Holmes, retired to Sussex, is drawn into a last case when arch enemy Moriarty arranges with an American gang to kill one John Douglas, a country gentleman with a mysterious past.
Holmes' methods baffle Watson and Lestrade, but his results astonish them. In a long flashback, the victim's wife tells the story of the sinister Vermissa Valley.
Arthur Wontner ... Sherlock Holmes
Lyn Harding ... Prof. Moriarty
Leslie Perrins ... John Douglas
Jane Carr ... Ettie Douglas
Ian Fleming ... Dr. John H. Watson
Charles Mortimer ... Insp. Lestrade
Minnie Rayner ... Mrs. Hudson
Michael Shepley ... Cecil Barker
This is a good entry in the Arthur Wontner series of Sherlock Holmes movies, adapting one of Arthur Conan Doyle's most interesting and involved stories. The movie does a solid job of telling the story within its obvious budgetary constraints, Wontner as usual looks authentic as Holmes, and the story does the rest. Lyn Harding is solid as Moriarty, but as this series tended to do, the character is played more as a tough guy than as a twisted genius of crime.
The original story is a particularly good one because it takes a Holmes mystery with the usual intriguing details and puzzles, and combines it with an elaborate story about the backgrounds of the other characters involved. The original story has rarely been used in the movies, and it was unfortunately one of the ones not included in the outstanding Jeremy Brett series. So it's particularly fortunate that this version of it is still around.
The settings range from an old English castle to a rough part of the USA where outlaws are in charge. It's too bad that the production values were so low, because with some extra work, the settings could really add a lot to the atmosphere. Here, at least, they provide just enough to make a believable backdrop to the interesting story.
# Some of the video boxes for the US video release incorrectly claim that the Ian Fleming playing Dr. Watson was the Ian Fleming who was the creator/writer of the James Bond novels. Although both men have the same name--a not particularly uncommon one in England--the actor playing Dr. Watson was not the same man as the James Bond author, and was in fact not even related to him. This Ian Fleming had a 40-year career as an actor and played in over 100 British films.
# This movie is based on the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novel The Valley of Fear, and the name appears as a title reference in the movie itself. For the movie, Mr. Douglas' wives were combined into one character; in the novel, he married another woman, Ivy, after Effie died of scarlet fever.