22. The Sign of Four (1932)
IMDB score = 6.0/10
Holmes and Watson? = Arthur Wontner and Ian Hunter
Synopsis = A young woman turns to Sherlock Holmes for protection when she's menaced by an escaped killer seeking missing treasure.
Defence by Paul Thomas Miller:
This film toys a bit with the original plot of Arthur Conan Doyle's story. It removes the whodunnit element by showing us the history of the Agra treasure at the beginning. It also makes Jonathan Small a far less sympathetic character. He is fully villainous and not a little scary. The film starts with a lot of threat and tension and it is a relief when Sherlock Holmes finally appears to make everything clear and safe.
As ever, Arthur Wontner is a very canonical feeling Holmes, despite being fairly old. When we first meet him he is doing a version of the "reading Watson's mind" scene from The Cardboard Box. The deductions and thoughts are different, but the essence is the same. This approach is relected throughout the film: it is at once, fresh and familiar. The essence is there, but the events have been messed with. While canonical purists might not like this approach, I always find that, done well, it keeps the stories interesting. After all, I know the original stories backwards. If the film was completely true to the Canon, there would be nothing here to keep my attention.
Watching the Wontner films for this project has made me very much a fan. This is, without a doubt, good Holmes.