Sherlock Holmes (1944) The Scarlet Claw
▸▸The Scarlet Claw is a 1944 American mystery thriller film based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes detective stories. Directed by Roy William Neill and starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, it is the eighth film of the Rathbone/Bruce series.
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are in Canada attending a conference on the occult, when Lord Penrose receives a message that his wife Lady Penrose has been murdered in the small village of La Mort Rouge. Holmes and Watson are about to return home when Holmes receives a telegram from Lady Penrose, issued before her death, asking for help as she fears for her life. Holmes decides to investigate her death.
Holmes and Watson arrive at the village and discover that the inhabitants are all convinced that the murder is the work of the legendary monster of La Mort Rouge, which roams the marshes around the village. The “monster” is even later seen by Dr. Watson, who describes it as “the mostly ghastly apparition… like a roaring furnace spitting fire in all directions”.
Holmes, however, is skeptical, and recognizes Lady Penrose as Lillian Gentry, a former actress, who was involved in a famous murder case several years before when actor Alistair Ramson killed another actor in a jealous rage over her. Ramson was believed to have been killed in a prison escape two years before, but now Holmes believes that Ramson – a master of disguise – is living in the village, having created a new identity, perhaps several, for himself.
Holmes then turns his attention to Judge Brisson, another inhabitant of the village with a connection to the case, as he passed sentence on Ramson. Despite Holmes’ warnings, Brisson is murdered. Holmes tracks Ramson down to his hideout and discovers there is a third person that Ramson is preparing to kill. While Ramson is holding Holmes at gunpoint, Watson blunders in and Ramson escapes, albeit before Holmes can learn who Ramson’s final target is.
Holmes learns that the third victim is to be Journet, the local inn-keeper, formerly a prison guard. However Journet has gone into hiding. Ramson then kills Marie, Journet’s daughter, for not revealing her father’s hideout. Holmes finds Journet and convinces him to spring a trap for the murderer.
Holmes and Watson announce that they are returning to Britain, and Journet comes out of hiding and lets it be known that he will be going to a church across the marsh to offer a prayer for Marie. Ramson attacks Journet out in the marsh, only to find that it is Holmes in disguise. The two men struggle, but Ramson escapes only to be killed by Journet with the murderer’s own weapon, a five-pronged garden weeder.
Directed by Roy William Neill
Screenplay by Paul Gangelin
Based on Characters by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Produced by Roy William Neill
Restored and upscaled by moonflix, LLC
Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes
Nigel Bruce as Dr. John Watson
Gerald Hamer as Alistair Ramson
Paul Cavanagh as William, Lord Penrose
Arthur Hohl as Emile Journet (Hohl also dubbed over Basil Rathbone’s voice in a scene where Holmes is disguised as Journet)
Kay Harding as Marie Journet
Miles Mander as Judge Brisson
David Clyde as Sergeant Thompson
Ian Wolfe as Drake
Victoria Horne as Nora
Gertrude Astor as Lady Lillian Gentry Penrose
Original release date:
May 26, 1944