Dressed to Kill (1946)

A Sad Goodbye

These Basil Rathbone Holmes movies are a wonder. They deviate so far from the stories in intent, they offend. Yet at the same time, they were important to the redefinition of the British wartime character.

They were not important at all in the scheme of evolution that defined the detective genre. They were too late and too watered down for that. But they were fun, some of them.

People seemed surprised when the series ran its course. But it had to you see, because the war was over, and at root these were war movies. Successful because they helped the Brits define who they were.

That’s why instead of the simple pearl in a plaster bust, we have this elaborate business of codes. Musical codes after the fashion of “The Lady Vanishes.” (A crazy idea, but it was well set in the popular mind.)

So the steam went out of these. I think they would have lasted longer if they hadn’t perverted the stories so. That business about Watson being a dope, about Holmes being less obnoxious. And all the business about changing the stories from ones of deduction to where sheer doggedness wins that day.

So a sad goodbye to a bad idea done well.

Posted in 2005

Ted’s Evaluation — 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.


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