Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1942)

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Released 16-Feb-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1942
Running Time 68:05
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Roy William Neill

Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring Basil Rathbone
Nigel Bruce
Lionel Atwill
Kaaren Verne
William Post Jr.
Dennis Hoey
Holmes Herbert
Mary Gordon
Case ?
RPI ? Music Frank Skinner

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 1.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Most people regard the pairing of Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as Holmes and Watson as definitive, and certainly when I read the Conan Doyle stories I imagined the characters with their faces and voices. They were cast as the sleuth and his amanuensis for two films made at Twentieth Century Fox in 1939, and two years later a series of 12 films at Universal commenced. Force Video have released three of these later films on DVD, as these appear to be in the public domain.

    The Universal series was updated to the present day, so Sherlock Holmes generally battles Nazis and their agents. This film is no different. Holmes smuggles a scientist out of Switzerland who has invented a highly accurate bombsight. But the scientist has his own ideas about security that differ from that of the British authorities, and soon he falls into the clutches of Professor Moriarty (Lionel Atwill). The bombsight has been split into four parts and given to prominent scientists in London. Holmes must solve the scientist's puzzle to find the parts and prevent Moriarty from selling the bombsight to the Germans.

    This is the second of the Universal Holmes series and is quite entertaining. While not made on a high budget, this one has a good script and is quite atmospheric. The film builds a reasonable amount of tension and sustains it to the finish. There is also some entertainment to be had from the relationship between Holmes and the slightly daft Watson, and also from the bumbling of Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard (Dennis Hoey). Atwill is a suitably suave yet menacing Moriarty, and the cast features the usual swathe of British character actors working in Hollywood.

    This disc would be recommendable if the transfer was any good, but the Region 1 alternative looks to be vastly superior.

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Transfer Quality


    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, close to the original 1.37:1.

    The video transfer is poor, though not as bad as I had expected.

    The transfer is not sharp. It appears as though it was taken from a video master, which itself was taken from a 16mm print which was several generations away from the original master. The image looks a little blurry, though I did find it watchable.

    The transfer is a little dark and lacking in detail, particularly in the heavy shadows that are used to make the sets look authentic, or at least to cover up the cheapness of them. Shadow detail is quite poor.

    There is a high level of low level noise, which makes the blacks seem to have a white sheen. At 13:10 there are a series of analogue video tracking errors. The original print material seems to have been in good condition, though it has obviously been screened frequently and therefore has a lot of small artefacts in the form of dirt, small specks and minor scratches.

    The film is presented on a single layered disc with no subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The single audio channel is in Dolby Digital 1.0, which is authentic at least.

    The audio is slightly distorted, but this does not prevent the dialogue from being audible and understandable. There is, however, a continuous low hum throughout, which is slightly distracting. There is also a series of dropouts of the sound for a few seconds at 4:15.

    The music score is credited to Frank Skinner, but I would not be surprised if most of it was cobbled together from stock music rather than composed directly for this film. The faults with the audio transfer prevent the music from being enjoyable, anyway.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    No extras are provided.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This film has been restored by UCLA, and the restored version has been released by MPI in Region 1 both as part of a four disc set called The Sherlock Holmes Collection Volume One and also as a standalone release. Reviews indicate that the image quality is far superior to any previous release, and this is the edition of choice. Note that there are three volumes containing all of the Universal Holmes films, and in each set one of the films carries an audio commentary (but not this film).

    While this film is available from other Region 1 distributors, the above edition is the one to get.


    A reasonably good entry in the Sherlock Holmes series, this could be recommended if the transfer was any good. But it is not.

    The video quality is poor.

    The audio quality is poor.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Thursday, June 17, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V596 for surround channels; Yamaha AX-590 as power amp for mains
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Richter Harlequin; Rear: Pioneer S-R9; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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