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Dressed to Kill (1946)
Holmes Boxes Himsef In!
"Dressed to Kill" was the final of 14 Sherlock Holmes features turned out by 20th Century Fox and Universal.
The story begins in Dartmoor Prison where convict Cyril Delevanti is completing work on three small musical boxes which are sold to an auction house. They were intended to be bought up by Colonel Cavanaugh (Frederick Worlock) but he arrives too late. The boxes are sold to Julian "Stinky" Emery (Edmund Breon), a young lady toy store owner Evelyn Clifford (Patricia Cameron) and a Mr. Kilgour who buys the third box for his young daughter.
The femme fatale of the criminal group Mrs. Hilda Courtney (Patricia Morison), her love sick chauffeur Hamid (Harry Cording) and Col. Cavanaugh plot to recover the boxes. "Stinky" happens to be a friend of Dr. Watson (Nigel Bruce) and comes to visit him and the famous detective Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone). He tells them of an attempted robbery in his home the previous night. The thieves were apparently looking for the musical box that he had bought at the auction. Holmes becomes interested.
Later that night "Stinky" is visited by Hilda and as the dirty old man cozies up to her, he is murdered by Hamid in a jealous rage. To gain possession of the second box, Hilda disguises herself as a servant woman and greets Holmes and Watson when they arrive at the Kilgour home. She walks out with the box concealed in her shopping basket right under Holmes' nose. (Watch for Laurel & Hardy foil Charlie Hall as the taxi driver who picks up the disguised Hilda) Holmes has traced the third box to Evelyn Clifford and secretly buys the third box before the criminals can.
Holmes goes to Scotland Yard where the Commissioner (Ian Wolfe) explains that two years earlier plates for five pound notes were stolen from the Bank of England and were hidden by the thief before he was captured and imprisoned for seven years. Fearing that the five pound note may be altered, the thief in prison concocts a plan to signal his cohorts where the plates are hidden. Holmes detects slight variances in the tunes played by the three boxes even though they are supposed to be all the same.
Holmes and Watson go to a seedy bar where Joe Cisto (Wallace Scott) shows them the tune as written. Holmes then concludes that the three boxes contain directions to the missing plates. Later, Hilda cleverly lures Holmes to her apartment and sends Col. Cavanaugh and Hamid to a deserted garage wher they suspend Holmes from the ceiling and plan to poison him with a gas. Holmes manages to escape certain death once more.
While Holmes is presumably being taken care of, Hilda goes to 221B Baker Street to visit Watson. She plants a smoke bomb and makes off with the last box. Now the trio finally are able to decipher the message contained in the boxes and go to retrieve the plates....but guess who is waiting for them?
In 1946 Universal merged with International pictures to form Universal-International whereupon they began to phase out their "B" unit. Basil Rathbone by all accounts was tired of playing Sherlock Holmes and wanted out anyway. Most of the studio's programmers and serials were discontinued. Still and all the Sherlock Holmes series was one of the best ever filmed and Rathbone was forever linked to his most famous role.
Terror by Night (1946)
I Hear That Train a-Coming, Coming Down the Track!
"Terror By Night" was the next to last film in Universal's Sherlock Holmes series. By now the series was operating on the cheap and the running times decreasing. This one for example runs a mere 60 minutes. The bulk of the story takes place on board a moving train.
The film opens with a sinister looking Vivian Vedden (Renee Godfrey) having had a "special" coffin built to transport her "mother" from London to Edinburgh. Cut to Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) being engaged by Roland Carstairs (Geoffrey Steele) to safeguard the Star of Rhodesia diamond and prevent it's expected theft. Lady Margaret Carstairs (Mary Forbes) shows the jewel to Holmes who secretly switches it with a fake.
Dr. Watson (Nigel Bruce) comes running up to the departing train with a friend Major Duncan Black (Alan Mowbray). And who but Inspector Lestrade (Dennis Hoey) should also board the train on a supposed vacation trip. While all are having dinner, the diamond is stolen and young Roland is murdered. Homes and Lestrade go over the list of suspects. First there is the suspicious looking Vivian Vedden, Professor William Kilbane (Frederick Warlock) a crabby old scholar whom Watson tries to interrogate, and an elderly couple Alfred Shallcross (Gerald Hames) and his wife (Janet Murdoch) who seem to have something to hide and Major Black who was with Watson during the robbery..
Holmes reveals that the thief has stolen a fake jewel with the hope of drawing out the thief to steal the original. Holmes, Watson and the Conductor Leyland Hodgson) examine Vivian's coffin in the baggage car and discover a false bottom within. Holmes concludes that the thief had stolen aboard concealed in the coffin. Later Holmes is accosted by a shadowy figure who pushes him off of the train forcing him to cling to the side of the moving train.
After escaping near death, Holmes continues his investigation. He believes an old cohort of the "late and lamented" Professor Moriarty, Col. Sebastian Moran is behind the plot to steal the diamond. He is travelling in disguise as one of the passengers. The shadowy figure who attacked Holmes reveals himself (Skelton Knaggs) and knocks out Holmes and steals the jewel. Col. Sebastian Moran reveals himself and murders his cohort.
Holmes believes he knows who Moran is when a Scottish Inspector MacDonald (Boyd Davis) boards the train in Scotland and claims jurisdiction over Lestrade. Someone turns out the lights and when order is restored, Insp. MacDonald and his men remove Moran from the train. But wily old Holmes has outfoxed them all by substituting Lestrade for Moran while keeping the real Moran under lock and key aboard the train. Leatrade, meanwhile arrests the phony cops.
By scanning the cast list it isn't much of a stretch to figure out who the real villain was in this story. Watch for veteran silent comic Billy Bevan as a train attendant and Sir C. Aubrey Smith in a cameo as an old man smoking on the train platform in Scotland.
Followed by the final film in the series, "Dressed to Kill".
Pursuit to Algiers (1945)
Red Herrings Abound on the High Seas!
"Pursuit to Algiers" is considered by some to be the weakest entry in the Universal Sherlock Holmes series. Most of the story takes place on board a ship and there are far too many songs (including one sung by Nigel Bruce) for my taste.
Holmes (Basil Rathbone) and Dr. Watson (Bruce) are recruited by the Prime Minister of an unnamed European country whose king has been assassinated. Holmes is implored to take on the case of escorting the Crown Prince from England to his home country. Holmes accepts the challenge with a few pre-conditions which he lays down in advance.
Holmes and the Crown Prince who will travel as Watson's nephew Nikolas (Leslie Vincent), board a plane which was substituted from the one originally scheduled. Watson is told to board the next ship bound for Algiers. On board the ship, Watson meets a young chanteuse Sheila Woodbury (Marjorie Riordan) and a busy body Agatha Dunham (Rosiland Ivan) who is packing a gun. Ooooooooo! Watson reads on the bulletin board that the plane carrying Holmes and Nikolas has crashed and all aboard killed. Watson is despondent.
Watson is called to treat an ill passenger and finds Holmes and Nikolas there. It seems that Holmes suspected something and moved himself and Nikolas to the ship. An attraction develops between Nikolas and Sheila. Three mysterious passengers board the ship off of Lisbon. Holmes suspects that they are assassins sent to assassinate Nikolas. They are Gregor (Rex Evans - a Sydney Greenstreet wannabe), Mirko (Martin Kosleck - a Peter Lorre type assassin) and a mute (Wee Willie Davis).
Watson is suspicious of steward Sanford (Morton Lowery) and of two sinister looking men - Jodri (John Abbott) and Kingston (Gerald Hamer) who are lurking about. Sheila is acting suspiciously as well. Holmes deduces that she is carrying something of value in her song case. He gets her aside and discovers that she is couriering stolen emeralds to unknown persons. Holmes agrees to return the jewels and lets the innocent Sheila off.
An attempt is made on Holmes life by the knife throwing Mirko which Holmes foils. The assassins plant an explosive party hat container on the dining table of the farewell dinner. Holmes again foils the attempt. When Watson goes ashore to meet the emissaries of the Crown Prince, the three assassins kidnap Nikolas and.................................................................
There are three forgettable songs performed by Sheila Woodbury and one by Watson far to much "entertainment" for a 65 minute Holmes mystery. And for some unknown reason the characters of Gregor and Mirko are presented as bargain basement Greenstreet and Lorres. I must admit that I didn't see the surprise ending coming which sort of salvaged an otherwise inferior Holmes vehicle.
