9. A Study in Scarlet (1933)

IMDB score = 5.7/10

Holmes and Watson? = Reginald Owen and Warburton Gamble

Synopsis = In London, a secret society led by lawyer Thaddeus Merrydew collects the assets of any of its deceased members and divides them among the remaining members.

Defense by Paul Thomas Miller:

For starters this film is good fun. It is difficult to think ill of a film which opens with the line "Lor' love a duck!" There is some light music-hall comedy scattered throughout and alone this is enough to make an enjoyable.

Another big plus for me was that it didn't have bloody omnipresent Moriarty as the villain. Instead we have Thaddeus Merridew: a new nemesis. Admittedly his character owes a lot to Moriarty, but there are also elements of Milverton in there and a pinch of originality which makes him something different. Originality can, of course, be taken too far and I am still confused about Holmes and Watson's relocation to 221A, but we probably shouldn't let such trifles confuse the issue.

The story is original although made up of lots of Canonical ingredients. Much of the dialogue feels like it was adapted from the Canon ("Come, Watson! The game is afoot!") as do plot elements such as Jabez Wilson's tattoo and the codes used in The Times. Holmes uses very canonical deductions, disguises and deception such that while Reginald Owen may not look much like we picture Holmes, he does feel like him. Perhaps there is a slight hard-boiled edge to the film, but overall it is very successfully Holmesian.

Making a Holmes film which can appeal to Holmesians is difficult. If you are too faithful to the Canon, it is boring, because we have already read the stories a million times (and nothing competes with those). If you deviate from the Canon too much it ends up feeling like the only link is in the character names. This one walks the elusive middle line rather well and would reward your attention