One thing I am not is a Sherlock Holmes aficionado. A couple friends who are, and who have read the books and seen the movies, tell me that Sherlock Holmes & the Deadly Necklace (1962) is an “OK” film. Please consider my opinions in this context because… I absolutely loved it and it’s easily the most entertaining Sherlock Holmes film I’ve seen!
Now, it’s not the only Sherlock Holmes movie I’ve ever watched, but the best comparison to one I have seen is Hammer’s The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959), directed by the same man, Terence Fisher. In this one, Christopher Lee plays Holmes instead of Peter Cushing. That’s not necessarily the reason, but I enjoyed Deadly Necklace more than Hound. Heresy?
Let me be clear. I’m not saying Lee is a better Holmes than Cushing. However, it’s a delight to see Lee so loose and free. He plays the detective much differently than almost any other character he’s played and it’s nice to see him not standing stoically and to not hear him speaking ominously or with threatening dialogue. He’s also quite funny!
I realize we don’t hear Lee speak at all, but I choose to ignore the fact that he didn’t dub his own voice. For me, that’s a confusing issue, anyway. It’s a German film with Italian and French financing made with an international cast and crew and helmed by a British director. I can’t wrap my head around how that all works. I just want to watch the movie.
When a group of children spot a body floating in the water and a fisherman reels it in, Sherlock Holmes & the Deadly Necklace has a distinctly Eurohorror feel, shot in absolutely gorgeous black and white that looks crystal clear on the Blu-ray transfer. Shot on location, perhaps it has a more authentic feel than the few Holmes movies I’ve seen.
Enough with the comparisons (what few I’ve given.) This is just a fun film… period. I like the mystery, I like the plot, I like the situations, I like the characters… In fact, I can’t think of anything I didn’t like. It’s light and breezy, cruising along for the entirety of its 87 minutes. I was completely engaged the entire time.
My favorite relationship is that between Holmes and his archenemy, Professor Moriarty (Hans Sohnker.) There’s a history we don’t know, but it’s demonstrated here with an accelerating game of one-upmanship, and we never know who’s going to have the last laugh. I mean, of course we do. This is Sherlock Homes, not Professor Moriarty & the Deadly Necklace.
Fisher is a great director who made some of Hammer’s best movies; however, I never noticed some of his techniques until I saw this movie. For example, he sometimes shoots through an object in the foreground while the action is occurring in the background. With this particular transfer, it’s almost a 3D effect. I’ll have to pay attention in the future to see if it’s common or unique.
To summarize, I’d say that this is a standalone Sherlock Holmes film. Whether you know a little or a lot about the characters and their histories, you’re going to enjoy it all the same. I don’t want to say it could be any old detective instead of Holmes, but I do think for the uninitiated, this would be an excellent entry point into the character, his books and his films.
Written by Curt Siodmak
Based on characters created by Arthur Conan Doyle
Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Christopher Lee, Thorley Walters, Hans Sohnker, Han Nielsen, Senta Berger, Ivan Desny, Wolfgang Lukschy, Leon Askin, Edith Schultze-Westrum
RT 87 min.
Released Nov. 30, 1962 (W. Germany)
Home Video Blu-ray (Severin, The Eurocrypt of Christopher Lee)
Rating 8 knife-wielding psychos (out of 10)