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Review - Sherlock Holmes: The Secret Weapon

I was considering heading out to IFC Center to see Kore-eda’s Shoplifters, which is garnering all sorts of critical acclaim, but as usual, I’m full of excuses: I’m exhausted after spending a chunk of the day traveling, it’s like thirty degrees outside, the subway’s probably all jammed up… blah, blah, blah, woe is me. After debating with myself for so long that the hour grew far too late to make the final screening, I settled for logging in to Kanopy and watching Sherlock Holmes: The Secret Weapon.

Among the countless adaptations and reinterpretations of the Holmes mythos, the films starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce remain the most popular and influential (contributing to the perception of Watson as a slow-witted, bumbling sidekick)—so much so that I’m a bit ashamed to admit that I’d never actually seen one in its entirety before tonight. I certainly wasn’t expecting a WWII-era propaganda piece that features the famous Victorian-era detective matching wits with Nazi agents in pursuit of a defecting scientist, but there you go. Still, it wasn’t necessarily an unpleasant surprise: instead of a run-of-the-mill mystery yarn, I got a genuinely enjoyable espionage thriller, packed with disguises, coded messages, convoluted death traps, and narrow escapes. In many ways, it reminded me of Republic’s Captain Marvel serial: charmingly old school.

[Originally written November 23, 2018.]

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