Movie Review: The Pearl of Death (1944)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the 1944 Sherlock Holmes movie starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce.

Synopsis: While arrogantly demonstrating the flaws in a museum's security system, Sherlock Holmes accidentally allows a notorious criminal to steal a highly-valuable pearl with a sinister past. With his reputation under attack, Holmes investigates a series of seemingly random murders believing they are somehow connected to the stolen pearl.


I once again decided to watch a movie this morning before going to work and, since I've had recent luck with classic Sherlock Holmes' movies, decided to watch another one. After some consideration, I picked this one.

At first, I thought I made a mistake with this particular film because, at least early on, it didn't seem like it was going to be as good as the other films I've watched. This is mostly because, at first, it didn't seem to have much of a mystery. We knew what was stolen, why it was stolen and even who did it. It was really just a matter of tracking down the crook.

However, as the movie progressed, it turned out to be much more interesting than I originally thought, mostly because the various, seemingly-unrelated murders were somewhat intriguing. Holmes (Rathbone) knew the killer was a man known as the Creeper (Hatton). But, his relationship with the man who stole the pearl (Mander) and why he was murdering those particular people was definitely puzzling.

I also liked some of the suspense that was created when Holmes faced the Creeper later on in the film. It's always great seeing a movie hero overcome a situation where he is greatly over-matched and I did wonder just how he was going to survive the situation.

Another thing I found I liked about this movie was the way this case managed to humble Holmes, even if it was just for a little bit. Rathbone's version of the detective does come off as super arrogant in a lot of the films and it was great to see that arrogance backfire. It also seemed to create a little more tension between him and Inspector Lestrade (Dennis Hoey) because they were momentarily on equal footing and Holmes had to work to re-earn the inspector's respect.

Sherlock Holmes in Pearl of Death

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson race an archcriminal to a big pearl hidden in one of six Napoleon busts.

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Final Opinion

Despite my early doubts, this turned out to be a surprisingly good movie with a halfway decent mystery. I definitely enjoyed watching it and would recommend it.

My Grade: B

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Updated: 07/11/2016, StevenHelmer
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DerdriuMarriner on 03/31/2022

StevenHelmer, Thank you for product lines, pretty pictures and practical information.
The library system does not have The Pearl of Death listed among its Blu-ray and DVD collections. But sometimes an omnibus collection hides one of its many films in plain sight from the cataloguers, who only have so many spaces with which they fill online catalogue-relevant information.

How is Dennis Hoey's interpretation of Lestrade, and who would you elect to have play him in a colorized reboot or remake?

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