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Terror by Night
Director: Roy William Neill (Dir)
Release Date:   1 Feb 1946
Production Date:   mid-Oct--late Oct 1945
Duration (in mins):   60
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Cast:   Basil Rathbone (Sherlock Holmes)  
    Nigel Bruce (Doctor John Watson)  
    Alan Mowbray (Major Duncan-Bleek, also known as Col. Sebastian Moran)  
    Dennis Hoey (Inspector Lestrade)  
    Renee Godfrey (Vivian Vedder)  
    Frederic Worlock (Professor Kilbane)  
    Mary Forbes (Lady Margaret Carstairs)  
    Skelton Knaggs (Sands)  
    Billy Bevan (Train attendant)  
    Geoffrey Steele (Ronald Carstairs)  
    Leyland Hodgson (Conductor)  
    Boyd Davis (McDonald)  
    Janet Murdoch (Mrs. Shallcross)  
    Gerald Hamer (Mr. Shallcross)  
    Harry Cording (Mock)  
    Charles Knight (Guard)  
    Gilbert Allen (Steward)  
    Colin Kenny (Constable)  
    Tom Pilkington (Attendant)  
    Bobby Wissler (Mock, Jr.)  

Summary: In London, Vivian Vedder visits coffin makers Mock and Son to verify the completion of a coffin for her mother's body, which she is transporting to Scotland that evening on the Scotch Express. That night at Victoria Station, detective Sherlock Holmes meets Ronald Carstairs, who, with his mother, Lady Margaret, has hired Holmes to protect their most valued possession, the infamous Star of Rhodesia diamond, during their return journey to Edinburgh on the Express. Ronald admits that Holmes is correct in assuming an attempt was made to steal the bauble during his and Lady Margaret's visit to London. While waiting for his partner, Dr. John Watson, Holmes observes the arrival of Scotland Yard's Inspector Lestrade, who claims to be going north for a fishing vacation. Holmes quickly deduces that Lestrade is actually making the trip as official protection for the renowned gem. As the Express pulls out of the station, the late-arriving Watson just manages to board the train with a companion, Major Duncan-Bleek, whom the doctor introduces to Holmes as a member of his club. After the train is on its way, Holmes and Watson examine the 423- carat stone with Ronald and Lady Margaret. Later in the dining car, as Lady Margaret waits for Ronald, Holmes finds an anonymous card on his plate with a written warning. Meanwhile, Lestrade, in his compartment next to the Carstairs', hears a strange noise and upon investigating with Holmes, discovers Ronald's dead body and the empty jewelbox. Watson finds no marks on the body except for a small scratch, and Holmes suspects that Ronald was poisoned. Lestrade and Holmes begin questioning the passengers and note that Lady Margaret is more concerned over the theft of her stone than the murder of her son. Upon discovering that Vivian is in mourning, Lestrade and Holmes demure from interrogating her and turn to questioning Professor Kilbane, a mathematics instructor, who resents their inquiries. When Lady Margaret is discovered secretly attempting to enter her restricted compartment, Watson and Duncan-Bleek suspect that she has arranged to have the jewel stolen to collect the insurance. Holmes, however, postulates that the crime reflects the interests of the cunning Colonel Sebastian Moran, a cohort of Moriarty, Holmes's criminal archrival. While Lestrade questions Lady Margaret further, Holmes begins following Kilbane toward the luggage compartment. The professor abruptly disappears and when Holmes comes across an open passenger door, he is suddenly pushed through the door which is then locked behind him. Holmes narrowly escapes being hit by an oncoming express, then breaks the glass in the door to get safely back inside. Holmes and Watson proceed to the luggage compartment, where they inspect the Vedder coffin, which is far too large for the lightweight body inside. After more exploration, Holmes locates a secret compartment under the body, large enough for a small adult, which leads the detective to the conclusion that two people are involved in the crime. When Holmes and Lestrade question Vivian, she admits that a man paid her to transport the coffin. Watson and Duncan-Bleek join the group and Holmes astounds them all by revealing the Star has not been stolen, but was in his possesion the entire time as he used the opportunity of examining it earlier to switch the genuine stone with an imitation. Lestrade quickly takes possession of the authentic jewel. Later, when Holmes and Watson return to the luggage compartment, they find the porter has been murdered by a tiny poisonous dart made out of a dissolving substance. Meanwhile, unknown to the others, Duncan-Bleek is joined in his compartment by Sands, a rough street criminal who came aboard via the coffin's hidden compartment and is the major's cohort in the crime. Duncan-Bleek informs Sands their stone is a fake and sends him to get the gem from Lestrade, but after Sands knocks out the investigator, Duncan-Bleek kills Sand using an airgun with the poisonous darts and takes the Star. Holmes and Lestrade discover Sands's body just as the train makes an unexpected stop in a small village to pick up several policemen led by Inspector McDonald of the Scottish police, who have come aboard to take over the investigation. Lestrade, still groggy from being beaten, asks Holmes and Watson to deal with the inspector. To Watson's amazement, Holmes informs McDonald that Duncan-Bleek is really Sebastian Moran, but when McDonald arrests Duncan-Bleek and the police lead him away, the lights on the train are extinguished and a scuffle ensues. Holmes recaptures Duncan-Bleek by throwing a coat over him in the darkness, and the officers hustle away their prisoner. As the train departs, Holmes reveals that McDonald and his men were imposters in league with Duncan-Bleek, whom Holmes had secretly handcuffed and hidden under the table during the scuffle. McDonald's prisoner is actually Lestrade, whose face was obscured by the coat. With the capture of the thieves, Holmes then admits that he has pocketed the valuable Star of Rhodesia. 

