There are few things that I like more than sitting on my couch and watching old movies while I knit.  The sonorous tones of 1930's and 40's fellas, that high-falutin' mid-Atlantic accent, and the sweet sound of my cat gently snoring on the cushion next to me are a comfort and joy that makes me smile every time I think of it.


Since I find vintage movies so inspiring, perhaps you will, too!  And most of these are available via Netflix, so you should check them out if you get the chance.



First up, my most recent view:
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 Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon [1942]
Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce and Lionel Atwill
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For the initiated Holmes-ian, this tale is chock full of the old standbys: secret codes, cutting edge sleuthing technology, Holmes captured (!), Holmes escaping (!!), and that evil academic: Professor Moriarty.  And it's all wrapped up in a lovely little wartime theme:


Watson: Things are looking up, Holmes, this little island's still on the map.
Holmes [with feeling]: Yes ... this fortress built by Nature for herself ... this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England."
[Cue patriotic wartime band, fleet of fighter pilots, and credits]

I was convinced that Holmes's final line should be, "... this blessed plot, this [insert other historic empire [Perth? arg!]], this Rome, this England [cue SGK's treatise on colonial imperialism]" but IMDB swears to me that the words are "earth" and "realm."


Pish, that's far less interesting!


But what is interesting is, of course, the movie's wartime politics.  Filmed before the detonation of the atomic bomb, it examines the trouble with the technology of mass destruction: it might be aimed at you.  A fearless Allied scientist has made a breakthrough, but that wicked Moriarty is willing to sell it to the Germans!  The movie's final lines are nothing but confident: we are still standing, and not going anywhere.  Ordained by Nature herself, this fortress is still in control of its own destiny.


But Holmes's words, backed by the sound of war ships and war planes, sound more like a nation gritting its teeth and digging in its heels than a sovereign nation confident upon their throne.  Throughout, the film's tone belies its final confidence.  In shadows, gestures, expressions, a slow but steady question steadily ticks: What if?  What for?  What then?


This isn't one of dear Sherlock's more glamorous adventures, and I find the film's fashion to be run-of-the-mill.  But in its subtleties, and in its dialogue, I think it may just be one of the best of the Rathbone years.


Cheerio, chaps.

 


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