Followed by Terror By Night.
The Woman in Green (1945)
The Wearing of the Green!
"The Woman in Green" has Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) and Dr. Watson (Nigel Bruce) investigating the grizzly murders of several women in various parts of London. Each victim has had one of her fingers surgically removed. Scotland Yard is stumped.
Inspector Gregson (Matthew Boulton) goes to Sherlock Holmes for help in solving the case. Holmes dismisses the theory of a serial killer and believes that a more diabolical plot is behind the murders. While the three are having a drink at the Pembroke Club, Holmes spots an acquaintance, Fenwick (Paul Cavanagh) a rich man with a family, having dinner with an attractive blonde Lydia (Hillary Brooke). The two leave and go to Lydia's apartment where they are greeted by Crandon (Sally Shepard) her maid.
The couple seems to be enjoying themselves. Lydia appears to cast some sort of spell over the middle aged man. the next morning Fenwick awakes in a seedy boarding house and discovers a severed finger in his pocket. He returns to Lydia's apartment where he is greeted by Holmes old nemesis Professor Moriarty (Henry Daniell) who blackmails Fenwick.
Holmes is visited by Fenwick's daughter who is concerned for her father. Holmes, Watson and Insp. Gregson go to Fenwick's home and find him murdered. Holmes surmises that Fenwick knew too much and was probably going to talk, hence his murder.
Moriarty, knowing that Holmes would surely idendify him as the man behind the murders, visits Holmes in his flat. The two exchange "niceties" and Moriarty leaves but not before foretelling of Holmes' doom. Later that night an assassination attempt is made but it is foiled by the detective. The assassin is found to be in a state of hypnosis. Holmes figures out that Moriarty and Lydia are luring rich middle aged men into a trap where they are extorted of their wealth.
Moriarty devises a plan whereby Lydia will seduce Holmes into a hypnotic state and then murder him. Holmes appears to be under Lydia's spell when Moriarty enters and directs Holmes to walk along the edge of the tall building when...........................................................................
Henry Daniell is the newest reincarnation of Professor Moriarty. George Zucco and Lionel Atwill both played Moriarty in earlier films in the series. The character perished in both cases only to re-emerge once again. You cant keep a good villain down. There's no Insp. Lestrade (Dennis Hoey) in this one. For some reason, Insp. Gregson was substituted therefore no banter between Lestrade and Watson this time around. And, you can't tell who the woman in green was either.
Followed by "Pursuit to Algiers".
The House of Fear (1945)
Pip Pip Hooray!
"The House of Fear" is a creepy old house located on the west coast of Scotland. Seven wealthy middle aged men retire to the isolated house and form a group which they call "Good Comrades". The owner of the house Bruce Alistair is a cheery old fellow indeed.
One night at dinner Mrs. Monteith (Sally Shepherd) the sinister looking housekeeper, brings a message for Ralph King (Dick Alexander) a retired barrister. The message contains seven orange seeds or pips. This is seen as a warning of bad tidings. The next night King apparently dies in a fiery automobile crash.
As the others are toasting the departed comrade, Mrs. Monteith brings in another message, this time for Stanley Raeburn (Cyril Delevanti) an ex-actor. His battered body turns up at the bottom of a lake. To this point, there has been a voice over narrator. He turns out to be an insurance adjuster named Chalmers (Gavin Muir) who has been briefing Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) and Dr. Watson (Nigel Bruce) about the apparent murders.
The Good Comrades had evidently taken out insurance policies on each other with any surviving members in case of a tragedy, sharing the benefits. Holmes recognizes Dr. Simon Merivale (Paul Cavanagh) in a picture of the Good Comrades. Holmes decides to take the case at Chalmer's request and he and Watson head off to Scotland. Mrs. Monteith has gone to the local town to report yet another murder. This time it's Guy Davies (Wilson Benge) whose body is found in the furnace area burned to a crisp. Mrs. Monteith informs Holmes that a message had been intended for Davies before his apparent death.
At this point Inspector Lestrade (Dennis Hoey) enters the scene. Alan Cosgrave (Holmes Herbert) receives the fourth message complete with pips at dinner that night. Later, a loud explosion is heard and Cosgrave's body is found in the ruins. Captain John Simpson (Harry Cording) spots a poinsonus needle in his chair. Holmes dismisses this as a trick. When Simpson feels his glass has been poinsoned, Holmes observes his reaction as he had planted the scent in the glass.
While in the care of Watson, Simpson disappears and is later found to have been mutilated, identified by a tattoo on his arm. As Holmes and Watson are walking along the beach, a large rock is hurled over the side of a cliff, intended for them. Holmes is getting warmer. When tobacconist Alex MacGregor (David Clyde) is found shot, Holmes feels he is nearing a solution to the crimes. Merivale is next to be found dead (apparently). Poor old Alistair is left to take the blame for the demises of the other members of the Good Comrades
Finally, Holmes puts all the pieces together, discovers a secret passage leading to a hidden room and.....................................................................
The Pearl of Death (1944)
"The Pearl of Death" was another superior entry in Universal's Sherlock Holmes series. The pearl of the title is the Borgia Pearl which is being couriered to a London museum on board a ship.
The courier hides the pearl in his luggage and goes to retrieve a message that has been sent to him. While he is away an attractive young lady, Naomi Drake Evelyn Ankers) using a duplicate key, enters the courier's state room and steals the pearl. She then entrusts the hidden pearl to an aged minister in order to avoid going through customs. The minister turns out to be, you guessed it, Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) in disguise. Naomi, it seems is a confederate of a Moriarty like crime boss named Giles O'Connor (Miles Mander).
Holmes brings the jewel to the museum and is given a demonstration of the museum's security system. Holmes, Dr. Watson (Nigel Bruce) and Inspector Lestrade (Dennis Hoey) also witness the demonstration. Holmes attempting to show the weakness of the system, unwittingly allows Conover to steal the jewel while the system is shut down. Connor is arrested by a constable but only after he had dropped the jewel along the way. It is up to Holmes to vindicate himself and solve the crime.
Holmes, Watson and Lestrade investigate a grizzly murder where the victim has had his back broken and dishes broken and scattered about the murder scene. Two subsequent murders occur with the same results. Holmes checks over the dish fragments and deduces that the killer was looking for a bust of Napoleon. Holmes and Lestrade are fearful that the killer is a former nemesis "The Creeper" (Rondo Hatton).
Holmes traces the busts of Napoleon to a shop run by Amos Hodder (Ian Wolfe). Holmes recognizes Naomi working as a store clerk but doesn't tip his play. Naomi is arrested as she tries to escape. He learns the location of the final bust after the other bust is accounted for. He impersonates the owner of the bust as Conover and The Creeper arrive. He confronts them and.....................................................................
This film has more elements of horror than usual due mainly to the presence of Rondo Hatton a deformed giant of a man whose actual appearance isn't shown until the finale. Watson and Lestrade continue their verbal jousts and Holmes gets to don yet two more disguises. It's a pity that Roy William Neill, the Producer/Director didn't find a way to utilize Evelyn Anker's ear splitting scream which was evident in several of Universal's horror films of the day.
Followed by "The House of Fear".
The Scarlet Claw (1944)
Holmes Claws His Way Through Another Investigation!
"The Scarlett Claw" is viewed by many as the best film in the Sherlock Holmes series. It has the look and feel of a Universal horror film of the time what with its foggy marshes, dark forests and dimly lit streets. It is also reminds the viewer of an earlier Holmes film "The Hound of the Baskervilles" (1939).
Set in Quebec City, Canada, we find Holmes and Watson attending a conference at the Royal Canadian Occult Society. The conference is chaired by Lord Penrose (Paul Cavanagh). Word comes of the brutal murder of Lady Penrose who has had her throat torn open in the nearby town of La Mort Rouge (The Red Death). Lord Penrose leaves immediately and Holmes and Watson soon follow. The local villagers believe the crime has been committed by some sort of monster (see: "The Wolf Man"). Holmes doesn't agree.
