The Sleeping Cardinal (1931) Sherlock Holmes

April 29, 2011

Thought to be lost a copy of this early sound film was found and is available for free viewing on the internet archive. Starring Arthur Wonter (Holmes), Ian Fleming (Watson), and Minnie Rayner (Mrs. Hudson) it is somewhat  based on the Doyle story “The Empty House,” which was the first story in the series The Return of Sherlock Holmes. There was an Adair who played whist but he didn’t cheat, his partner Col. Moran did. There were no forged bank notes, no Moriarity, dead watchmen, sleeping cardinal etc. Holmes had never disappeared under mysterious circumstances. The character Col. Henslowe/Professor Moriarity was doing the blackmail because Adair was the cheater and was the target to take a suitcase of phony currency across the channel to France. The method of murder was the same being a shikari or special air gun and both of the colonels were tiger hunters in India. The ruse by Holmes to use the plaster bust to create a shadow in the window was also used in the book. Wontner is a rather studious straight Holmes constantly smoking and lighting his pipe. Ian Fleming is a good Watson as well as  Minnie Rayner as Mrs. Hudson. The screenplay was written by Leslie Hiscott who also directed the 84 minute film for Twickenham Film Studios of Britain. The only music was at the beginning and the end and I found this annoying as there were a lot of dead spaces with white noise during the filming. I like the story adaption so I would rate it (**1/2) with the eighty year old age having caught up with it in some scenes.


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