*. Things are winding down. This is the penultimate Basil Rathbone-Nigel Bruce pairing as Holmes and Watson and clearly there wasn’t much left in the tank.
*. The previous film, Pursuit to Algiers, had Holmes and Watson on a ship trying to protect a young heir. Here they are on a train trying to protect a famous jewel. In both cases they are surrounded by suspicious characters, most of whom are red herrings. In both cases Holmes is out ahead of the villains’ plot, so that the film ends with a twist. Just when you think the bad guys have gotten away with it, it turns out that Holmes was waiting to spring a trap.
*. It’s a better film than Pursuit to Algiers. There’s no singing. Dennis Hoey is back as Inspector Lestrade. There’s a neat air pistol that fires poison darts. There’s actually a decent action sequence when someone tried to push Holmes off the train. These are all pluses.
*. The story, however, is weak. Spoiler alert: I’m still scratching my head as to how the master villain, Colonel Sebastian Moran, was able to pass himself off as an old friend of Watson’s. Just how old a friend was he? Was he a criminal genius when Watson knew him in the orient?
*. The villains are not an impressive bunch. Moran has an accomplice named Sands who just pops up at the end to make things work. Was the luggage guard in on the heist? How else did Sands get in and out of the coffin? And was Vivian Vedder really just a mule? She doesn’t seem too concerned about what was going on.
*. Sticking with Vivian, was Renee Godfrey trying to do a Scottish accent? I honestly couldn’t figure it out. It just sounds like she has a speech impediment.
*. Coming in at a tight 60 minutes I think this qualifies as a minor bit of fun. Aside from the country manor house there’s no better setting for these plots than a train. The story isn’t very interesting but it clicks along pleasantly with nowhere to go.