Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942)

65 mins | Drama | 18 September 1942

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HISTORY

The working title of this film was Sherlock Holmes Saves London . The film begins with the following written prologue: "SHERLOCK HOLMES, the immortal character of fiction created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is ageless, invincible and unchanging. In solving significant problems of the present day he remains--as ever--the supreme master of deductive reasoning." The Sir Arthur Conan Doyle short story from which this film is based was first published in the United States in Collier's Weekly (22 Sep 1917) and is also found in the collection His Last Bow (London, 1917). Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror was the first in a series of Sherlock Holmes movies made by Universal in the 1940s, all starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce.
       According to HR , in Mar 1942, Universal paid $300,000 for a seven-year lease on the film rights to twenty-one Sherlock Holmes stories controlled by the Doyle estate. This agreement specifically excluded the four Sherlock Holmes novels, and did not include radio or stage rights to the short stories. For the Universal series, "Holmes" and "Watson" were transplanted from Victorian England to the twentieth century. Made during the war years, the Universal pictures had the famed detective and his physician companion fighting the Axis powers, as well as master criminal minds. Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror was the only film in this series not directed by Roy William Neill. In all, twelve Sherlock Holmes films were made for the Universal series, which ended in 1946 with Dressed to Kill (See Entry).
       HR reported that writer Bob Jackson ... More Less

The working title of this film was Sherlock Holmes Saves London . The film begins with the following written prologue: "SHERLOCK HOLMES, the immortal character of fiction created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is ageless, invincible and unchanging. In solving significant problems of the present day he remains--as ever--the supreme master of deductive reasoning." The Sir Arthur Conan Doyle short story from which this film is based was first published in the United States in Collier's Weekly (22 Sep 1917) and is also found in the collection His Last Bow (London, 1917). Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror was the first in a series of Sherlock Holmes movies made by Universal in the 1940s, all starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce.
       According to HR , in Mar 1942, Universal paid $300,000 for a seven-year lease on the film rights to twenty-one Sherlock Holmes stories controlled by the Doyle estate. This agreement specifically excluded the four Sherlock Holmes novels, and did not include radio or stage rights to the short stories. For the Universal series, "Holmes" and "Watson" were transplanted from Victorian England to the twentieth century. Made during the war years, the Universal pictures had the famed detective and his physician companion fighting the Axis powers, as well as master criminal minds. Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror was the only film in this series not directed by Roy William Neill. In all, twelve Sherlock Holmes films were made for the Universal series, which ended in 1946 with Dressed to Kill (See Entry).
       HR reported that writer Bob Jackson was originally assigned to write the screenplay for this production, but his contribution to the released film has not been determined. Early production charts include Marjorie Lord in the cast, but she did not appear in the film. Modern sources state that Lord was replaced in the role of Holmes's chauffeur "Jill Grandis" by Hillary Brooke. Modern sources also identify Universal character actor Edgar Barrier as the offscreen radio voice of "The Voice of Terror." For additional information on the series and other films featuring the Arthur Conan Doyle characters, including the two Rathbone-Bruce films made at Twentieth Century-Fox prior to the Universal series, consult the Series Index and see the entries for Sherlock Holmes and The Hound of the Baskervilles in the AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 (F3.4020 and F3.2009). More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
22 Aug 1942.
---
Daily Variety
8 May 1942.
---
Daily Variety
4 Sep 42
p. 3.
Film Daily
16 Sep 42
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Feb 42
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Mar 42
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
5 May 42
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
6 May 42
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
8 May 42
p. 11, 15
Hollywood Reporter
27 May 42
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Sep 42
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
12 Sep 42
p. 897.
New York Times
10 Sep 42
p. 9.
Variety
9 Sep 42
p. 14.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
PRODUCER
Assoc prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
COSTUMES
Gowns
MUSIC
Mus dir
SOUND
[Sd] tech
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv
SOURCES
LITERARY
Inspired by the short story "His Last Bow: The War Service of Sherlock Holmes" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in Strand (Sep 1917).
MUSIC
Selections from Symphony No. 5 by Ludwig van Beethoven.
DETAILS
Series:
Alternate Title:
Sherlock Holmes Saves London
Release Date:
18 September 1942
Production Date:
6 May--23 May 1942
Copyright Claimant:
Universal Pictures Co., inc.
Copyright Date:
14 August 1942
Copyright Number:
LP11518
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
65
Length(in feet):
5,852
Country:
United States
PCA No:
8457
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

