Story: Whenever there is a case that baffles the local authorities, Scotland Yard calls in backup in the form of Sherlock Holmes Arthur Wontner), master detective. Holmes has just arrived on the scene of one such crime, a murder that claimed the life of a bank guard, while he was inside the vault, no less. This might sound like a simple heist turned fatal, but no money was stolen from the vault, which is what has gotten the attention of Holmes. He believes the murder to be the work of the evil Moriarty, given the mysteries involved with the case. While Holmes investigates the murder, Dr. Watson (Ian Fleming) reconnects with an old friend and in the process, finds himself drawn into a world of high stakes card games and perhaps organized crime. Is Moriarty behind this strange murder and if so, can Holmes prove it in time to prevent whatever is being planned next?
Entertainment Value: I found Sherlock Holmes’ Fatal Hour to be a solid, no frills murder mystery that doesn’t have much style, but delivers on the essentials. The narrative weaves two stories around, with Holmes and Watson embroiled in their own affairs and of course, the two intersect at times to ramp up the thrills. The little twists and turns are not as polished or impactful as some of Holmes’ other cases, but I was keen to see how the pieces went together here. I think the writing is solid and provides both a good escalation and conclusion. Not the kind of reveals that will have you mind blown, though the bases are covered logic wise, to be sure. I suppose the dry atmosphere kind of bogged things down a touch at times, as there isn’t a lot of energy to this production and as such, the pace seems slow, even at only 84 minutes. At the same time, there is enough entertainment to recommend the movie, especially to Sherlock Holmes fanatics.
He would bring the legendary detective to life multiple times on screen, but this was Arthur Wontner’s debut as Sherlock Holmes. I think he has a great look to play the detective, though I suppose we all have own vision of what Holmes looks like. I also liked that Wontner brings some arrogance to the role, as it not only suits the character well, but adds a little spice to the movie and in this case, that little spice added a lot. His performance is good and aside from the spark of arrogance, remains understated and straight forward. Not the kind of turn that would stand out perhaps, but Wontner is rock solid here and makes a good Sherlock Holmes. Ian Fleming is also good as Watson and he’s given some good chances to show off his talent, which he does. The two have chemistry as a crime fighting duo as well, so it is no surprise they’d both return to the roles. The cast also includes Jane Welsh, Leslie Perrins, Charles Paton, and Minnie Rayner.
The Disc: The movie looks solid in this release from The Film Detective, with a fairly clean print and an overall clear visual experience. Some softness comes in, but for a movie from 1931, that is no surprise and not a knock at all. The contrast is smooth and consistent, so combined with the solid print condition, this is a good treatment. The extras include an audio commentary track with author Jennifer Churchill, who focuses mostly on background information on the cast & crew. She also goes over some production details and of course, the source material itself. You can also check out an eight minute interview with Sam Sherman, listen to a radio broadcast recreation of Sherlock Holmes and the Blue Carbuncle, and two short films A Black Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes Baffled. I appreciated the inclusion of the shorts and you can click each title to read my reviews of those.