Sherlock Holmes Faces Death

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Sherlock Holmes Faces Death
Sherlock holmes faces death.jpeg
1943 US Theatrical Poster
Directed by Roy William Neill[1]
Produced by Roy William Neill[1]
Written by Bertram Millhauser[1]
Based on "The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual"
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Starring Basil Rathbone
Nigel Bruce
Music by H. J. Salter
Cinematography Charles Van Enger
Edited by Fred R. Feitshans Jr.
Distributed by Universal Studios[1]
Release dates
  • September 17, 1943 (1943-09-17)
Running time
68 min
Country United States
Language English

Sherlock Holmes Faces Death is the sixth film in the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce series of Sherlock Holmes films.[1] Made in 1943, it is a loose adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Holmes story "The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual." Its three immediate predecessors in the film series were World War II spy adventures with Holmes and Watson as characters, but this one marks a return to the pure mystery form. Though several characters are military men and there are frequent mentions of the war, it is not the focus of the story.


Dr. Watson is serving as resident doctor at Musgrave Hall in Northumberland, a stately home which is also used as a hospital for a number of servicemen suffering from shell shock.[2]

When Sally Musgrave displays her feelings for one of the wounded American fighter pilots, Captain Pat Vickery, who is currently recovering at the family estate, her brothers Geoffrey and Phillip are quick to show their dismay.

Then one of the physicians working at the estate, Dr. Sexton, is assaulted by an unknown assailant when out on a walk. Dr. John Watson, who is in charge of the medical facility, goes to fetch his dear friend Sherlock Holmes to bring some clarity to the case of the attack.

Upon his arrival to the estate, Sherlock Holmes discovers a dead body belonging to one of the brothers, Geoffrey. Inspector Lestrade of the Scotland Yard is put on the case to solve the murder, and immediately arrests the captain as a suspect.

Holmes is of another opinion about the flyer's guilt and continues to investigate on his own. Phillip is formally made the new head of the estate the next day with the aid of his sister. But only one day of ruling the estate, Phillip too is found murdered, lying in the trunk of the car.

Lestrade arrests the family butler, Alfred Brunton for the murder, while Holmes and Watson look into the special "Musgrave Ritual" that the family uses to appoint the new head of the family. They find the words used in the ritual hidden in Sally's room, and try to copy the ritual, which involves replaying a giant chess game on the checkered floor of the house main hall. As pieces in the game they use the household staff.

The game gives them clues to the family's secret burial crypt underneath the house, and there they find Brunton murdered. Holmes pretends to go down into the crypt to examine the body for clues, but the real reason for him going down there is to wait for the murderer to reappear. Before long, Dr. Sexton appears and is captured by Holmes.

Holmes suggests that Sexton had discovered an old document that said the estate was worth millions of pounds, and then killed both brothers, hoping to marry Sally who would inherit the estate. He also tried to frame the captain so that he could not marry Sally. The doctor manages to overpower Holmes and takes his revolver. Then he confesses that he indeed is the one responsible for the murders. When he tries to shoot Holmes he discovers that the bullets are blanks.

Lestrade and Watson come to the rescue and overpower and arrest Sexton. Holmes and Watson go back to London together. Sally destroys the document, claiming to not want to be rich on the cost of others' lives.[3]



  1. ^ a b c d e T.S. (October 8, 1943). "Sherlock Holmes Faces Death (1943) At the Palace". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ Davies, David Stuart, Holmes of the Movies (New English Library, 1976) ISBN 0-450-03358-9
  3. ^ "Sherlock Holmes Faces Death". Turner Classic Movies. 

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