Holmes you see, had received a letter from Lady Penrose posted before her death in which she fears for her life and asks for Holmes help. Holmes takes on his first deceased client. He suspects that the murderer is hiding within the population of the town. Lord Penrose is immediately suspect. His gruff and superior manner makes him totally unlikable. He fires his loyal servant Drake (Ian Wolfe) for no real reason. Holmes also suspects the local inn keeper Emile Journet (Arthur Pohl) who has a comely young daughter named Marie (Kay Harding).
A glowing figure is seen roaming the marshes. When Holmes investigates he is able to recover a shirt fragment torn off of the "monster" while Watson falls into a bog. Investigated further, Holmes goes to an abandoned hotel and finds a seaman with a limp of whom he has heard. The man, Tanner Gerald Hamer) flees when his phosphoresent shirt is discovered. He is believed to have been killed by local policeman Sgt. Thompson (Donald Clyde - substituting for Inspector Lestrade). Holmes is not so sure. He finds a piece of a photo graph signed by an actor names Arthur Ramson. It seems that Lady Penrose had also been an actor prior to her marriage to Lord Penrose.
Judge Brisson (Miles Mander) is also living in fear of his life. Holmes learns that Ramson had been jailed by the Judge after taking issue with Lady Penrose's marriage. He also fears that Ramson is still alive and hiding under another disguise. He goes to the inn and finds that Journet has fled which makes him a prime suspect. Returning to the abandoned hotel room where he had encountered Tanner, he discovers Ramson donning another disguise. Ramson plans to shoot Holmes but is prevented from doing so by the bumbling Watson just before he is about to reveal the identity of the third victim.
Holmes returns to Judge Brisson's home to find him murdered by Ramson disguised as his maid Nora (Victoria Horne). He then puts all of the pieces together. Lady Penrose was murdered because of her marriage, Judge Brisson because he was the Judge who put him away and the third intended victim Journet because he was Ramson's prison guard. Odd that all three should end up in the same isolated little town.
Returning to the Inn Holmes finds the body of Marie murdered by Ramson in his disguise. Holmes then finds Journet and disguised as him draws out Ramson disguised as...................and..................................................
Being Canadian, I have to take issue with how Quebec is portrayed. Firstly, most of the cast speaks with British accents in a decidedly British like atmosphere. Most people in this part of the country are French speaking. And, there's not a snowflake in sight. And no, the locals do not all wear toques. The reason for setting this story in Quebec is still puzzling.
Nonetheless, great atmosphere and superior black and white shadowy photography and great mystery along with horror like elements.
Followed by "The Pearl of Death"..
The Spider Woman (1943)
Down Came a Spider.............!
"The Spider Woman" despite it's scant 63 minute running time is one of the best of Universal's Sherlock Holmes Series. This time Holes (Basil Rathbone) matches wits with a femme fatale Adrea Spedding (Gale Sondergaard) whom he calls a female Moriarty.
Rich and influential men are committing suicide all over London for no apparent reason. Holmes and Dr. Watson (Nigel Bruce) are meanwhile relaxing on a fishing trip in Scotland. Watson is reading of the London suicides in a newspaper. Holmes appears uninterested. He fakes his drowning and drops out of sight.
Back in London, Watson and Mrs. Hudson (Mary Gordon) are cleaning up Holmes things when there's a knock on the door. A postman enters delivering a package. He turns out to be Holmes in disguise. He went undercover in order to draw out the murderer. He has discovered that Adrea Spedding is behind the crimes. Holmes has also learned that the victims have died from a lethal spider bite.
Holmes dons another disguise, that of a retired Indian Army Officer and goes to a casino to lure The Spider Woman out of her lair. She confronts him and invites him back to her apartment. There he tells her that he is broke and needs a loan against his insurance policy. She arranges same.
Later Holmes sets up an attack by the Spider Woman by placing a dummy in his bed and awaiting the anticipated attack. Holmes is not disappointed when a creepy spider enter the room through an air vent. Holmes kills the spider. In a bold move Adres visits Holmes in his flat along with her bratty nephew. Holmes realizes that this is a woman of nerve. Mutual admiration comments are exchanged but as Adrea leaves her nephew throws a candy wrapper into the fire place. Gas pour out and Watson passes out but Holmes is able to air out the flat and both escape certain death.
In trying to trace the spider's origins he asks Gilflower (Arthur Hohl) for advice. When Gilflower arrives at Holmes flat, Watson thinks that it is Holmes in another disguise and makes a fool of himself trying to "unmask" Gilflower. Anyway Gilflower refers Holmes to a spider dealer of sorts who turns out to be Radik (Alec Craig) a cohort of Adrea who had murdered the real owner and replaced him. He escapes.
Holmes trails Radik to a carnival where Adrea awaits. Homes falls into her trap and is placed behind a rotating target of the rifle range where his heart is exposed. Then Watson starts taking shots at the figure of Hitler behind witch is Holmes and....................................................................................
Since Gale Sondergaard is merely arrested by Lestrade (Dennis Hoey) you would think that that would open the door to a sequel, She was one of the best of female villains and even won an Oscar along the way. I would have liked to have seen her match wits with Holmes in another story. Pity.
Followed by "The Scarlett Claw".
Sherlock Holmes Faces Death (1943)
Back to a Creepy Old Mansion!
With this entry, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson return to the tried and true mystery format rather than emphasizing the evils of WWII. We're still in the 20th Century though.
Dr. Watson (Nigel Bruce) has volunteered his services to a convalescent home in creepy old Musgrave Manor for shell shocked (i.e. PTSD) officers. His assistant Dr. Sexton (Arthur Margetson) stumbles in with a stab wound in his neck. He claims that someone attacked him outside. Watson sensing more evil awaits, goes back to London to convince his friend Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) to return with him to the manor.
On arriving at the manor, Holmes and Watson come upon the body of owner Geoffrey Musgrave (Frederick Worlock) buried under a pile of leaves. This leaves brother Phillip Musgrave (Gavin Muir) as the new owner. Their sister Sally (Hillary Brooke) as the next in line has to recite "The Musgrave Ritual" amid thunder and lightning. The words of the ritual contain clues to the mystery of Musgrave Manor. Nosy eavesdropping butler Brunton (Halliwell Hobbs) listens ion to the various conversations that ensue.
Shortly thereafter, Phillip is found dead in the rumble seat of Sally's car Sally is consoled by her fiancé Captain Vickery (Milburn Stone) who is suspected by Inspector Lestrade (Dennis Hoey) of the murders and he is taken away. Holmes is convinced of Vickery's innocence but feels he will be safer under lock and key.
Through his investigation, Holmes sets up a mock chess game inspired by the ritual document to expose the killer. In the basement, Brunton's body is discovered. Holmes devises a plan to trap the murderer by telling all that there are clues visible beside Brunton's body. The trap works and the murderer is revealed and...........................................................................
With a sigh of relief, the series returns to a gothic setting rather than the war time settings of the three previous films. The war is still going on mind you but is only referenced by the fact that Services officers are being treated in the home. The villains are all regular people here with no German spies in sight and Inspector Lesrade returns to the series as well..
By this time, Rathbone and Bruce were phoning in their performances but still made them more than interesting.
Followed by one of the best in the series..."The Spider Woman".
Yes....But What WAS in the Message?
This entry in the Sherlock Holmes series could be sub-titled "Sherlock Holmes Faces TWO Moriartys" because Holmes is up against two actors, George Zucco and Henry Daniel who both played Holmes' arch villain Professor Moriarty in different films.
Still in WWII, the plot centers on a two page secret document, the contents of which are never revealed. Apparently, it contained information that would change mankind if fallen into the wrong hands. British diplomat is dispatched to Washington carrying the secret document. The sinister Easton (Daniel) is aboard the plane as is bumbling clumsy other passenger called John Grayson (Gerald Hamer). Grayson who is the real courier, senses danger and passes the document to an innocent passenger Nancy Partridge (Marjorie Lord).
Believing that Grayson still has the document, Easten and his aides kidnap Grayson. Meanwhile, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are to be sent to Washington to find out what happened to the sensitive document. Before leaving, Holmes realizes the Grayson is actually Alfred Pettibone a respected British agent.
Going to Pettibone's home, his mother (Mary Forbes) assists the detective. Holmes discovers that Pettibone had micro-filmed the document before destroying it. He had then placed the small strip of film in the flap of a book of matches.
