The Scarlet Claw (1944)

Genres - Mystery, Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Detective Film  |   Release Date - May 26, 1944 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 74 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Although not based upon anything in the Arthur Conan Doyle canon, The Scarlet Claw is nonetheless one of the best episodes in the Sherlock Holmes series. Like most of the entries, this one has been set in contemporary times, which is always a bit unsettling. But, perhaps because it's set in a perpetually fog-enshrouded backwoods town in Canada, Claw feels as if it's set closer to Holmes' correct era. More importantly, Claw has a clever script that, while it fudges the tone of Doyle a little bit, features a plot that would have made Doyle proud. While Watson has by this point become a bit too dithering for purists (no fault of Nigel Bruce, who makes the dithering enjoyable), Holmes as written here is near his best and most faithful. Basil Rathbone is his usual expert self and brings a slightly keener edge to bear than in some of the other Holmes films, due no doubt to opportunities provided by Claw's sharper writing. Gerald Hamer strikes just the right notes throughout, and Paul Cavanaugh plays the "is he or isn't he" game to perfection. Roy William Neill turns in some of his best work in the series, and his always carefully framed and lit shots are especially atmospheric herein. As a matter of fact, aside from a bizarre and out-of-place homage to Canada at the very end of the film, there's precious little to complain about with Claw.