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Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror
Alternate Title: Sherlock Holmes Saves London
Director: John Rawlins (Dir)
Release Date:   18 Sep 1942
Production Date:   6 May--23 May 1942
Duration (in mins):   65
Duration (in feet):   5,852
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Cast:   Basil Rathbone (Sherlock Holmes)  
    Nigel Bruce (Doctor Watson)  
    Evelyn Ankers (Kitty)  
    Reginald Denny (Sir Evan Barham [alias of Heinrich von Bork])  
    Thomas Gomez (Meade)  
    Henry Daniell ([Sir] Anthony Lloyd)  
    Montagu Love (Gen. Jerome Lawford)  
    Olaf Hytten ([Admiral Sir John] Fabian Prentiss)  
    Leyland Hodgson (Capt. Ronald Shore)  
    Arthur Blake (Crosbie)  
    Harry Stubbs (Taxi driver)  
    Mary Gordon (Mrs. Hudson)  
    Robert O. Davis (Schieler)  
    Donald Stuart (Grady)  
    Leslie Denison (London bobby)  
    Robert Barron (Gavin)  
    Alec Harford (Grimes)  
    John Rogers (Duggan)  
    Harry Cording (Camberwell)  
    Herbert Evans (Smithson)  
    John Wilde (Heinrich)  
    Arthur Stenning (English officer)  
    George Sherwood (London cab driver)  
    Hillary Brooke (Jill Grandis)  
    Charles Jordan    

Summary: 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. 

Production Company: Universal Pictures Company, Inc.  
Distribution Company: Universal Pictures Company, Inc.  
Director: John Rawlins (Dir)
  Joseph McDonough (Asst dir)
Producer: Howard Benedict (Assoc prod)
Writer: Lynn Riggs (Scr)
  John Bright (Scr)
  Robert D. Andrews (Adpt)
Photography: Woody Bredell (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Jack Otterson (Art dir)
  Martin Obzina (Assoc)
Film Editor: Russell Schoengarth (Film ed)
Set Decoration: R. A. Gausman (Set dec)
  Edward R. Robinson (Assoc)
Costumes: Vera West (Gowns)
Music: Charles Previn (Mus dir)
  Frank Skinner (Mus)
Sound: Bernard B. Brown (Sd dir)
  Robert Pritchard ([Sd] tech)
Production Misc: Tom McKnight (Tech adv)
Country: United States
Series: Sherlock Holmes

Music: Selections from Symphony No. 5 by Ludwig van Beethoven.
Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
Source Text: Inspired by the short story "His Last Bow: The War Service of Sherlock Holmes" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in Strand (Sep 1917).
Authors: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Universal Pictures Co., Inc. 14/8/1942 dd/mm/yyyy LP11518

PCA NO: 8457
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Recording

 
Genre: Drama
  Drama
Sub-Genre: Detective
  World War II
 
Subjects (Major): London (England)
  Nazis
  Private detectives
  Sabotage
  Spies
  World War II
 
Subjects (Minor): Barmaids
  English
  Escapes
  Ex-convicts
  Fights
  Great Britain. Intelligence Service
  Impersonation and imposture
  Knives
  London (England)--Limehouse
  Maids
  Murder
  Physicians
  Pubs
  Radio broadcasting
  Secret passageways
  Violinists
  Waterfronts
  Widows

Note: 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 above).
       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). 

Bibliographic Sources:   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.

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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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