Holmes and Watson head off to Washington where local detective Grogan (Edmund Mac Donald) is assigned to help them. A trunk containing Grayson/Pettibone's body arrives at Holmes' hotel room. Holmes takes this as a warning and deduces that the secret document is still at large.
Through his efforts, Holmes realizes that Grayson must have passed the document to someone on the plane. He eliminates the other passengers with the exception of Nancy. Nancy who is engaged to Navy Lieutenant Pete Merriman (John Archer, is unaware of the document and the book of matches that conceals it.
It seems that Easten has a boss who turns out to be Stanley (George Zucco) a "respectable" antique dealer. He has taken Nancy a prisoner deducting that it was she to whom Grayson had passed the document. Holmes through various clues determines that Grayson's body had come from an antique shop. Holmes and Watson comb the streets looking for a likely shop. They arrive at a shop where the saleman (Ian Wolfe) suspects something when Holmes pretends to be a fussy antique buyer. He informs Stanley.
The "book of matches" in the meantime passes between several persons eventually ending up in Stanley's possession. He unknowingly holds the documents in his hand. Holmes and Nancy are about to be eliminated when..............................................................
Through all the mystery, the contents of the so-called secret document are never revealed. And being in the middle of WWII, we are left to assume that the villains are German sympathizers even though Germany or the Nazis are never mentioned out loud.
It was a treat for me to see Zucco and Daniel as Holmes adversaries. I've always admired the work of both men and loved to see their names on the cast list. You can through Lionel Atwill (the other Moriarty) into that mix as well.
Rathbone and Bruce as always, carry out their roles in their usual professional ways. And yes, Mrs. Hudson (Mary Gordon) makes a brief unbilled appearance.
Followed by "Sherlock Holmes Faces Death".
Moriarty: The Walking Dead!
"Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon" is the second of the Universal produced Holmes features set during WWII. The "secret weapon" of the title is a sophisticated bomb sight in vented by Swiss scientist Dr. Franz Tobel (William Post Jr.). Dr. Tobel has offered his invention to the allies but the Germans are after it too.
Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) disguised as a book peddler goes to Switzerland to bring Dr. Tobel back to England. With Gestapo agents Gottfried (George Burr Macannan) and Mueller (Paul Fix) on the hunt for the bomb sight, Holmes tricks them by using doubles and leaves the country.
Back in England with his trusty assistant Dr. Watson (Nigel Bruce) at his side, Holmes and his British contact Sir Reginald (Holmes Herbert) and Scotland Yard Detective Lestrade (Dennis Hoey) are amazed when Dr. Tobel announces that he will look after the manufacture of his invention. Before he begins, he prepares a coded message to be given to Holmes in the event of trouble by girl friend Charlotte Eberl (Kaaren Verne).
Dr. Tobel selects four other scientists to manufacture the device. Each will work independently of the other. But all goes awry when Dr. Tobel is kidnapped by Holmes old nemesis Dr. Moriarty (Lionel Atwill) who plans to sell the weapon to the highest bidder. Charlotte then tries to deliver Tobel's message but she and Holmes discover that Moriarty has stolen it.
Holmes is able through scientific means, to decipher the message which identifies the first three of the scientists working on the invention. The last of the message is coded differently but Holmes discovers the identity of the fourth scientist. The first three scientists are murdered by Moriarty's henchman Kurt (Harry Woods) but Holmes manages to impersonate the fourth scientist Professor Hoffner (Henry Victor) with a disguise.
Kurt brings Holmes back to Moriarty who plans to get rid of his rival. In a method described by Holmes himself, Moriarty straps Holmes to a table and begins to drain his blood...drop by drop. But just in the nick of time...................
The character of Dr. Moriarty was killed off in "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" (1939) so his appearance here is a version of "The Walking Dead". Holmes dons one other disguise during the course of his investigation, that of a gruff tough talking sailor.
It should be noted that both Atwill and veteran western bad guy Woods both shaved off their trademark mustaches for their roles.
Followed by "Sherlock Holmes in Washington".
The Time Travellers!
For this first of 12 Universal Sherlock Holmes mysteries, Holmes (Basil Rathbone), Dr. Watson (Nigel Bruce) and Mrs. Hudson (Mary Gordon) are mysteriously transported from the nineteenth century smack dab into the middle of WWII Doesn't make a whole lot of sense I know but because of budget restraints Universal chose to fast forward the trio into the 20th century. By doing so they were able to utilize sets from other films as fans of the Universal horror films will undoubtedly notice.
The time is 1942 and England is embroiled in war with Germany. A German radio "Voice of Terror" is terrorizing the country with advance notice of impending disasters such as the destruction of oil reserves, train wrecks and the blowing up of key buildings. The Intelligence Inner Council is desperate to find the source of these broadcasts. The Council is comprised of Sir Evan Barham (Reginald Denny), Anthony Lloyd (Henry Daniel), Captain Roland Shue (Leyland Hodgson) among others.
Barham summons the great detective Sherlock Holmes to the Council to utilize Holmes' deductive talents. Other members of the Council object. Back in his lodgings (still 221B Baker St.), a man stumbles through the front door with a knife in his back. He dies but mentions the name "Christopher" before he dies. Holmes sets out to find out what "Christopher" means.
Since the dead man had come from the Limehouse district, Holmes and Watson head to a seedy bar in the area. There they meet the dead man's wife Kitty (Evelyn Ankers) who agrees to help them find "Christopher". "Christopher" is discovered to be the name of a pier in the district. While searching the area, Holmes and Watson are accosted by Nazi agent Meade (Thomas Gomez) and his followers. The blokes from the bar intercedes just before Meade was to murder Holmes. Holmes allows Meade to escape through a trap door to a waiting boat in order to find out who is leaking the top secret information to the Nazis.
Kitty meanwhile becomes "friendly" with Meade in order to find out his secrets. Holmes at the same time, deduces that the "Voice of Terror" broadcasts are actually recordings made right there in England. Holmes immediately suspects that a member of the council is the rat. Holmes and Barham witness a German plane landing and picking up the latest recording for Broadcast from Berlin.
Finally Holmes receives a tip that Meade and his followers will meet at a deserted church where they are at the center of a planned German invasion. It is here that the German mole is revealed. Together with British soldiers, Holmes and Watson arrive in the nick of time. Before his attempted getaway, Meade shoots Kitty for her betrayal and.......................
Being filmed early in the war, Universal placed heavy emphasis on the brutality of the Nazi regime and the agents that they had planted across England. There actually was a type of "Voice of Terror" that set about scaring the citizens at the time. But they didn't have Sherlock Holmes to ferret out the culprits did they?
Holmes Towers Over Moriarty!
"The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" was the second and final entry in the series from 20th Century Fox. Subsequent entries would emanate from Universal. It also has the distinction of being the longest running (at 85 minutes) of the 14 films in the series.
The story takes place in 1894 foggy London. At the Old Bailey court House we see Professor Moriarty (George Zucco) being acquitted from a murder charge. Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) rushes in with new evidence proving Moriarty's guilt but is too late. Moriarty offers Holmes a ride home where he tells the detective that he plans to ruin him with his latest scheme...the crime of the century.
Moriarty has devised a clever plan to deceive Holmes and keep him busy while carrying out his plan to rob England's Crown Jewels. First he sends an anonymous letter to Sir Ronald Ramsgate (Henry Stephenson) threatening to steal the The Star of Delhi an expensive emerald destined for the Crown Jewels collection. He also sends a drawing of a man with an albatross around his neck to Lloyd Brandon (Peter Willes).
Brandon's sister Ann (Ida Lupino) goes to Holmes and Dr. Watson (Nigel Bruce) for help. She tells them that ten years earlier her father received a similar note before being murdered in South America. Sir Ronald also arrives at Holmes flat to ask for his assistance in ensuring that the emerald arrives safely at the Tower of London. Brandon family lawyer Jerrold Hunter (Alan Marshal) who is engaged to Ann arrives on the scene. He tells everyone that he will tend to the matter of the drawing.
Holmes has Watson check up on Hunter and sees Moriarty coming out of his law office. Lloyd Brandon in a nervous state, comes to Hunter for help but the lawyer sends him home. He takes out a gun and follows Lloyd. A blood curdling scream is heard and Lloyd is found murdered. Inspector Bristol E.E. Clive) of Scotland Yard suspects Hunter of the crime and even Ann has her doubts.