London is plagued for months by the German radio broadcast "The Voice of Terror," which taunts the people of England with tales of German sabotage. Sir Evan Barham of the British Intelligence Inner Council calls upon famed private detective Sherlock Holmes and his associate, Dr. Watson, to help uncover the sabotage ring. Holmes tells the council that he believes that the German broadcasts are merely a "smoke-screen" for something bigger. That night, Gavin, one of Holmes's operatives, stumbles into the detective's flat, fatally wounded with a German dagger in his back. Before he dies, though, Gavin utters the word "Christopher." Later, Holmes and Watson go to the Limehouse district of London, where they meet with Gavin's wife Kitty. Learning that her husband was killed by Nazi spies, Kitty convinces her friends to search all of London to find the meaning of "Christopher." The next day, Holmes and Watson return to the council's office and learn that Sir Evan was almost killed by an assassin's bullet. Holmes tells the council that he has determined that "The Voice of Terror" is actually recorded on phonograph records in England, but broadcast from Germany. Using a tip from Kitty, Holmes and Watson go to the old Christopher Docks, where they are followed by Sir Anthony Lloyd of the council. There, the three men are captured by a group of Nazi spies led by a man named Meade. They are saved, however, by Kitty's friends, but Meade manages to escape through a trap door to a waiting speedboat. Later, pretending to be a common thief, Kitty manages to ingratiate herself with Meade. Meanwhile, ... +


London is plagued for months by the German radio broadcast "The Voice of Terror," which taunts the people of England with tales of German sabotage. Sir Evan Barham of the British Intelligence Inner Council calls upon famed private detective Sherlock Holmes and his associate, Dr. Watson, to help uncover the sabotage ring. Holmes tells the council that he believes that the German broadcasts are merely a "smoke-screen" for something bigger. That night, Gavin, one of Holmes's operatives, stumbles into the detective's flat, fatally wounded with a German dagger in his back. Before he dies, though, Gavin utters the word "Christopher." Later, Holmes and Watson go to the Limehouse district of London, where they meet with Gavin's wife Kitty. Learning that her husband was killed by Nazi spies, Kitty convinces her friends to search all of London to find the meaning of "Christopher." The next day, Holmes and Watson return to the council's office and learn that Sir Evan was almost killed by an assassin's bullet. Holmes tells the council that he has determined that "The Voice of Terror" is actually recorded on phonograph records in England, but broadcast from Germany. Using a tip from Kitty, Holmes and Watson go to the old Christopher Docks, where they are followed by Sir Anthony Lloyd of the council. There, the three men are captured by a group of Nazi spies led by a man named Meade. They are saved, however, by Kitty's friends, but Meade manages to escape through a trap door to a waiting speedboat. Later, pretending to be a common thief, Kitty manages to ingratiate herself with Meade. Meanwhile, Holmes tells Watson that he believes there is a spy on the council, and Kitty later tells them that Meade plans to go to Sir Evan's country estate that night. While Meade hides in the dark, Holmes and Sir Evan watch a German plane attempt to land, but gunshots fired by Sir Evan disrupt the Nazi rendezvous. Later, "The Voice of Terror" announces that there will be a German aerial attack on the northeast coast of England. Sir Evan insists that the British defenses be moved to that area, but Holmes warns the council that the broadcast could be a bluff, as the "Voice" always broadcasts during an German attack, not before one. After one of his operatives traces Meade and Kitty to the south coast of England, Holmes forces the council to go there with him. With the support of British troopers, Holmes captures Meade and a group of German soldiers stationed in an abandoned church. Holmes then tells the stunned gathering that Sir Evan is "The Voice of Terror," and is actually a German spy named Heinrich von Bork who has been posing as Sir Evan for twenty years, as the real Sir Evan was executed as a prisoner of war during World War I. Holmes then informs the spies that the German invasion force has been destroyed. The angry Meade shoots and fatally wounds Kitty, but is killed himself as he attempts to escape. The British gentlemen then stand around the murdered Kitty and swear that her heroic death will not be in vain. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.