Sherlock Holmes Fatal Hour (July 12, 1931)
Released July 12, 1931: This movie was very popular when released, and considered lost for many years, until now.
Directed by Leslie S. Hiscott
Written by Arthur Conan Doyle, Leslie S. Hiscott, H. Fowler Mear and Cyril Twyford.
The Actors: Arthur Wontner (Sherlock Holmes), Ian Fleming (Dr. John Watson), Minnie Rayner (Mrs. Hudson), Leslie Perrins (Ronald Adair), Jane Welsh (Kathleen Adair), Norman McKinnel (Proffessor Robert Moriarty, aka Colonel Henslowe), William Fazan (Thomas Fisher), Sidney King (Tony Rutherford), Philip Hewland (Inspector Lestrade), Gordon Begg (Marston the butler), Louis Goodrich (Colonel Sebastian Moran), Harry Terry (Number 16), Charles Paton (J.J. Godfrey).
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Once in a while we discover a wonderful movie that was considered lost forever, and this is one of those films. The producers of this Sherlock Holmes mystery filmed it for release in 1931, and although it wasn't a big money production, it was very well done. But alas, they discovered that a larger, well financed version of a Homes mystery, The Speckled Band, was released on March 5, 1931, and their movie wasn't ready for release until July of 1931. The producers were convinced that after their audiences would not be very impressed with their version after seeing the fine job that Raymond Massey did in the movie released in March. So they sold the movie to a sucker (or so they thought) for 800 pounds. I'm not sure how well the movie did in Britain, but in the U.S. it was a spectacular hit, playing in theaters on Broadway for over a month straight. Reviewers were excited that this portrayal of Sherlock Holmes was as close to the author's image as any ever produced. It was terribly unusual for a British film to do so well in the U.S., and the lucky folks that bought and distributed the film did very well. Four more episodes with the same actor playing Holmes were made, The Missing Rembrandt (still considered lost), The Sign of Four, The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes and The Silver Blaze/Murder at the Baskervilles. This movie was thought to be lost forever until recently. The known time before now that the film was shown was in 1955. It was presented at a Sherlock Holmes Society reception for the star of the movie, Arthur Wontner. No one knows where that print is today. This copy is patched together from two incomplete versions, creating the only known complete copy of the famous film.
As our movie opens, we watch a very dark and confusing scene of a bank robber who gains entry to the vault, kills the guard, and leaves as silently as he entered. We discover that apparently nothing in the bank was stolen . . . all of the money is still inside the vault. Very puzzling. Next we meet a foursome playing bridge at the home of a minor British dimplomat, with his lovely sister serving refreshments to the men. This brother and sister were robbed of their wealth, but are quite well off again since the brother now plays bridge with wealthy men for lots of money . . . and he never loses. Add to the mix the evil Professor Moriarty, a man that Holmes insists is behind half of the crimes of the world.
Pop a big bowl of warm white-kernel popcorn with plenty of melted butter on top, and enjoy one of the very best Sherlock Holmes movies ever made, and believed to be lost until recently.