Ann receives a second drawing and fears for her safety. Holmes encourages her to attend a party given by Lady Conyngham (Mary Forbes) to quiet her nerves. Holmes disguised as a music hall performer gives a song and dance in order to work undercover. Ann is lured outside later by the sound of mysterious music. She is about to be killed by Moriarty's South American killer (George Regas) with a bola that winds around the victim's neck and bashes in the skull as it does so. But Holmes arrives in the nick of time to prevent the crime.
Holmes send Watson to the Tower to oversee the arrival of the Star of Delhi. Moriarty meanwhile and his assistants have replaced the police detail arranged by Holmes. The lights go out and the emerald is stolen but sharp old Watson discovers the jewel had been dropped by the thieves. The jewel is returned to the Crown Jewels display and everyone goes home happy. But in the confusion Moriarty has entered the Crown Jewels cage undetected.
In the meantime Holmes and Watson go to Moriarty's home and discover that the master criminal is going to steal the Crown Jewels. They steal a cab and rush off to the Tower of London. Creating a diversion, Holmes manages to enter the Tower finds Moriarty and.........................................................
This was one of the better Holmes films with Rathbone and Bruce. George Zucco makes an excellent foil as Moriarty. Ida Lupino was on the cusp of major stardom with this role. Also in the cast are Arthur Hohl as Bassick Moriarty's henchman, Terry Kilburn as the young Billy and Mary Gordon as Mrs. Hudson the landlady.
After this film, the series would be on hold for three years until Universal took over the reins in 1942.
Is Holmes Barking Up the Wrong Tree?
The oft filmed Sir Arthur Conan Doyle tale of "The Hound of the Baskervilles" is considered by many to be the best version of all the filmed versions. It's largely due to the inspired casting of Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson. Both had been in films for a considerable time. Rathbone even had a go at playing Detective Philo Vance in 1930.
Sir Charles Baskerville dies from heart failure while being chased by an unknown source. A mysterious man (Nigel De Brulier) goes through Sir Charles' belongings and flees when a scream rings out from the manor as housekeeper Mrs. Barryman (Elly Malyan) discovers the body. At the Coroner's inquest we meet the apparent suspects in the case. There is Dr. James Mortimer (Lionel Atwill), his wife (Beryl Mercer), butler Barryman (John Carradine), his wife, Frankland (Barlowe Borland) a feisty old Scotsman and John Stapleton (Morton Lowry) and his sister Beryl (Wendy Barrie.
Fast forward to 1889 London and the flat of Detective Sherlock Holmes (Rathbone) and his assistant Dr. Watson (Bruce). Landlady Mrs. Hudson (Mary Gordon) announces that a Dr. Mortimer has come to see Holmes. Dr. Mortimer it seems, was a close personal friend of the deceased. Dr. Mortimer asks for Holmes' help and in doing so explains through flashback, the curse of the Baskervilles.
In the seventeenth century, Sir Hugo Baskerville (Ralph Forbes) has taken a village girl unto himself. He brags to his cronies and when he goes to show the poor wench to them finds her gone. Sir Hugo angered, goes after her with his friends following. They come upon the body of the girl and witness Sir Hugo being torn apart by a vicious dog. All subsequent lords of Baskerville manor have met similar violent deaths.
Holmes fearing for the safety of new owner Sir Henry Baskerville (Richard Greene) agrees to take on the case. Sir Henry we are told has been living in the "wilds" (ha!) of Canada from a young age. When Sir Henry and Dr. Mortimer leave, Holes and Watson follow them closely. Holmes sees that someone is about to shoot Sir Henry and cries out. Later the Cabby (E.E. Clive) is unable to identify his passenger but gives a good general description.
Sir Henry, Dr. Mortimer and Dr. Watson leave for Baskerville manner with Holmes remaining behind to tend to some business. Sir Henry immediately becomes infatuated with the comely Beryl Stapleton. One night at Baskerville Hall Sir Henry and Watson discover Bannerman apparently signaling someone across the misty moors. On investigation Sir Henry and Watson find a signal light and the mysterious man from the opening who escapes into the night.
They then meet an old peddler who appears out of the mist. Watson send him away but later receives an anonymous note from the peddler to meet him in the moors. To no one's great surprise, the peddler turns out to be, you guessed it, Holmes who has been working the case undercover.
While returning to the manor, Holmes and Watson witness a large hound attacking whom they believe to be Sir Henry. The victim turns out to be our mysterious man who is actually an escaped convict. It seems that the convict was wearing some of sir Henry's old clothes supplied to him by his sister Mrs. Barryman.
Holmes and Watson fake returning to London and double back to expose the murderer whom they think will strike at Sir Henry. Before they can return, Sir Henry is attacked on the Moors by a savage dog and...............................................
This is the film in which Holmes utters the now famous line "....Watson the Needle" which refers to Holmes Cocaine habit. This part had been removed for many years by the censors but was restored in recent years. Richard Greene who was an up and comer, was given top billing because the studio was unsure of how the public would accept Rathbone as the lead character. Rathbone had been playing mostly cads and villains throughout the 1930s.
Having Atwill and Carradine in the cast provided viewers with a couple of well known suspects to the audience. But did one of them do it? Hmmmmmmm.
Mary Gordon who plays Mrs. Hudson the land lady was the only other semi-regular in the series.
Followed by "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" (1939) the last Holmes film produced by 20th Century Fox.
Comanche Moon (2008)
The Further Adventures of McCrae and Call!
"Comanche Moon" is the second prequel to "Lonesome Dove". It covers the "Rangerin'" years of Gus McCrae (Steve Zahn) and Woodrow F. Call (Karl Urban). They are working for the state of Texas in 1858 under Governor Pease (James Rebhorn) to keep the Comanche nation at bay. The rangers are led by Captain Inish Scull (Val Kilmer) an oddity at best.
The story also encompasses the men's love lives. McCrae is in love with Clara Forsythe (Linda Cardinelli), Call is involved with prostitute Maggie (Elizabeth Banks) and Scull who's wife Inez (Rachel Griffiths is equally odd and beds who ever she fancies at a particular time.
On patrol, Scull's prize horse is stolen by the Comanche. For some reason he sets out on foot with the Indian tracker to retrieve the animal.. In his absence he appoints McCrae and Call as co-captains of the detachment. Scull seeks out the brutal Alumado (Sal Lopez) whom he vows to kill. Alumado imprisons Scull where he remains through most of the story.
While the Rangers are out on patrol, Comanche chief Buffalo Hump (Wes Studi) organizes an attack on Austin massacring several citizens and having their way with several of the women. Oddly enough, I was surprised that the Rangers didn't exact some sort of reprisal for the Comanche's butchery.
Returning home, the Rangers see the devastation caused by the Comanche. Ranger Bill Coleman (Ray McKinnon) is distraught to learn that his wife Pearl (Melanie Lynskey) had been raped by the Comanche, so much so that he hangs himself unable to deal with the situation. Call learns that Maggie is pregnant with what she believes to be Call's child a situation that Call is unable to accept given Maggie's "past". Gus, meanwhile, becomes the latest of Inez Scull's conquests which turns Clara towards horse trader Bob Allen (Josh Berry).
Buffalo Hump turns his rebellious son Blue Duck (Adam Beach) away from the tribe. Blue Duck forms a gang of murderers and roams the country killing innocent people. Alumado dies en route to a cure for a fatal spider bite. Call and McCrae arrive in Alumado's camp and rescue the near mad Scull. Along the way the boys come upon an emerging town called Lonesome Dove. Fast forward to the end of the Civil War (1865) and the Union soldiers move in to take over policing the Comanche.
Maggie is raising her son who looks remarkably like Woodrow but he fails to recognize the boy as his son. Maggie with Pearl at her side dies prematurely. Clara has gone on to marry Allen have three children and settles down in Nebraska. Scull goes back east after the war and settles in Boston with his unfaithful wife.
The story ends with Gus and Woodrow seeing the end of the Texas Rangers and plan to move to, you guessed it, Lonesome Dove to start up ranching.
See you in Lonesome Dove.
