The Speckled Band (1931 film)

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The Speckled Band
"The Speckled Band" (1931 film).jpg
Directed byJack Raymond
Produced byHerbert Wilcox
Written byArthur Conan Doyle (story)
W. P. Lipscomb (adaptation)
StarringLyn Harding
Raymond Massey
Angela Baddeley
Nancy Price
CinematographyFreddie Young
Edited byMaclean Rogers
Production
company
Distributed byWoolf & Freedman Film Service
Release date
5 March 1931 (1931-03-05)
Running time
90 minutes
66 minutes (United States)
49 minutes (Canada)
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish

The Speckled Band is a 1931 British film directed by Jack Raymond and an adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's original story "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" and the play he adapted from it, The Speckled Band.[1]

The film features Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson investigating the fears of a young woman and the suspicious death of her sister.

Plot summary[edit]

The film begins on the Rylott estate with gypsies camping on the grounds. Inside the mansion, Violet Stonor screams in her bedroom and then collapses in the hallway. She is discovered by her sister, Helen (Angela Baddeley). Violet's dying words are "the band, speckled." She then dies and their stepfather, Dr. Grimesby Rylott (Lyn Harding), arrives.

Soon there is an inquest into the mysterious death, and Rylott plots with the housekeeper and his Indian servant, Ali. Watson attends the inquest as an old friend of the Stonor family in India. He acts protectively to Helen and advises her to consult Holmes if she ever feels in danger. At Baker Street later, Watson summarises the inquest to Holmes, describing the various witnesses and evidence. Holmes files it away in his system—he operates a strangely modern office with female secretaries and a voice recording device.

One year later, Helen Stonor is engaged, and her fiancé must leave for a plantation in Rangoon for a year. Helen is afraid and suggests that they marry sooner, so that she may go with him to Rangoon. Dr. Rylott is upset by these plans and decides to murder her to prevent the loss of her inheritance. Rylott forces Helen to move from her room into Violet's old room. The next day, Helen meets with Holmes and Watson in Baker Street they describe her case. Her sister Violet had been engaged to be married before she dies, and Helen remembers hearing mysterious music that night. Now Helen is engaged and is also hearing the mysterious music again. Holmes questions her and sends her out of the room through a separate entrance when her stepfather arrives. Dr. Rylott barges in and threatens Holmes, but he is not deterred.

In the afternoon, Dr. Watson arrives alone to visit Helen Stonor while her stepfather is not home. Holmes is in disguise as a workman dealing with the repairs to the building. Together they investigate Dr. Rylott's room and discover several clues, such as a bowl of milk, a dog whip, and a mirror. Next, they investigate Violet's room, which has a bell-rope that doesn't ring and a ventilator near the bed. The ventilator opens into Rylott's room but is hidden by a painting. When Rylott returns, Holmes and Watson temporarily leave Helen at the house but plan to sneak into the room later to investigate.

That night, Helen spends the night within Violet's room while Holmes and Watson secretly keep watch with her. After snake-charming music plays, a snake enters the room through the ventilator, and Holmes attacks it, sending it back to Rylott's room. Rylott screams. Holmes, Watson, and Helen enter his room and discover Rylott dead from a snake bite. Holmes forces Ali, the servant, to charm the snake so they can put it in the safe. Violet's last words about a "speckled band" were in fact describing "a swamp adder, the deadliest snake in India." The venomous snake had been sent to Violet's room by Dr. Rylott to murder her for her inheritance. Rylott had intended to do the same to Helen.

The movie ends with Holmes conducting an experiment in Baker Street. Watson arrives dressed for a wedding, and Holmes therefore deduces that he is going to a wedding. Watson is pleased to tell Holmes that he is wrong, that he has just come from the wedding of Helen Stonor and her groom. Holmes offers his "condolences" rather than congratulations. Watson says in amusement that "we all come to it," meaning marriage. After Watson leaves, Holmes disagrees quietly, "Not all, my dear Watson... not all."

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

The film marked Raymond Massey's first film role[2] and was only the third sound Sherlock Holmes film following The Return of Sherlock Holmes and The Sleeping Cardinal.[2] Using Conan Doyle's play as the source, some character names differ from the original short story; the story's Roylott becomes Rylott, Julia Stoner becomes Violent Stoner.[2] Some characters appeared in the play and film that weren't in the original story such as Mrs. Staunton the housekeeper, Rodgers the butler, and the Indian servant Ali.[2] The film also altered the famous address of 221B Baker Street to 107 Baker Street and makes it a state-of-the-art office[2] complete with secretaries and stenographers.[1]

Reception[edit]

Vincent Starrett found Massey's performance lacking saying "Mr. Massey as Sherlock Holmes, in The Speckled Band, most famous perhaps of all the Holmes adventures, was a considerable disappointment."[3] Starrett felt that Massey didn't at all look the part opining "he looked like almost any nice, young, brown-haired college boy, wrapped in a dormitory dressing gown, smoking a bulldog pipe."[3] Mordaunt Hall of The New York Times disagreed saying "Mr. Massey's performance is pleasing, intelligent and restrained" and said of the film "The Speckled Band succeeds in being moderately interesting."[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Bunson, Matthew (1997). Encyclopedia Sherlockiana: an A-to-Z guide to the world of the great detective. Macmillan. p. 247. ISBN 0-02-861679-0.
  2. ^ a b c d e Barnes, Alan (2002). Sherlock Holmes on Screen. Reynolds & Hearn Ltd. pp. 196–196. ISBN 1-903111-04-8.
  3. ^ a b Starrett, Vincent. The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. Otto Penzler Books. pp. 154–155. ISBN 1-883402-05-0.
  4. ^ Hall, Mordaunt (November 7, 1931). "THE SCREEN; The Brave and the Fair, and a Thriller From, the Sherlock Holmes Detective Series. A Conan Doyle Tale. Cinderella Wins Out. A Jolly German Operetta. Those Gangsters Again". The New York Times. Retrieved January 14, 2018.

External links[edit]