This above-average entry in Universal's Sherlock Holmes series is loosely based on the Conan Doyle story The Six Napoleons. On this occasion, Holmes (Basil Rathbone) and Watson (Nigel Bruce) are assigned to guard the priceless Borgia Pearl, a "cursed" gem that has inspired scores of murders over the years. Their principal antagonist is master criminal Giles Conover (Miles Mander), who, though he is constantly thwarted in his efforts to pilfer the pearl, manages to discredit Holmes in the eyes of the public. Conover's chief assistant is the beautiful Naomi Drake (Evelyn Ankers), who adopts several clever disguises in the course of the action. Complicating matters is a series of seemingly unrelated murders, in which the victims are found with their backs broken, lying amidst piles of shattered China. Holmes deduces the connection between the murders and the Borgia Pearl, and in so doing nearly becomes the latest victim of The Creeper (Rondo Hatton), a horribly disfigured homicidal maniac. In addition to providing Basil Rathbone and Evelyn Keyes endless opportunities for bravura disguise scenes, The Pearl of Death launched the short starring career of the tragic Rondo Hatton, a real-life victim of the disfiguring disease known as acromegaly.
by Hal Erickson synopsis