Broken Trail (2006)
Gritty, Realistic Outdoors TV Western!
"Broken Trail" is a two part superior TV western directed by the legendary Walter Hill and Starring Robert Duvall and Thomas Hayden Church.
At the beginning Print Church (Duvall) rides into a ranch during branding time to inform his nephew Tom Harte (Church) of his mother's recent passing and that she had willed her ranch and possession to Ritter rather than him.. He proposes that they take the money realized from the estate and buy a herd of horses for re-sale in Wyoming. Tom reluctantly agrees to a 75/25 split on the profits.
At the same time the unscrupulous Captain Billy Fender (James Russo) is buying Five young innocent Chinese slave girls to "work" in a saloon owned by Big Rump Kate (Rusty Scwimmer). As luck would have it, the two paths will cross out on the trail.
As Ritter and Harte are driving a large herd of horses across the country, Harte goes to town for supplies and rescues a fiddle playing Gilpin (Scott Cooper) from a dingy saloon where he was trying to earn a living. Later on the trail the Ritter group meets up with Fender and the girls. Fender asks to join with Ritter. He admits "deflowering" one of the girls who were intended to be delivered as virgins to Big Rump Kate.
The crafty Fender spikes his whiskey which puts Ritter, Harte and Gilpin to sleep and robs them of their funds taking young Ye Fung (Olivia Cheng) with him. Discovering that they have been robbed, Ritter sends Harte after Fender. He catches up to him, hangs him and returns to camp with their money and Ye Fung who is now shamed for having been with the evil Fender.
Ritter agrees to take the surviving girls along with the drive Along the trail, one of the girls, Mai Ling (Caroline Chan) concocts a fever and dies. They move along until they arrive at a town where Big Rump Kate holds court. She wants her girls. Ritter and the others resist. Big Ears (Chris Mulkey) has just been released from jail and has returned to claim Nola Johns (Greta Scacchi). A fight follows and Ritter, Harte, Gilpin, the girls and a Chinese man named Lung Hay (Donald Fong) flee.
Big Rump Kate hires Big Ears to retrieve her girls and he and a few others set off in pursuit of the group. In a particular realistic looking scene, Harte sews stitches into the head of Lung Hay. An attraction develops between Ritter and Nola but her past gets in the way of a relationship.
Big Ears allows the herd to be delivered and Ritter paid off before moving in. Then..........................................................................................
The ageless Robert (Bobby) Duvall says in the commentary that this is his favorite western. It formed a sort of trilogy..."Lonesome Dove" (1989), Open Range (2003) and Broken Trail (2006). The latter two were filmed in the Canadian Rockies in Alberta near Calgary. He plays the grumpy old Ritter with a conviction. He almost finds what he was looking for in Nola but is unable to commit long term.
Thomas Hayden Church is thoroughly convincing as Harte. I don't think that he has ever been better. Greta Scacchi, still looking beautiful, makes a convincing ex-saloon girl. Chris Mulkey is a scary and brutal villain and James Russo as the scummy Fender stand out as well. Rusty Scwimmer as the vulgar saloon madam almost steals the picture.
But it is Duvall's picture from start to finish and remember, he was well into his 70s when this was made. He was never better.
Gritty Realistic Western!
"Conagher" as with most of star Sam Elliott's westerns, is a realistic looking western complete with dimly lit saloons, and wide open spaces.
The Teale family arrives at their remote little ranch in the middle of no where. The father Jacob (Billy Green Bush) has built them a house (with no floors) but all embrace their new home. The wife Evie (Katherine Ross) and the two kids, Laban (Cody Braun) and Ruthie (Anndi McAfee) are left behind as Jacob goes off to buy cattle in a far off town. Unfortunately, he meets with an accident and dies in the wilderness leaving his family to fend for themselves.
Temporary help arrives in the form of an offer from a stagecoach company to provide relay station services while the new station is being built. The company sends a herd of horses to act as relief teams for the coaches. They are herded in by an amiable drifter known as Conagher (Elliott) who takes notice of Evie unaware that her husband is dead.
Later, a group of Indians attack the small house with Evie and the children holding them off until the stage coach arrives to provide help. Led by driver Charlie McLeod (Barry Corbin) the group drives the Indians away. McLeod informs Evie that the new relay station is about complete and therefore she will lose her income from providing relay station services.
Conagher meanwhile, takes a job with rancher Tay (Ken Curtis) who is having trouble with a rival ranch known as Ladder Five. Also working for Tay are Chris Mahler (Gavin O'Herlihy) and young Johnny McGivern (Daniel Quinn). The Ladder Five is trying to drive Tay out of business by rustling his cattle. Mahler leaves Tay for Ladder Five leaving only Conagher and Johnny to carry on.
Laban spots Ladder Five riders near his home with rustled cattle. Conagher goes after them. He ultimately catches up to Parnell (James Gammon) and his gang but is wounded in the process. He visits the Teales and gets young Laban to help him drive the rustles cattle to town for sale. Evie being very lonely has written little poems and attached them to tumbleweeds which Conagher just happens to find from time to time. Even though Evie looks longingly at Conagher, he rides away.
In town he is challenged to a fight by Mahler who has been looking for trouble ever since he bolted from the Tay ranch. A fierce battle between the men ensues and..............................................................................
A good western is spoiled somewhat by the corny ending. However it really looks like a western set in the post Civil War era. The set pieces are authentic looking as are the dusty trails and scenic vistas. And if ever there was a real looking cowpoke, it has got to be Sam Elliott with that large swallow tail mustache.
This was the final film for Ken Curtis who passed away shortly after this film was completed.
The Shadow Riders (1982)
Veteran Cast Adds to the Excitement of This One!
Following the success of "The Sacketts" (1979) a follow up was inevitable. Author Louis L'Amour came up with a sequel of sorts using the same stars Sam Elliot, Tom Selleck and Jeff Osterhage again playing brothers. Ben Johnson and Gene Evans also returned from the original in this TV movie..
Mac (Selleck) and Dal Trevern (Elliott) fought in the American Civil War on opposite sides and are set to return home. Dal is rescued from a Union firing squad by Major Cooper Ashbury (Geoffrey Lewis) and his troops. Mac is forced to rescue Dal from a hanging after he is accused of horse stealing by an unsavory group of Yankees.
The boys return home to parents Ma (Jane Greer) and Pa Travern (Harry Carey Jr.) who inform them that younger brother Jesse (Osterhage) returned home earlier, wounded. They are also told that a band of marauding renegades have kidnapped their younger sisters Sissy (Dominique Dunne) and Heather (Natalie May) as well as Dal's beloved Kate Connery (Katherine Ross). and taken all of their possessions such as their cattle.
Mac and Dal set out to rescue the girls and find that Jesse has also be taken prisoner. With the help of Kate, Jesse manages to escape the renegades who are led by the same Major Ashbury that had saved Dal from the firing squad. The kidnapped people and goods are to be used in exchange for weapons and ammunition from gun runner Colonel Holiday Hammond (Gene Evans) who plans to take the kidnapped peoples to Mexico for sale.
Jesse having narrowly escaped joins up with his brothers. Not knowing Mexico the brothers enlist the aid of their Uncle Jack (Johnson) whom they are forced to break out of jail. Sheriff Miles Gilette (R.G. Armstrong) who has a long standing desire to bring Jack in, forms a posse and begins to pursue the brothers.
In Mexico, the brothers and Uncle Jack hatch a plan to rescue the girls and...................................................
Selleck, Elliot and Osterhage continue their likeable relationship from the earlier film. Johnson seems to be having the time of his life as the roguish Uncle Jack. Gene Evans makes a hissable villain and Lewis is also good as the never say die Confederate officer. Katherine Ross makes a fetching heroine as she always did. Veteran actors Jane Greer and Harry Carey Jr. have what amounts to cameo roles as the Travern parents. Young Dominique Dunne who plays Sissy was unfortunately murdered by a jealous boy friend the same year this movie was released.
Very entertaining western largely due to the interplay between the characters by an experienced cast.
The Sacketts (1979)
Sackett To Me!
Louis L'Amour's "The Sacketts" a two part TV movie chronicling the life and times of the three Sackett Brothers: Tell (Sam Elliott), Orrin (Tom Selleck) and Tyrel (Jeff Osterhage). They are supported by a fine cast of veteran performers.
