For Reel


Terror by Night (1946)
August 20, 2016, 12:10 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Roy William Neill
3.5 Stars
Terror by NightBasil Rathbone had been feeling his career was limited by the Sherlock Holmes series by the mid-1940s, and during the production of Terror by Night he knew it would be his penultimate representation of the character. That fans of the film series applaud this installment as one of the best might have to do with a newly enlivened Rathbone—a man who not only saw the light at the end of the tunnel, but one who wanted to go out on a high point. It helps that the dramatics are limited to the confines of a train and in a brief sixty minute running time. The suspense levels are high and the story pushes forward at a nice clip. Director Roy William Neill takes a moment about halfway through the picture to explain who the main suspects are by providing each with a close-up and a brief description—if it’s gimmicky and even insulting to a perceptive audience, the technique actually works quite well not because it narrows down the field of potential suspects, but allows each of them to occupy a similar weight. If the ultimate reveal and a few late coincidences are overwrought (the film was loosely adapted from bits and pieces of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories), there are a few effective setpieces along the way, such as an attempted murder on Holmes in which he is shoved from an open train door. Alan Mowbray lends support as Watson’s friend and is quite good at both casting suspicion and quelling it in equal measure.

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