Original title: Sherlock Holmes und das Halsband des Todes
Directors: Terence Fisher, Frank Winterstein
Starring: Christopher Lee, Senta Berger, Hans Sohnkerand, Thorley Walters, Hans Nielson
Music: Martin Slavin
Based on the novel, ‘The Valley Of Fear’, by Arthur Conan Doyle
Sherlock Holmes And The Deadly Necklace is a pretty good addition to the Holmes films. It is a bit different though. This German film could be classified as a ‘Krimi’. It has that quintessential sixties German cinema style, and the distinctive jazzy soundtrack (this time provided by Martin Slavin). But Holmes’ stories are perfect fodder for this type of film, and for most of the running time, this one doesn’t let us down. However, the last ten minutes slow to a crawl, and I was wondering if there was more to the story I had missed.
The story concerns Holmes’ (Christopher Lee) ongoing battle with Professor James Moriarty (Hans Sohnkerand). In this version, Moriarty is a Professor of archaeology, and a model citizen, and the police refuse to believe he is a criminal mastermind. In fact, Moriarty is in line to be knighted. Holmes on the other hand is derided for his obsession in bringing Moriarty to justice. This time, the blundering Scotland Yard detective, who refuses to accept Holmes theories is Inspector Cooper (Hans Nielsen), who is Lestrade in every aspect but name.
The Deadly Necklace of the title is a valuable treasure that once belonged to Cleopatra. Naturally, Moriarty wants to get his hands on it, and has hired a few thugs to do it for him. The necklace is in the possession of Peter Blackburn (Wolfgang Lukschy – for fans of Spaghetti Westerns, you may remember Lukschy as John Baxter in A Fistful Of Dollars). Blackburn was one of the men who worked with Moriarty in Egypt, when the tomb of Cleopatra was found. Blackburn is a paranoid wreck, who believes that men are trying to kill him for the necklace. No one believes him; not the local police or his young wife, Ellen (Senta Berger, who is wasted in this movie). It is not before long, that Blackburn’s paranoid suspicions are confirmed when he is attacked by two of Moriarty’s men in his own home. It is once again up to Sherlock Holmes, to unravel all the pieces and put the case together, but as usual, it almost seems as if he knows the answers, from reading The Times newspaper in the morning. The rest of us, are playing ‘catchup’.
Thorley Walters plays Doctor Watson, as a clumsy buffoon. It’s a likeable performance, and great to watch, but surely Watson’s constant clumsiness must aggravate Holmes. Watson, as a character, can be bewildered by Holmes methods and intellect, but shouldn’t interfere with the investigation through acts of thoughtlessness.
One of the co-directors, Terence Fisher was one of men behind the success of Hammer films. He had directed The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957), Dracula (or the The Horror Of Dracula for American readers) (1958), and one of the best Sherlock Holmes movies, the 1959 adaptation of The Hound Of The Baskervilles.
And Fisher isn’t the only one to have a previous link with Holmes. In the same Hammer version of Baskervilles, Christopher Lee played Sir Henry Baskerville. Lee would also continue his association with the Holmes stories with performances in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970), where he played Mycroft Holmes (Sherlock Holmes older brother), and in Incident at Victoria Falls (1991), and Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady (1992), both of which he played Sherlock once again.
As I mentioned at the top, this isn’t a bad Sherlock Holmes movie, but it is a German production and has been dubbed into English. Even Christopher Lee has been dubbed by another actor, which can be a bit off-putting, as Lee has a very distinctive voice. But if you are a Holmes fan, this is a small quibble and you will enjoy the movie. If you aren’t a fan of the Holmes movies, I doubt that this will enthrall you.
The illustration of Christopher Lee as Sherlock Holmes at the top is from Pat Art.