Pursuit to Algiers (1945)

It’s a shame, I know, but as we say in Italy, not every ring doughnut comes out with a hole in the middle. And the tenth entry in Universal Studios’ Holmes and Watson series, is by common consent considered the very least of them. It involves the protection of a member of a foreign royal family, stolen emeralds and is largely set aboard a ship and has a trio of memorable villains too. So far, so good. But we begin in a foggy old London fish and chip shop for an elaborate meet and greet that gets pretty silly …

The following review is offered for Todd Mason’s Tuesday’s Overlooked Film meme over at his fab Sweet Freedom blog.

Universal Sherlock Holmes # 10
Conan Doyle Source: not canonical
Sample dialogue: “My dear fellow, musical talent is hardly evidence of innocence. Moriarity was a virtuoso on the bassoon.”
Original filming dates: August 1945
Sherlock in disguise: no
Universal’s Baker Street Regulars: One of the joys of this series is spotting the appearances of the various members of the stock company of supporting actors who appeared throughout the series in a variety of roles, sometimes as villains and sometimes as victims. In this one we have: Olaf Hytten (the fifth of his six appearances), Frederick Warlock (fourth of his six appearances in the series); and Gerald Hamer (the fourth of his five appearances).

Holmes and Watson are tracked down in foggy London and set through a fairly ridiculous and implausible set of tests before they are able to speak to the representatives of the royal family of Rovenia. The king has been assassinated and Holmes and Watson are tasked with protecting the heir, Prince Nikolas. Through various convolutions, the three end up on board the SS Friesland (from Doyle’s ‘The Norwood Builder’), where the film turns into a bit of a musical, with four performances in total including Watson’s rendition of ‘Loch Lomond’! The villains of the piece, a trio of baddies, are immediately identified so there is no mystery at all, while a subplot about stolen emeralds proves to be entirely unconnected to the main story.

 

Gregor: It seems such a pity to eliminate Sherlock Holmes.

The movie is otherwise pretty relentlessly padded with a few red herrings but otherwise very little plot to speak of. However, things do improve thanks to the arrival midway of a the trio of killers – the corpulent Gregor (Rex Evans), the campy Mirko (Martin Kosleck) and strongman Gubec (Wee Willie Davis) – really help pep up the movie. It must be admitted though that their various attempts to bump off our heroes are pretty uninspired.

Sherlock Holmes: … it’s tea that has made the British Empire and Dr. Watson what they are today.

Produced under the working title of ‘The Fugitive’ this is a film of small pleasures, though there are some to be found, especially for (a rather gaunt looking) Nigel Bruce, who as Watson has a much expanded role and spends most of the first 10 minutes on board pretty much on his own. The scene in which he learns that Holmes’ plane has crashed is truly heartfelt and moving (albeit very brief) and there is a great scene at a party in which he not only gets to sing but also retells the story of the giant rat of Sumatra (from Doyle’s ‘The Sussex Vampire’).

DVD Availability: Available in terrific editions on DVD and Blu-ray the world over, derived from the restorations made by UCLA. All look decent – some, such as Pursuit to Algiers, have some scratches and, in keeping with its lowly status in the series, this is also one of the lesser transfers too, though perfectly acceptable.

Director: Roy William Neill
Producer: Roy William Neill
Screenplay: Leonard Lee
Cinematography: Paul Ivano
Art Direction: John B. Goodman, Martin Obzina
Music: Edgar Fairchild, Frank Skinner (theme music)
Cast: Basil Rathbone (Sherlock Holmes), Nigel Bruce (Dr Watson), Marjorie Riordan, Rosalind Ivan, Morton Lowry, Rex Evans, Martin Kosleck, Wee Willie Davis, John Abbott

***** (1.5 fedora tips out of 5)

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14 Responses to Pursuit to Algiers (1945)

  1. I really appreciate your candor with this one, Sergio. There is definitely such a thing as ‘too implausible,’ and this one seems to have several examples. And the silly dialogue can’t have helped. Hmm…thanks for taking this one for the team.

  2. tracybham says:

    You are not encouraging me to read this one, although i like the title, but I have plenty more to watch first anyway.

  3. Mike Doran says:

    Just back from backtracking:
    I see from the earlier posts in this series that apparently no one has mentioned a 2011 book called SHERLOCK HOLMES & The FABULOUS FACES; The Universal Pictures Repertory Company, by Michael A. Hoey.
    This is a tribute to the whole Universal/Holmes series, and particularly its producer-director, Roy William Neill.
    The author, as you’ve probably deduced, is the son of Dennis Hoey, aka Lestrade.
    Michael Hoey had a considerable career of his own in Hollywood movies and TV.
    He covered them in his other three books.
    But this one, concentrating on the Rathbone-Bruce series, is the one you should have at hand as you watch them.
    Nearly every one of the stock players gets a major write-up, far bigger than you’ll find in most references.
    There are also detailed accounts of the making of each production; I don’t know how you are with nuts-and-bolts accounts, but I love that stuff myself.
    Michael Hoey passed away a couple of years ago; his four books are his legacy to all of us.
    His autobiography is called Elvis, Sherlock, And Me; his others are Inside Fame, about the TV series, and Elvis’ Favorite Director, a life of the Hollywood pioneer Norman Taurog, who was Michael Hoey’s mentor in the business.
    All of these are worth your time.
    Sorry about eating up all this space, but when I get on a roll …

  4. Thanks very much Mike, sounds wonderful. I will definitely see about getting a copy of the Holmes book at the very least 😀

  5. Colin says:

    I haven’t watched this in years and my memory of it, such as it is, is as a bit of a dull, pedestrian entry in the series. I will watch it again though – lots of catching up to do, blog reading included!

    • Good to have you back Colin – hope you had a decent break! I’m usually a sucker for shipboard mysteries but …

      • Colin says:

        Yes, ships & trains and anything confined really usually do it for me but setting alone isn’t everything.
        Oh, and while I have had a break from net stuff and so on I’ve not had a break in any other sense – busy in the extreme in fact and badly in need of catching up on lost sleep etc, will get there in the end. I think…

        • Sorry mate, hope you get some actual hols in that case! And lets put it this way, the environment an be a great bonus, as in TERROR BY NIGHT directly after this – but it ‘aint enough!

          • Colin says:

            Yeah, setting or environment can only take you so far – it can dress up a moderate tale and make it appear more fun – but it can’t carry a movie on its own if other elements are either absent or extremely weak.

          • Most series detwctives got on a ship I suppose in those days but here it is a shame as the various elements are fine per se but never really gel , which is a shame. But fun all the same.

  6. Pingback: Terror by Night (1946) | Tipping My Fedora

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