Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace (1962) **

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would be turning in his grave. Workmanlike at best, awful at its worst, or a “so-bad-it’s-good” candidate? Christopher Lee goes through the motions, there’s an oddly inserted heist, the continuity goes haywire, and the deduction would not have troubled a child. Even the great sleuth having to match nemesis Moriarty in cunning fails to lift this turgid tale. Despite being made in Germany, all the actors, save Senta Berger, appear injected with a fatal dose of stiff upper lip.

A corpse in the water alerts Sherlock Holmes (Christopher Lee) to the presence of Moriarty (Hans Sohnker) who is hunting Peter Blackburn (Wolfgang Lukschy) who has appropriated Cleopatra’s necklace from an archaeological dig. This takes them to Hampshire where corpses abound but the necklace is gone. Holmes burgles Moriarty’s apartment and steals back the necklace which is sent, in heavily protected police van, to an auction house. Holmes outwits Moriarty by infiltrating the heist the villain has planned.

The best scene comes at the beginning when boys throw stones at something floating in the Thames only to discover it’s a corpse. After that, you can choose from any number of bad scenes. Where do you start? The disguises? Holmes is first seen wearing a false nose to pass himself off as dock worker. An eyepatch is enough to convince Moriarty’s henchmen that Holmes in one of their kind. Bare-handed, Holmes kills an obviously plastic snake. To find out what Moriarty is up to, they listen down a chimney!

The deduction is so awful Dr Watson (Thorley Walters) could have done it. A dying man who manages to whisper one word is unable to whisper two and instead still has the strength to flap his hands in a way that any child in the audience familiar with shadow play would have known signaled a bird. Holmes follows bloody footsteps over grass in the darkness. The hands of a corpse are too calloused to be a high-class gentleman. And that’s as much of the detective’s genius as is on show. Moriarty, who is meant to be ever so bright, offers Holmes £6,000 a year to enter into a criminal partnership with him.

Did I mention the continuity? Holmes, in docker’s disguise, turns up outside his apartment lying on the pavement calling for help. Wounded, perhaps? A bit of a joke? We never find out. Once inside, he just turns back into Sherlock Holmes. In the middle of the Hampshire countryside,  Scotland Yard’s Inspector Cooper (Hans Neilsen) turns up in a trice.

The film has also been dubbed so the performances are all flat except that of Ellen Blackburn (Senta Berger), the only character who injects emotion into the picture. Everybody else is wooden. Christopher Lee bases his entire interpretation of Holmes on his costume, deerstalker prominent and always puffing on his pipe. Austrian Senta Berger at least shows promise and manages to project some personality into her small part.

Made in a Berlin studio, with some location work in Ireland, this German-made movie has a screenplay by Curt Siodmak (The Wolf Man, 1941), purportedly based on the Conan Doyle tale The Valley of Fear. British director Terence Fisher (Sword of Sherwood Forest, 1960) is generally assumed to have helmed this project but the actual credits on the picture have him sharing duties with Frank Winterstein, so perhaps Fisher can be absolved of the complete blame.  

The so-bad-it’s-good category had obviously not been invented in the early 1960s so this picture was shelved in Britain for six years, although shown in Germany and France before then.

CATCH-UP: If you’ve been tracking the often subtle performances – for a glamour queen – of Senta Berger through the Blog, you can also check out my reviews of The Secret Ways (1961), Major Dundee (1965), Cast a Giant Shadow (1966), The Quiller Memorandum (1966), and Bang! Bang! You’re Dead (1966). If you’re a Berger fan or fast becoming one to can see one of her later performances in Istanbul Express (1968) which, by coincidence, is reviewed tomorrow.

Author: Brian Hannan

I am a published author of books about film - over a dozen to my name, the latest being "When Women Ruled Hollywood." As the title of the blog suggests, this is a site devoted to movies of the 1960s but since I go to the movies twice a week - an old-fashioned double-bill of my own choosing - I might occasionally slip in a review of a contemporary picture.

6 thoughts on “Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace (1962) **”

  1. Hey, I just watched this a couple days ago. It’s part of the blu ray box set, The Eurocrypt of Christopher Lee Collection from Severin. I thought Lee a striking figure in the Basil Rathbone mold. The blu ray edition has both English and German tracks. Lee of course dubbed on both which is sad. I will add that Senta Berger and Leon Askin’s voices are on the German track. Always one to point out his achievements, Lee had played Baskerville, Holmes and Mycroft as well in Billy Wilder’s Sherlock Holmes film. I recall reading an interview with Malcolm McDowell where he was in talks with Lee to play aging Holmes against Lee’s aging Moriarty. Too bad that one never came to pass.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I understand the Severin Box Set is the very first time this film has EVER been available in a decent, crystal-clear, widescreen print. It’s gorgeous! Also, I know I’m the oddball here… but the big shock for me was realizing that I liked THIS movie far, far more than Hammer’s “HOUND”, and Lee & Walters FAR more than Cushing & Morell! (I’d already come to love Cushing’s 1968 BBC episodes way more than the Hammer film. But then, I love the 1965 BBC episodes with Douglas Wilmer EVEN MORE than those.)

    I think Lee did a better capturing Holmes’ character than Cushing did, and this was DESPITE his voice being missing (idiot producers). I will say I think the German dub is superior to the English one. Plus, the dialogue at the end of the film is completely-different, and in the German version, it suggests a sequel with JACK THE RIPPER is coming next. NO S***. Things fell apart, however, the Holmes vs. The Ripper idea passed on to others. I would have loved “A STUDY IN TERROR” even more had Lee & Walters been in it.

    By the way, even the audio commentary track on this is better and better-informed than the 2 separate tracks on the Hammer “HOUND” disc. This one doesn’t seem under the impression there were no other Holmes before Hammer than Basil Rathbone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s interesting to know. And also to compare Sherlocks. And whether either could hold a candle to Basil Rathbone. Most aficionados seem to place Rathbone first without really taking into account what others brought to the role. There definitely was a hint of a sequel.

      Like

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