Production Company: Universal Pictures Company, Inc.  
Distribution Company: Universal Pictures Company, Inc.  
Director: Roy William Neill (Dir)
  Melville Shyer (Asst dir)
  Raymond Kessler (Dial dir)
Producer: Howard Benedict (Exec prod)
  Roy William Neill (Prod)
Writer: Frank Gruber (Scr)
Photography: Maury Gertsman (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: John B. Goodman (Art dir)
  Abraham Grossman (Art dir)
Film Editor: Saul A. Goodkind (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Russell A. Gausman (Set dec)
  Carl Lawrence (Set dec)
Costumes: Vera West (Gowns)
Music: Milton Rosen (Mus dir)
Sound: Bernard B. Brown (Dir of sd)
  Jack A. Bolger Jr. (Tech)
Make Up: Jack P. Pierce (Dir of makeup)
  Carmen Dirigo (Hairstylist)
Country: United States
Series: Sherlock Holmes

Source Text: Based on characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Authors: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Universal Pictures Co., Inc. 8/2/1946 dd/mm/yyyy LP182

PCA NO: 11349
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Recording

Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Detective
Subjects (Major): Diamonds
  Jewel thieves
  Police inspectors
  Private detectives
Subjects (Minor): Coffins
  False accusations
  Impersonation and imposture
  London (England)
  Mothers and sons
  Scotland Yard (London, England)
  Undertakers and undertaking
  Victoria Station (London, England)

Note: In Terror By Night actor Dennis Hoey returned to the role of "Inspector Lestrade" after not appearing in two previous Sherlock Holmes films. This was his last appearance in the series. Although the onscreen credits say "adapted from a story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle," the source has not been identified and it is possible that only the characters were used for this film. For additional information on the Sherlock Holmes series and other films featuring the Arthur Conan Doyle characters, please consult the Series Index and see the entry above for Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror and the entries for Sherlock Holmes and The Hound of the Baskervilles in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.4020 and F3.2009. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   2 Feb 1946.   
Daily Variety   24 Jan 46   p. 3.
Film Daily   4 Feb 46   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Oct 45   p. 19.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Oct 45   p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Jan 46   p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   2 Feb 46   p. 2830.
New York Times   9 Feb 46   p. 9.
Variety   30 Jan 46   p. 12.

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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.
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