Movie Review: The Scarlet Claw (1944)

by StevenHelmer

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

Synopsis: While visiting Canada with Dr. Watson, Sherlock Holmes learns of Lady Penrose's death in a nearby village by causes that are being attributed to a legendary supernatural creature. When he discovers a telegram Lady Penrose had sent him a prior to her death, he decides to investigate. He is able to quickly disprove the rumored supernatural causes. However, her killer is a master of disguises and intends to kill again.

Who's In It?


As I have done with a few other movies this summer, I watched this film, over the course of the past couple days, before going to work. I picked this particular film because it was one I wasn't familiar with. As it turns out, it was one of the better Sherlock Holmes movies I've watched.

The thing I found I liked best about this movie was the multiple mysteries. First, Holmes (Rathbone) had to prove Lady Penrose (Gertrude Astor) was murdered by a human rather than a supernatural creature. Then, to learn who the killer was, he first had to figure out her connection with a local judge (Miles Mander) and a relatively-new innkeeper (Hohl) because they appeared to be the next victims. 

Even when he figured out the killer's identity, the mystery wasn't over. This is because that person was able to change his appearance and, as Holmes deduced, likely integrated himself in the community as several different people. This meant he could walk into a crowded room and not know who the killer was or even if he was there.

I also found I loved how many of the supporting characters did their best to be suspicious. Lord Penrose (Cavanagh), for example, didn't really seem all that broken up over her death and his reluctance to cooperate with Holmes did seem suspicious. Plus, when you don't have an apparent motive, it pretty much makes everyone in the village a suspect.

Another thing I liked about this movie was the way Holmes was willing to push the envelope a bit more than I've seen him push it in other films. He examined Lady Penrose's body without permission, broke into a house in search of evidence and put his life on the line a couple times in an effort to draw out the killer. This gave the movie a bit more excitement than it might otherwise have had, especially since, again, the killer could be anybody.

Sherlock Holmes - The Scarlet Claw

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson solve village murders blamed on a monster in Canada.

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Final Opinion

This is a decent classic murder mystery that I definitely enjoyed watching. If you haven't seen it, I do recommend it.

My Grade: A

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Updated: 05/24/2019, StevenHelmer
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DerdriuMarriner on 04/01/2022

StevenHelmer, Thank you for product lines, pretty pictures and practical information.
The library system here does not list The Scarlet Claw amongst its Blu-ray and DVD collections. But I intend to conduct another search. The film may be hiding in plain sight among other films in an omnibus collection whose contents exceed the spaces for cataloguers to list them.

Were the villagers really believing in supernatural causes or was it a way to keep outsiders from interfering in village dynamics?

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