Study in Scarlet (1933)

Genres - Mystery  |   Sub-Genres - Detective Film, Whodunit  |   Release Date - May 14, 1933 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 71 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

Having nothing in common with the famous Arthur Conan Doyle story other than its title and lead characters, A Study in Scarlet is a rather disappointing Sherlock Holmes adventure. Still, completists should see it, if for no other reason than to see what they think of Reginald Owen as Holmes. Owen, who had played Dr. Watson only a year earlier, is not ideal casting. He doesn't have the same sharp features generally associated with the part and, because this is a modern-dress version, doesn't don the familiar costume either. However, physical appearance counts for little with Holmes; it's the performance that matters. Owen is, to these eyes and ears, rather wan; one doesn't believe him to have the acumen that the character must possess. While he does come across as somewhat more humane than others in the part, this doesn't make up for the lack of a truly commanding presence. Much better is Anna May Wong, who is a delightful villainess; the rest of the cast are passable, but no more. The screenplay is predictable, with few surprises for real fans of the mystery genre. There's some moodiness from director Edwin L. Marin, but little real atmosphere.