Holmes is hired by Roland Carstairs to prevent the theft of the Star of Rhodesia, an enormous diamond owned by Carstairs' mother, Lady Margaret. Believing the diamond will be stolen on a train trip from London to Edinburgh, Holmes deftly switches diamonds with Lady Margaret while in her compartment. Soon after, Roland is murdered and the fake diamond is stolen. Red herrings abound as Holmes, aided by Dr. Watson and Inspector Lestrade, discover the murderer's hiding place and deduce that long-time foe Moriarty's henchman Colonel Sebastian Moran is somehow involved in the crime.
Basil Rathbone ... Sherlock Holmes
Nigel Bruce ... Dr. John H. Watson
Alan Mowbray ... Major Duncan-Bleek
Dennis Hoey ... Inspector Lestrade
Renee Godfrey ... Vivian Vedder
Frederick Worlock ... Prof. William Kilbane (as Frederic Worlock)
Mary Forbes ... Lady Margaret Carstairs
Skelton Knaggs ... Sands
Billy Bevan ... Passenger Car Attendant
Geoffrey Steele ... Roland Carstairs
You gotta love the classic Sherlock Holmes films - and I certainly do! To be honest, I wasn't expecting all that much out of Terror by Night - it's not often mentioned alongside the best of the series, and I'm not really sure what the reason for that is. Set aboard a speeding train, Terror by Night breathes a claustrophobic atmosphere throughout and does everything that you could possibly want one of these classic pictures to do. The last film in the Sherlock Holmes series, Dressed to Kill, was sub-par (but certainly not bad!) so it's good to see that the entries in the series leading up to that lapse didn't go the same way. The cast outdo themselves as usual, with Basil Rathbone providing the central role as only he can. Nigel Bruce joins him in support as the inept but lovable Dr Watson, and their chemistry is superb as usual. Perhaps not quite as great as some of the earlier films; but then again, they had done this twelve times already by this point. Finally, Dennis Hoey in the role of Scotland Yard inspector Lestrade makes up the cast. His presence really is underrated in the series, and he helps to give the film all-important extra comic dimension.
A few of the Holmes films made during World War Two annoyed me because of the rampant and often ham-fisted propaganda themes, so maybe one of the reason why this film appealed to me so much is that it stays away from any such themes. What we have instead is a streamlined and simple plot, which allows for more of what we tuned in for; namely, Holmes solving a mystery. The great detective has been hired to guard a lady carrying a rare diamond, The Star of Rhodesia, aboard a train bound for Edinburgh. I won't give anything else away, but I will say that while a few of the plot twists become apparent before they happen; most of them don't, and Terror by Night represents a solid hour of mystery. The classic style that makes the other films such a joy is here too; and because of the fact that this film (or any others in the series) never makes a direct bid for greatness, it is easy to enjoy and ignore any flaws that may ensue. This film isn't often mentioned when talking about the best Sherlock Holmes films - and it is topped by certain entries in the series. However, Terror by Night is a more than solid entry and you'll do well not to skip it!
One of the many Sherlock Holmes movies with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce appearing as Holmes and Watson, "Terror By Night" is distinguished by a good, atmospheric setting on a train. Much of the plot itself is fairly routine, but the setting and a good climax make this a worthwhile film.
The action takes place on a train heading from London to Edinburgh, with Holmes being employed to protect a valuable diamond. Not only is there a robbery, but a murder as well, and Holmes must investigate within the confines of the train. Much of it is routine by the standards of the series, but there are a couple highlights, plus a good climax with some interesting final twists.
The train setting is the best aspect of this one. The details of the train's motion and arrangement are done convincingly. They make the film pleasant to watch, and a train is an ideal setting for a Holmes mystery. The setting also allows Bruce, as the well-meaning but bumbling Dr. Watson, to have some of his best moments as he earnestly but unsuccessfully tries to help with the investigation.
While unspectacular, most fans of the Holmes series should find "Terror By Night" pleasant and entertaining.
There's not a second of screen time wasted in telling the tale of the Star of Rhodesia diamond that is stolen aboard an express train--and, of course, Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson and Insepctor LeStrade are all aboard the train, having been advised that someone is going to make an attempt to steal it.
This low-budget Universal entry is easily one of the best of the Universal features co-starring BASIL RATHBONE and NIGEL BRUCE. Bruce is especially funny as he decides to do some investigating himself, with amusing false clues leading him astray. Rathbone is completely suave and relaxed as Holmes, less snappy than usual in the way he treats Watson and much more likable in the role than he has been in other entries.
The plot abounds with the usual assortment of suspicious characters, but of all the supporting players ALAN MOBRAY is the one who stands out as the man who befriends Watson.
Despite the low-budget trimmings and overuse of miniatures to show a train racing through the fog at night, the story is taut and the whole affair is intriguing enough to keep you watching until the unusual ending--where a double twist is completely unexpected.
Highly enjoyable Holmes adventure, well-paced and entertaining.
# Miscellaneous: The exterior shots of the train show different trains, including a model and non-British trains.
# Factual errors: Early in the movie the discovery of the Star of Rhodesia is shown. The diamond picked out of the mud looks perfectly clear, with sharp edges. However, raw diamonds have rough round edges and appear quite ordinary, with only a hint of regular crystal form.