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Sherlock Holmes (Goldwyn, 1922)

Sherlock Holmes PosterSherlock Holmes (Goldwyn, 1922)
Directed by Albert Parker
Starring John Barrymore

Crown Prince Alexis (Reginald Denny) desperately needs to recover some letters between himself and the former lover he jilted for the throne before they can be used to blackmail him. Sherlock Holmes (John Barrymore) takes the case when some preliminary investigation suggests his old nemesis Professor Moriarty (Gustav von Seyffertitz) is also after them.

If there’s one thing Sherlock Holmes is known for, it’s for using his power of deduction to solve otherwise unsolvable mysteries. Oddly, outside of one entirely inconsequential scene where Holmes deduces that Dr. Watson (Roland Young) moved his dressing table to the other side of his bedroom, there is no deduction in this film. For that matter, there’s not really a mystery to be solved, either. It’s all very straight-forward, very obvious, and without the slightest hint of suspense.

Barrymore looks the part of Holmes, I’ll give him that, and after having seen his performance in Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman (1917), I’m sure he could act it as well, but this film simply gives him nothing to work with. The story is an adaptation of a popular stage play by William Gillette. I’ve never seen the play – I’m curious to know if its characters are as lifeless and bland as the ones here.

The languid pace, abundance of intertitles, and frankly boring scenario make Sherlock Holmes (1922) a chore to watch. There’s not even the saving grace of good cinematography – large parts of the movie are too dark to even make out.

For many years, Sherlock Holmes was presumed lost, but in the mid 1970s, a cache of jumbled workprints and unedited negatives were found that, if re-assembled, would represent most of the picture. Its director, Albert Parker, was thankfully still alive and helped to edit the raw footage and put the film back together as close to how he remembered it went as possible. It’s certainly a good thing to add one more silent to the survivors list, but I can’t help thinking what a shame it is that it isn’t a better one.

My rating: I don’t like it.

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