Starting off at their Tennessee home, Orrin is about to be married when his bride to be is shot, taking a bullet meant for him. Tyrel arrives on the scene and kills the intruder. With a tearful good-bye from Ma Sackett (Mercedes McCambridge, Tyrel sets off for the west. Orrin soon follows having become despondent over the loss of his bride.
The brothers come upon a cattle drive. The owner of the cattle is a man named Belden (L.Q. Jones) and the ramrod is Tom Sunday (Glenn Ford). The boys are hired and become friends with Sunday and his pal Cap Rountree (Ben Johnson). One of the cowboys, Reed Carney (Buck Taylor) has it in for farmer Tyrel. After arriving with the herd in Abilene, Orrin Tyrel, Tom and Cap decide to go after free roaming maverick cattle. But first Orrin spots a blue eyed blonde Laura Oritts (Marcy Hanson) and is smitten. She is the daughter of Jonathon Pritts (John Vernon) who is in a battle with Mexican landowner Don Luis (Gilbert Roland) back in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Both men just happen to be in Abilene at the same time. Don Luis also has a comely young daughter Drisilla (Ana Alicia) with whom young Tyrel takes an interest. But before they leave, Tyrel is forced to face Carney in a showdown.
The oldest Sackett brother, Tell has been working in a mine . He gets into a poker game with Wes Bigelow (James Gammon) whom he catches cheating. Tell is forced to kill Bigelow but is warned that Bigelow's brothers will surely come looking for him. Tell goes up into the mountains to seek gold hidden by the Spanish three hundred years earlier. He finds it.
Tell goes to the town of Purgatory to cash in on his find. Orrin, Tyrel, Tom and Cap also arrive in town. The three brothers reunite. Cap decides to throw in with Tell and go gold mining. The others decide to continue in their round-up of maverick cattle. In the local saloon Cap meets an old flame Rosie (Ruth Roman) and they renew old acquaintances. While sitting down to dinner, Tell is prodded by a would be gunfighter, Kid Newton (Paul Koslo) whom he sends on his way with his tail between his legs.
On the way to the cattle, Tom, Orrin and Tyrel come upon a burned out wagon with the occupants all slain by the Indians. Tom finds a box containing the dead family's $1,000 savings which he wants to keep. The Sackett brothers want to send the money to a surviving daughter to which Tom reluctantly agrees. This begins a division between Tom and the brothers.
In Santa Fe, Pritts has used his daughter's charms into bringing Orrin under his control. He backs Orrin's bid to become sheriff. But Tom also wants the job, however Pritts brings up Tom's past and leaves him humiliated in front of the whole town. Tom defeated and totally embarrassed goes after Orrin in a jealous rage and.........................
Meanwhile, back on the mountain, Tell and Cap come upon a young lady Ange Kerry (Wendy Rastattar) who has been living alone fin a cave following the murder of her family by the Indians. Not only that, but the three Bigelow brothers, (Jack Elam, Slim Pickens and Gene Evans) have tracked Tell down with the help of Kid Newton. A battle ensues and Cap is wounded.
Tell manages to get Cap over the mountain and to safety in Purgatory. He also manages to have Ange wire Orrin and Tyrel for help. The Bigelows also arrive in town and challenge Tell to face them. Just as the "OK Corral" type showdown is about to begin, Orrin and Tyrel turn up and......................................
I was impressed by just how many of my favorite western performers turn up in this one. In addition to those mentioned above there was also old time Gene Autry sidekick Pat Buttram and Shug Fisher (sans studder) in small roles.
One of the better TV mini series.
Who Let Catlow Out of the Bag?
"Catlow" is an agreeable western from the pen of Louis L'Amour. It stars Yul Brynner in the lead role with Richard Crenna as the U.S. Marshal and an evil Leonard Nimoy as the dastardly villain.
Catlow (Brynner) and his gang, including his feisty girl friend Rosita (Dahlia Lavi), are running off a herd of maverick steers to market much to the chagrin of cattleman Parkman (Walter Coy) who has hired mercenary gunfighter Miller (Nimoy) to eliminate Catlow. Meanwhile Marshal Cowan (Crenna) is also on Catlow's trail. Cowan is ambushed by Apaches and wounded. Catlow saves him and nurses him back to health. During this time Miller surprises Catlow and sentences him to be hanged. But crafty old Catlow turns the tables on him and drives him off.
When Cowan tries to arrest his old Civil War buddy, Catlow flees to Mexico after selling the stolen cattle of course. As Cowan purses he comes upon a wounded Mexican soldier who just happen to be the nephew of the local commanding General (Jose Nieto) Taken to the General's home, Cowan is introduced to the general's niece Christina (Jo Ann Pflug) and a romance develops.
Catlow learns of a shipment of gold being brought in by mule train (Haaaa!). Cowan learns that the gold rightfully belongs to the U.S. government and vows to bring it back. Catlow has other ideas and manages to over power the mule train and make off with the loot with both Cowan and Miller in pursuit along with the Mexican Army..
The group is forced to cross a desert where there is little water. They come to a deserted settlement where they await an attack from the Apaches. During the night Rio (Michael Delano) the rebellious member of Catlow's gang and the self serving Rosita team up to steal the gold and the weapons (how did they do that?) of the others. As the Apaches ready for the attack, Catlow, Cowan and the others realize that they have no weapons. Just as the Apaches close in................................................................................
Yul Brynner plays Catlow against type. He plays him as a happy go lucky bandit with an ever present grin. He plays well off Crenna as the serious minded Marshal. Nimoy with his Steve McQueen type sawed off rifle makes a nasty villain. Look for his in the buff tussle with Brynner. Dahlia Lavi almost steals the picture as the devious fire brand of a girl friend. Jo Ann Pflug makes an elligant and cultured Christina. Watch for David Ladd as Caxton one of Catlow's faithful gang members.
The Horse Soldiers (1959)
Marching Along Together...............!
"The Horse Soldiers", as suggested by the title, is another John Ford cavalry movie, this time set during the American Civil War.
John Wayne stars as Colonel John Marlowe who leads a column of "Yankee" soldiers on a trek through Confederate lines with orders to destroy Southern rail roads and supply depots. Joining the group, which Marlowe objects to, is Major Henry Kindall (William Holden) an Army surgeon. Along the way the troops stop at the home of Southern Belle Hannah Hunter (Constance Towers). A staunch southerner, she nevertheless greets them and welcomes them into her home.
Hannah and her slave maid (Althea Gibson) secretly listen in on the officers laying out their plans. Kindall catches them in the act which forces Marlowe to take them along on the trek. Later they come under fire from a couple of southern deserters (Denver Pyle, Strother Martin) who are holding the local sheriff (Russell Simpson) prisoner. Marlowe cons the men and knocks both out turning them over to the Sheriff.
Several minor skirmishes occur along the way but scouts Cpl. Wilkie (Ken Curtis) and Dunker (Bing Russell) bring news of an approaching rebel army. To evade the Confederates, Deacon Clump (Hank Warden) leads Marlowe and his men through an isolated swamp. As they push further south towards Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the Rebels close in around them. A group of cadets from a Southern Military School join in with the regulars. A ferocious battle ensues and.................................................................................
The love interest between Wayne and Towers is rather unbelievable given her allegiance to the south, not to mention the large age difference between the two. This is clearly Wayne's film with Holden doing what he could with a supporting role. The film misses a character such as those portrayed by Victor McLaglan in the original Cavalry trilogy. Judson Pratt as SM Kirby tries his best in the role but comes up short.
Also in the cast which includes many John Ford stock company regulars include: Willis Bouchey ,Basil Ruysdael, Carlton Young, William Leslie Jack Pennick, Ron Hagerthy among others.
Lone Star (1952)
Surprisingly Dull Western!
With a line up that includes Clark Gable, Ava Gardner, Broderick Crawford and Lionel Barrymore, one would expect a better movie. Disappointing, there's little action until the final confrontation.
The story revolves around Texas...its it to be an independent Republic or is it to join the United States? Ex-President Andrew Jackson (Barrymore) asks cattleman Devereaux Burke (Gable) to seek out Sam Houston (Moroni Olsen) who has indicted his preference for the Republic side and sway him back to the annexation camp. Annexation would it seems, start a war between Texas and Mexico.
