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Pursuit to Algiers
1946 US theatrical poster
Directed byRoy William Neill
Screenplay byLeonard Lee
Based onCharacters
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Produced byHoward Benedict
StarringBasil Rathbone
Nigel Bruce
CinematographyPaul Ivano
Edited bySaul A. Goodkind
Music byEdgar Fairchild
Distributed byUniversal Studios
Release date
  • October 26, 1945 (1945-10-26)
Running time
65 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish

Pursuit to Algiers (1945) is the twelfth entry in the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes film series of fourteen. The film takes some characters and events from the 1911 story "The Adventure of the Red Circle". Elements in the story pay homage to an otherwise unrecorded affair mentioned by Dr. Watson at the beginning of the 1903 story "The Adventure of the Norwood Builder", notably the steamship Friesland. Off-camera, Watson also recounts to his audience another unrecorded affair mentioned in the 1924 story "The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire", that of the Giant Rat of Sumatra, "a story for which the world is not yet prepared".

Plot

About to leave London for a much-needed holiday, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson receive a cryptic invitation. Intrigued, Holmes accepts and is met by the prime minister (Frederick Worlock) of Rovenia, who begs him to escort Prince Nikolas (Leslie Vincent) home. It turns out that his father has been assassinated, and as his heir, Nikolas is now king. Holmes agrees.

Arrangements have already been made for an airplane. When it develops engine problems, a smaller replacement only has room for the prince and Holmes, leaving Watson behind. When Watson protests, Holmes suggests he follow on a passenger ship bound for Algiers.

On the voyage, Watson reads that the airplane has crashed in the Pyrenees and that it is unlikely that there are any survivours. Holmes has an aversion to plans made by others and is aboard the ship with Nikolas. He instructs Watson to introduce the prince to the other passengers as his nephew. Though Watson suspects everyone, from singer Sheila Woodbury (Marjorie Riordan) to exercise fanatic Agatha Dunham (Rosalind Ivan) to a secretive pair who later turn out to be archeologists, of being killers, it is not until the ship makes an unscheduled stop at Lisbon that the real Soviet agents come aboard: Gregor (Rex Evans), circus knife thrower Mirko (Martin Kosleck), and a hulking mute named Gubec (William 'Wee Willie' Davis).

First, Mirko tries to kill Holmes with a knife thrown through a porthole, then Gregor substitutes an explosive party favor, but Holmes foils both attempts. Finally, the villains succeed in kidnapping the prince when they dock at Algiers, only for Holmes to reveal that the "prince" was a decoy; the real prince had been posing as a steward, hidden in plain sight the whole time. The decoy Nikolas is later recovered unharmed.[1]

Cast

Critical Assessment

Universal Studios film director Roy Neill delivers a tongue-in-check version of the Sherlock Holmes film genre in Pursuit to Algiers in which even the actors “seem aware they are trapped within a genre picture.”

“His interminable success: could he not fail just once and prove himself a human being!" - Actor Basil Rathbone on the cinematic rendition of Sherlock Holmes[2]

This “camp” portrayal of the famous detective exaggerates every virtue of Conan Doyle’s literary creation, with Neill and Rathbone issuing a burlesque reveling in Holmes unerring expertise in everything” ranging from the “Moorish architecture of Lisbon” to "recognizing a knife-thrower glimpsed at an obscure Parisian circus” and perfectly identifying “suspicious foreigners” based on their “gravely flawed fashion sense.”[3]

Footnotes

  1. ^ Davies, David Stuart, Holmes of the Movies (New English Library, 1976) ISBN 0-450-03358-9
  2. ^ Schwartzman, 2004: Schwartzman quoting from Rathbone’s autobiography.
  3. ^ Schwartzman, 2004: Compared to Murder By Death, “an irreverent homage to Agatha Christie...”

References