The Pearl of Death (1944)

Sherlock Holmes in The Pearl of Death (1944) is the ninth of fourteen movies in the series starring Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes.  In this film, Holmes is battling archcriminal Giles Conover, played by Miles Mander.  Conover is attempting to steal a valuable pearl from the British Museum.  He is aided in his crimes by accomplices Naomi Drake and The Creeper.  Naomi Drake, played by Evelyn Ankers, is a beautiful blonde, who The Creeper loves.  Rondo Hatton plays The Creeper.

Conover succeeds at stealing the pearl but Holmes regains possession of it.  After a second successful attempt to steal the pearl, which Holmes unwittingly aids, Sherlock is determined to retrieve the pearl and catch the criminals once and for all.  It is a battle of the wits with Conover in a high stakes game punctuated with several murders accomplished by breaking the victim’s back.  Holmes believes it maybe the work of The Creeper.

rathbone-and-bruce

Basil Rathbone (left) and Nigel Bruce as Holmes and Watson

Rondo Hatton was an athlete and soldier, who served in Mexico in 1915 and France during World War I.  While serving in France, Hatton was exposed to poison gas, which caused him to develop acromegaly, a disease of the pituitary gland that often causes giantism.  In Hatton, it caused his skull, hands and feet to grow.  He continued to work as a reporter but the disease was too much for his first wife.  They divorced as Hatton’s condition worsened.

He remarried in the 1930s and seems to have been very happy for the remainder of his short life, which ended at 51 years of age in 1946.  His unique look led to a number of Hollywood roles often playing brutes or monsters, a stark contrast to the intelligent and gentle Hatton.

This film is well paced, contains plenty of adventure and runs about 69 minutes.  Universal made the film, so the production quality is much better than most “B” films.  It would have run as the first movie on a bill with a strong film such as Double Indemnity (1944).

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