On his way to Austin, Burke crosses paths with the leader of the Republic camp Tom Crader (Crawford). The two fight off an Indian attack and become friends, Crader not knowing Burke's true identity. Into the mix comes Martha Ronda (Gardner) a newspaper editor, who has been crusading along with Crader for independence. Of course Burke becomes smitten with the beautiful Martha (who wouldn't).
With Crader and his followers in hot pursuit, Burke finally locates Houston among the Indians and learns that Houston is indeed in favor of annexation, not the other way around. Burke takes this information back to the President of Texas Anson Jones (Victor Sutherland) and his Congress. Skeptical at first President Jones agrees to wait for Houston's return before proceeding with the legislation to make Texas an independent state.
Crader masses his forces and marches on the Congress with Burke and a small force of supporters defending. A battle ensues and................................................
The ending is a bit of a flag waver and really doesn't make much sense in view of the violent conflict between the principals throughout the picture.
The Roaring West (1935)
15 Blazing Chapters of Wild West Action!
"The Roaring West" was another of those Saturday afternoon serials that were popular with the youngsters of the day. This one stars Buck Jones as Montana Larkin who is foreman at the Parker ranch.
Jones gets involved with a myriad of cliffhangers including: going over a cliff during the land rush sequence, getting caught in a burst dam flood while captive in a jail, getting dragged by a horse, getting caught in the middle of a stampede, going over a waterfall, being trapped in a burning building, gwetting caught in a log jam and the list goes on. Needless to say our hero managed to escape each peril and even save the heroine from fates worse than death.
The story revolves around a tract of land upon which is a secret gold mine. Montana's pard Jinglebob Morgan (Frank McGlynn Jr.) has a map showing the location of the mine. Bad guy Gil Gillespie (Walter Miller) and his gang which includes the likes of Charlie King, Tom London and Slim Whitaker also have designs on the free for the taking property. Gillespie manages to steal the map and lays claim to the property. But....the map was wrong. Jinglebob's brother Clem (Harlan Knight) arrives on the scene with a map showing the correct location of the mine.
The action goes back and forth as Gillespie tries to learn the location of the prized plot by kidnapping Clem a couple of times with Montana foiling him at every turn. Meanwhile, Montana is being pursued by the comely Mary Parker (Muriel Evans) the daughter of rancher Jim Parker (William Desmond). After several exchanges and "hard ridin' " Montana and company find the mine. Gillespie and his cohorts make one final attempt to wrest control of the mine and...................................................................................................
Jones again plays the "aw shucks" cowboy who admittedly has little experience with girls. Walter Miller again plays the villain. He was one of the most popular bad guys of the 1930s. Muriel Evans makes a fetching heroine. And it was nice to see veteran bad guys King, London and whitaker as members of Miller's gang. Tiny Skelton who plays the sissy voiced Happy has to be seen to be believed. An actor named Pat O'Brien (Not him) plays a ranch hand Steve.
Sharp eyed viewers will notice Jones wearing his gun on his left side during several of the "hard ridin" sequences.
On of the better serials of the period with plenty of action to go around.
Day of the Evil Gun (1968)
Gritty "Searchers" Type Western
"Day of the Evil Gun" is another Glenn Ford western in which he plays a "fast on the draw gunfighter". The theme is similar in nature to John Ford's "The Searchers" released two years earlier.
Lorne Warfield (Ford) a gunfighter, has been on the move for the past three years. He returns home to find that his ranch is in ruin and that Apaches have abducted his wife Angie (Barbara Babcock) and two young daughters. He also finds neighbor Owen Forbes (Arthur Kennedy) waiting for him. Forbes tells Warfield about the abduction and also informs him that he and Angie were planning to marry since she believed her husband to be dead.
Warfield decides to go after his family with Forbes accompanying him. Warfield learns that the wife of Reverend Yeardley (Ross Elliot), Lydia (Pilat Pellicer) had also been abducted by the Apache but had been released. He goes to her but does not gain any useful information. Sheriff Kelso (Paul Fix) cautions Warfield about going into Apache territory.
Warfield and Forbes come upon seemingly simple minded peddler Jimmy Noble (Dean Jagger) whom Warfield gets to admit that it was he who brought Lydia Yeardley home. Warfield and Forbes simply do not get along but tolerate each other in the search. They grapple with each other but continue onward.
The men come to a small town where Forbes is able to convince a gun running storekeeper (James Griffith) to point the way. Next they are captured by a band of Apaches and taken to the camp of bandito Deleon (Nico Minardos). Warfield and Forbes are staked out in the sun to await the buzzards . They escape from Deleon when Warfield lets it be known that he has money buried somewhere. Deleon frees them but is overpowered by the men. Deleon is killed by Forbes when he attempts to overpower him.
Forced to carry on without the help of Deleon, they come upon a small cholera infested town where the town doctor (Royal Dano) is burning houses and trying to tend to the sick. He is unable to help. Warfield and Forbes plod on until they come to an abandoned Morman village. There they find an army detachment headed by a Captain Addis (John Anderson) and Sgt. Parker (Harry Dean Stanton). It turns out that they are deserters aiming to sell two army ammunition wagons to the Apache in return for a stolen pay roll.
The Apache attack and make off with one of the wagons after Addis had blown up the other wagon. Warfield and Forbes follow the wagon tracks to the Indian village where unbelievably, they manage to rescue Angie and the girls. Returning to their home town Warfield turns in his gun to grocer Wilford (Parley Baer) to pay for clothing for his family. But Forbes is not ready to give up Angie and...................................................................................
Glenn Ford again plays the grim faced gunfighter, a part he had down pat. The vastly under rated Arthur Kennedy plays nicely off of Ford as the two compete for the same woman. Ford never fully explains where he has been for the past three years. Paul Fix and Dean Jagger are wasted here as both have only brief cameo-like roles. There is no real leading lady to speak of, an oddity.
A gripping edge of your seat western.
The Last Challenge (1967)
Deja Vu...All Over Again!
If you've seen Glenn Ford in "The Fastest Gun Alive" (1956) you will remember that movie had a "gunman challenging the fast drawing marshal" theme. Again in this story Ford plays a town marshal with a fast draw reputation. This tyime, young gunman Lot McGuire (Chad Everett) takes up the challenge.
McGuire happens upon Marshal Dan Blaine's (Ford) fishing camp and is invited to join Blaine. They share the catch of the day and become friends that is until McGuire learns that his friend is indeed the man he has come to challenge to a gunfight. McGuire leaves the camp vowing to meet Blaine in front of a crowd rather than where they are now.
When McGuire arrives in the town of Suwora he gets into a poker game. Gambler Squint Calloway (Gary Merrill) is winning all the hands. McGuire catches him cheating and kills him in the ensuing argument. Meanwhile, Blaine returns to town to his main squeeze Lisa Denton (Angie Dickenson) a saloon owner and madam.
McGuire continues to insist that Blaine meet him but Blaine tries to dissuade him as he has come to like the young gunman. The feeling appears to be mutual but McGuire is unrelenting in his goal to see who is faster on the draw. Lisa fearing that Blaine might be killed hires gruff gunman Scarnes (Jack Elam) to bushwhack McGuire. Scarnes fails and is killed by McGuire.
McGuire keeps silent on who hired Scarnes after Blaine recognizes the bushwhacker when they go to bury the outlaw. There they encounter a group of Indians led by Pretty Horse (Royal Dano) with whom they share a jug of whiskey. Still, McGuire sticks to his original purpose.
After both men have "one for the road" finally, the destined time arrives. Meanwhile Blaine has learned that it was Lisa who hired Scarnes to kill McGuire. Unable to change McGuire's mind, the two face each other and..........................................................
The increasing tension between the two gunmen is what keeps this story moving. Ford is good as the hardened ex-con Marshal Everett is a bit too pretty to be a cunning gunman but it doesn't hurt to have Angie Dickenson as the female lead either. Gary Merrill's part is all too brief. Jack Elam makes a slimy unshaven bushwhacker as only he could. And watch for ex Wagon Train (TV) alumni Frank McGrath as the livery stable owner.
Not as good as "The Fastest Gun Alive" but entertaining nonetheless.