“A Study in Scarlet” (1933) is a drama film directed by Edwin L. Marin and starring Reginald Owen as Sherlock Holmes and Anna May Wong as Mrs. Pyke. The title comes from Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel of the same name, the first in the Holmes series, but the screenplay by Robert Florey was original.
Despite her billing, Anna May Wong only appears on screen for less than ten minutes. Reginald Owen had played Dr. Watson in Sherlock Holmes the previous year; Owen was one of only four actors to play both Holmes and Watson (Jeremy Brett played Watson on stage in the United States prior to adopting the mantle of Holmes on British television, Carleton Hobbs played both roles in British radio adaptations while Patrick Macnee played both roles in US television movies).
Directed by Edwin L. Marin, written by Robert Florey (screenplay) and Arthur Conan Doyle (novel’s title), starring Reginald Owen, June Clyde and Anna May Wong.
Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) pretends to be a Nazi spy to aid scientist Dr. Franz Tobel (William Post Jr.) and his new invention, a bombsight, in escaping a Gestapo trap in Switzerland. Holmes and Franz fly to London, where Holmes places him under the protection of his friend, Dr. Watson (Nigel Bruce). The scientist slips away against Holmes’ instructions for a secret reunion with his fiancee, Charlotte Eberli (Kaaren Verne), and gives her an envelope containing a coded message. He tells Charlotte to give it to Holmes if anything should happen to him. Leaving Charlotte’s apartment, an attempt to abduct him by German spies is foiled by a passing London bobby.
Tobel successfully demonstrates the bombsight for Sir Reginald Bailey (Holmes Herbert) and observers from Bomber Command. Tobel, now under the protection of Inspector Lestrade (Dennis Hoey) and Scotland Yard, tells Sir Reginald that, although willing to provide the British with his bombsight, only he will know its secret and has a complex plan for its manufacture to keep the secret safe. He separates his invention into four parts and gives one to each of four Swiss scientists, known only to him, to construct separately. Soon after, Holmes receives a call from Lestrade telling him that Tobel has disappeared. Holmes goes to Charlotte’s apartment, where he receives the Tobel’s envelope. Rather than the coded message, the message inside is from Holmes’ nemesis, master criminal Professor Moriarty (Lionel Atwill).
Disguising himself as Ram Singh, one of Moriarty’s old henchmen, Holmes searches the Soho district for information. He encounters two henchmen, but is captured by Moriarty. Holmes is put into the false bottom of a sea chest, but is rescued when Watson and Lestrade observe the henchmen struggling with its unusual weight. Holmes returns to Charlotte’s apartment to search for clues to the message’s contents. He finds impressions of the message left on a notepad page by immersing it in “fluorescent salts… and then photograph(ing) it by ultraviolet light.” Holmes breaks the first three lines of a cunningly modified alphabet substitution code, which are the identities and locations of three of the scientists, but unable to break the fourth line, which has been altered as an added precaution, soon learns that Moriarty has murdered all three and stolen their parts. Meanwhile, Moriarty, also unable to break the fourth line, tortures Tobel for the name of the fourth scientist. Holmes deduces the change in the code and breaks the fourth line, identifying the scientist as Professor Frederick Hoffner (Henry Victor).
Moriarty accidentally deciphers the code. He sends agents to abduct Hoffner, who has the brilliance to put the four parts together should Tobel not recover from torture. The German agents bring the scientist, who is actually Holmes in disguise again, to Moriarty’s seemingly undetectable stronghold. Unknown to Moriarty, Holmes had the real Hoffner attach an apparatus to their car that drips luminous paint (which Watson helped prepare) at regular intervals. Holmes uses Moriarty’s vanity and pride to trick him into slowly bleeding Holmes to death “drop by drop”, to stall for time. Holmes is saved at the last minute, however, by Watson and Lestrade, who with Hoffner’s help, successfully followed the drops. Scotland Yard apprehends the spies, but Moriarty escapes. When he attempts to complete his escape through a secret passageway, he falls sixty feet to his death; Holmes has discovered the criminal’s hidden trap door and left it open.
Piano player Al (Tom Neal) is bitter about having to work in a New York nightclub. After his girlfriend Sue (Claudia Drake) leaves to seek fame in Hollywood, he decides to join her. With little money, he has to hitchhike his way across the country. In Arizona, bookie Charles Haskell Jr. (Edmund MacDonald) gives him a ride in his convertible. Haskell has Al pass him pills several times along the way. That night, Al is driving while Haskell sleeps, when a rainstorm forces Al to pull over to put up the top. Unable to rouse Haskell, Al opens the passenger-side door. Haskell falls out and strikes his head on the ground. Al then realizes the bookie is dead. Fearful that the police will believe he killed Haskell, Al dumps the body off the side of the road, takes Haskell’s money, clothes and identification, then drives away. After spending the night in a motel, Al picks up another hitchhiker, Vera (Ann Savage), at a gas station. By sheer bad luck, it turns out that the femme fatale had also been picked up by Haskell earlier. She scratched him deeply in the arm and got out after he tried to become too friendly. When Al identifies himself as Haskell, she blackmails him by threatening to turn him in.
In Hollywood, they rent an apartment, posing as Mr. and Mrs. Haskell to provide an address when they go to sell the car. However, Vera learns from a newspaper that Haskell’s wealthy father is near death and looking for his son, who ran away as a youth after accidentally injuring his friend. Vera demands that Al impersonate Haskell, but Al balks at this notion, pointing out that he knows nothing about the dead man. Back in the apartment, Vera gets drunk, and they begin arguing. She threatens to call the police, running into the bedroom with the telephone and locking the door. She falls into a stupor on the bed, with the telephone cord tangled around her neck. Al tries to break the cord. Then, when he breaks down the door, he sees that he has accidentally strangled her. He goes hitchhiking again, but is picked up by the police.
Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer, produced by Leon Fromkess, written by Martin Goldsmith and Martin Mooney, starring Tom Neal as Al Roberts, Ann Savage as Vera, Claudia Drake as Sue Harvey, Edmund MacDonald as Charles Haskell Jr, Tim Ryan as Nevada Diner Proprietor, Esther Howard as Holly, Diner Waitress, Pat Gleason as Joe, Trucker at Diner and Don Brodie as the Used Car Salesman.
Stars: Charles Boyer, Hillary Brooke, Marcia Henderson
Director: Robert Florey
A well-known actor encounters a woman attempting suicide at the ledge of a bridge. He persuades her to let him put her up at a hotel for the night, but he accidentally provides fake stage money for her room.
Thank you to PizzaFlix