THE TRIUMPH OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (1935) has Arthur Wontner’s Sherlock Holmes (last seen in Sign of Four) retire to the country while Watson (Ian Fleming — no relation) likewise retires from sidekick to spouse. When there’s a murder in the neighborhood, however, Holmes investigates and gets plunged into a good adaptation of Valley of Fear (from which Frank Wiles illustration here is taken). When he realizes Moriarty (Lyn Harding) is entangled in the plot, it becomes another chance to bring his nemesis down.
Wontner’s Holmes lacks Rathbone’s energy and charm but he does have an imposing sense of intelligence and gravitas that made him, justifiably, the definitive Holmes between the silents and Rathbone’s debut. Harding is over-the-top as Moriarty but they do play up his role as a “consulting criminal” parallel to Holmes.
His performance here isn’t consistent with his staying hidden in Sherlock Holmes’ Fatal Hour, but hell, Moriarty dies here and still comes back next film with Watson and Lestrade still refusing to believe he’s a master criminal. Consistency wasn’t a big deal for this series. “The important thing about the case, Lestrade, is that Mr. Douglas liked to exercise in the morning.”
Also known as Murder at the Baskervilles, SILVER BLAZE (1937) has Holmes and Watson revisiting their old friends at Baskerville Manor, twenty years after defeating The Hound of the Baskervilles. Once again there’s a convenient local murder — someone murdered a local jockey and stole the prize horse Silver Blaze — and once again Moriarty’s in the middle of it (this uses some of the great dialogue with Holmes from The Final Problem). Throwing Moriarty in complicates the plot of Doyle’s Silver Blaze and reduces the mystery (we have some idea what’s going down from the moment the Professor is hired) but it’s still a good movie. “That was the curious incident.”
SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS (2021) introduces us to Shang-Chi (Simon Liu), seemingly an ordinary parking valet who spends his time goofing off with BFF Katie (Awkwafina) — until a team of martial artists attacks them to steal Shang-Chi’s pendant and he kicks their butt. Katy learns her buddy is the son of the immortal leader of the Ten Rings, a League of Assassins-type secret society named for the energy-blasting armbands he wears. And for some reason, Daddy’s very interested in a reunion …
I really appreciate that unlike Dr. Strange this didn’t bog down in the origin and training montage, doling it out gradually throughout the movie. And I really appreciate that Katie and Shang aren’t secretly hiding feelings of love for each other and are genuinely just friends. Beyond that the movie is good and entertaining, with some funny line such as when Dad complains about the exploitation of his image in Iron Man III (“The Mandarin? Americans were scared of an orange!”). Ben Kingsley returns as the fake Mandarin and Michelle Yeoh shows up as Shang’s heroic auntie. I spotted a few Easter Eggs and suspect there’d be more if I were more familiar with Shang Chi in the comics. “A guy with a freaking machete for an arm just chopped our bus in half!”
#SFWApro. Cover by Gil Kane, all rights to images remain with current holders.