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Although Arthur Wontner is tiny remembered today, in his time he was considered by many to have been the greatest of those who had portrayed Sherlock Holmes on screen. "Silver Blaze", the last of the Holmes series that starred Wontner, is a solid detail that takes the Doyle storyline of the same name and adds to it some of the characters and elements from the another Holmes stories.The strength of Wontner's performance is that he looks very convincing as the Holmes of literature, and he also looks very much at home in the Victorian era settings. While his portrayal of Holmes lacks the sharpness and forcefulness of Basil Rathbone or Jeremy Brett, Wontner is certainly adequate in the challenging role of the nice detective. He does well here despite the low-budget look to everything else."Silver Blaze" is also of interest in adding Moriarty, Lestrade, and the Baskervilles to the original story. As Moriarty, Lyn Harding has some screen presence, but he doesn't really create Moriarty seem like the brilliant strategist that you expect him to be - here he is more like a tough guy whom you wouldn't wish to cross. His role is mainly used to make some additional suspense sequences. The central mystery itself is an interesting one, with some of the unusual features that you hope for in a Holmes story. Overall, this is a solid if unspectacular feature.
Arthur Wortner appeared as Conan Doyle's nice detective in six films, four of which survive today. Silver Blaze was the last one, by which time Wortner was over sixty, although still looking the picture of Holmes as he appeared in the Paget illustrations of Strand Magazine.This ver of Silver Blaze takes some liberties with the story; it involves Sir Henry Baskerville, plus Professor Moriarty (an engaging and entertaining performance from Lyn Harding), and Colonel Moran from The Empty House. However it retains the same twists and turns which were show in the original storyline and, as a film, it works very well.Filmed on the cheap with obviously faked sets (notably when Holmes and Watson transfer their investigations to 'the moors') it is nice to see Wortner's perfect Holmes, sardonic and sharp. Dr Watson is played by Ian Fleming, who is fairly nice as well.John Turnbull as Lestrade is a nice foil for Holmes, and one can sense the lvl of tolerance and grudging admiration that exists between the two crime-solvers.For Sherlockians, this ver of Silver Blaze compares well with the one created during the 1980s as part of Granada's TV adaptations, and stands up well in its own right as a B-picture mystery.
Arthur Wontner played Arthur Conan Doyle's famed investigator, Detective Sherlock Holmes, on numerous opportunities in the 1930s, and behind Basil Rathbone his portrayals are often considered among the greatest early efforts. Wontner's final Sherlock Holmes film, 'Silver Blaze' was based on Doyle's 1892 short storyline of the same name, published in the collection, "The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes." However, in addition to the primary mystery, director Thomas Bentley and writers H. Fowler Mear and Arthur Macrae (both uncredited) have tossed in a several twists and turns of their own, most notably the addition of Inspector Lestrade, Sir Henry Baskerville, and, of course, Holmes' arch-enemy Professor Moriarty and his ruthless killer Moran. In 1941, for the film's release in the United States, the game was changed from 'Silver Blaze' to 'Murder at the Baskervilles,' most likely to cash-in on the success of Sidney Lanfield's 'The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939),' which starred Basil Rathbone as Holmes.The primary plot of the mystery remains much the same as the original story, though certain features and characters have been added and changed. Whilst Holmes and Dr. Watson (Ian Fleming) are visiting their old mate Sir Henry Baskerville (Lawrence Grossmith), the good-natured by rather dim-witted Inspector Lestrade (John Turnbull) approaches them to solve the mystery of the disappearance of the popular racing horse, Silver Blaze. Just days before an necessary race, the horse has mysteriously disappeared, and the stable lad who had been looking after him has been fatally poisoned. After following Silver Blaze's subtle footprints in the grass, Holmes happens upon the murdered body of James Straker (Martin Walker), whose family had owned the horse. The prime suspect in the murders due to some substantial bets he had made vs Silver Blaze is none another than Sir Henry Baskerville's future son-in-law. Holmes, however, feels that there is more to this mystery than meets the eye, and he quickly suspects the evil and cunning Professor Moriarty (Lyn Harding) to be behind it all.Arthur Wontner is an perfect Sherlock Holmes, possessing the mild-mannered but shrewdly-brilliant air of Doyle's popular literary character. Based on Sidney Paget's original illustrations for 'The Strand' magazine, he even looks like Sherlock Holmes! He delivers his dialogue with all the calmness and confidence that you'd expect from Holmes. My private favourite, to Inspector Lestrade, who really has no concept how to proceed with the case: "We're old friends. I could hate to see you create such an ass of yourself as wrongfully to arrest the future son-in-law of Sir Henry Baskerville." Dr. Watson who doesn't really have much to do until the end of the movie has a pleasant and curious personality, and Ian Fleming (not to be confused with the creator of the James Bond novels) brings this very nicely to the screen. Strangely, Fleming somehow reminds me, in his general manner and delivery, of Charles Chaplin in his talkie years.Though undoubtedly low-budget, 'Silver Blaze' is a competent Sherlock Holmes mystery, and a pleasant method to spend an hour or so. There are a several ambitious moments; I was most impressed by the stage in which a jockey was shot with Professor Moriarty's trademark silent air-gun whilst riding a horse in full flight. This one is worth a look.
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