at the beginning comes from, and the shot of the track-changing levers operating themselves. Why did they leave that in? Do the Nazis have cloaks of invisibility?
*. Just what is Holmes doing listening to Beethoven’s Fifth on the radio? It’s obviously an experiment meant to prove something, but I don’t see where it’s ever explained. Did I miss it?

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*. Of course it’s a propaganda piece, with two stirring “rouse the troops” speeches, one by Kitty in the tavern and the other by Holmes in the envoi (the lines are taken from Doyle’s story “His Last Bow,” set just before the outbreak of the First World War). Nothing at all wrong with this, but it does play a bit obvious today.
*. Part of the propaganda message is the need to resist class divisions. Hence Kitty’s speech to the down-and-out of the Limehouse district. Then note how one of the wannabe Nazi overlords describes himself as a “slave” from a Birmingham factory who is going to rise up and overthrow his masters. That’s dangerous talk!
*. Alas, poor Kitty (played by Evelyn Ankers, known in her time as “the Queen of the Screamers”). Since her “husband” Gavin is dead, there is simply no point in her being alive any longer. Might as well kill her off.
*. There is an ambiguity, however, in her relationship with Meade. I’m not sure how to read that. Did they have a history going back before Gavin’s murder? Was she actually married to Gavin, or is she a prostitute? Does she know that Meade is going for the gun at the end, and does she sacrifice herself out of some residual sense of guilt or loyalty?

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