The 11th film in Universal's series of Sherlock Holmes films starring Basil Rathbone as the Great Detective and Nigel Bruce as his faithful companion, Dr. Watson.
With only one more film to go following this 1946 release, it's not surprising that there's little fresh about this entry, but it hardly matters. The draw is still Rathbone and Bruce, as well as Dennis Hoey's Inspector LeStrade, all of whom deliver typically energetic performances.
The setting is novel, though, with Holmes and Watson aboard a train bound from London to Edinburgh, acting as bodyguards for the "Star of Rhodesia," a precious jewel whose owner is murdered.
Of course, a train is the perfect setting for a mystery, but as "Murder on the Orient Express" would prove twenty-eight years later, the claustrophobic atmosphere severely limits the action. But with a brisk running time of only 60 minutes, "Terror by Night" never threatens to bore.
Brian W. Fairbanks
on June 29, 2004
This is not the best of the Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce pairings but nonetheless this is an enjoyable outing.
Terror by Night is one of those I put on late at night to watch curled up on the sofa with a cat by my side. The rhythm of the train and the steadfast bond between Holmes, Watson and Lestrade creates one of the most relaxing murder mysteries ever put on film. The deliberate pace may not please all, but to those with a taste for it this is the mystery equivalent of a good house wine.
First, I want to advise potential purchasers that THIS is the copy of this title that you want. The product information above is NOT correct -- this is the high-quality MPI BLACK AND WHITE original version! It's a nice clear print professionally digitized from 35 mm film and all the others are notably inferior in quality.
Some other reviewers have cut and pasted incorrect information from other sources as well, saying that this one is "colorized," or color... it's not, so be aware of this. Also, the copies that you'll sometimes find at the local dollar store for a buck are worth just about what you pay for them.
As to the story, here we have a black and white Holmes/Watson (Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce) vehicle that is one of the best of the Rathbone/Bruce series. I can watch this film over and over without burning out on it.
Holmes is hired by a nobleman to protect his mother's, Lady Carstairs', "Star of Rhodesia" diamond, a valuable gem with a death-curse on it, for the duration of an overnight train excursion from London to Edinburgh. Moriarty is suspected of having already made one attempt to steal it and Holmes is sure that he'll try again on the train trip. Inspector Lestrade (Dennis Hoey) is also along, officially representing Scotland Yard but dressed in mufti and he's hot-and-cold on Holmes' presence. And plenty of swarthy characters, all acting furtively, are present on board the train.
Sure enough, not only is the bauble stolen but murder (more than one!) is committed as well. It's up to Holmes and Watson to help Inspector Lestrade solve the murders and recover Lady Carstairs' diamond.
Of all the Rathbone/Bruce series of Sherlock Holmes films, this one has the cleanest plot and the best script. Clearly, it's justifiably claimed as the big favorite by many Holmes movie purists. It's certainly one of my top three. The set is outstanding and the camera work is super.
If you don't happen to get this exact copy of the movie, at least be aware of "colorized" versions -- they're just awful. I like some colorized films okay but the Rathbone/Bruce series did not benefit by this process of adding garish pastels.
I would recommend this fine murder mystery film to anyone who is a fan of black and white movies.
on September 29, 2005
What makes this a masterpiece "who done it" is that everyone acts suspicious.
Holmes is hired by Roland Carstairs to guard the Star of Rhodesia, a magnificent diamond being transported from London to Edinburgh. Holmes replaces the diamond with a fake that ends up being stolen and Carstairs is murdered. Now, the question is who stole the fake one and killed Carstairs. But Carstairs is not the only one to get murdered. There WILL be others, and for some of you who are trying to figure out who the fiend is, you might just be surprised when the very one you thought done the killing, ends up being killed themselves. Black and White with no curse words or sexual situations and no bloody gore. Just a superb plot with a fairly good directed movie.
I say fairly good because the way the train was shown speeding down the track was obviously done by fast forwarding the film. If a real train was to cut a corner like that one did in the movie, it'd flip off the track. But overall this is a movie worth watching, with great action and suspense(one scene in particular that comes to mind is where Holmes fights desperately to keep from being literally thrown off the train), also, there is drama, intrique, and horror. This is one you can enjoy watching alone to figure out who done it, or share with a friend, family members, or mate.
Get something to eat, preferably buttered popcorn and a Coke (or as I like to eat, Banner chocolate covered almonds and a Coke), turn out the lights, and by all means, make sure you put your sofa or chair against the wall as you enjoy this entertaining film. If you like a good mystery, you'll want to order this one.
The Basil Rathbone - Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes films were moved from Victorian England to current England (1946). Also, like the James Bond films, the only thing similar to the books is the title. If you are looking for faithful adaptation of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle books then get the Jeremy Brett Mystery series. If you are looking for some great acting and good period mysteries, the Rathbone - Bruce series is great.
Lady Carstairs is taking the train from London to Edinburgh with The Star of Rhodesia. Holmes and Watson are hired to protect it from master jewel thief Colonel Moran, who also happens to be a master of disguise. To make things more intriguing, Lady Carstairs son, Roland, is murdered on the train. This is probably one of the more typical plots but is set entirely on a train.
The transfer quality is fairly poor but not awful. These are the kind of films that are not usually subject to restoration and the deteriorated status is that of wear and age. I have seen a new collection but they are quite expensive. So if you just want to have a copy of the films just to enjoy these mysteries, these are fine.
Of course, for most Basil was Sherlock Holmes, this was probably the first films that he had a chance to a role that he could use his substantial talent. Before these, he was usually the bad guy or a minor supporting player. He was an accomplished swordsman and the joke was he constantly had to lose to actors that he could beat blindfolded. So Basil made these quickie films much more depth than they would otherwise have.
on June 29, 2000
Next to the brilliant Scarlet Claw(undoubtedly the best in the series) this is one of my faves in the series with Rathbone & Bruce. The entire film(with the exception of the very beginning and end) takes place on a speeding train from London to Edinborough. The plot(be sure to watch Rathbone's slight-of-hand!) involves a diamond called the Star of Rhodesia, and there are many strange characters on the train.There is some good comic relief as Dr. Watson conducts an interview with one of the passengers who is addicted to the study of mathematics(like Col. Sebastian Moran--Another Holmes Foe!). If you are a fan of Universal horror, you will recognize that same old stock footage of the train station and scenes of train speeding into the night(used a decade earlier in The Black Cat), and Lestrade is along for this one. I always enjoyed Dennis Hoey as Lestrade.It is interesting in that we do not ever find ourselves at 221 B-Baker Street in this one. I am a confirmed Sidney Toler Charlie Chan addict as well, and be sure to read my reviews on that subject!
on July 6, 2002
I've seen very few of the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes films, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I did enjoy this short film. Holmes and Watson have been hired to guard a famous jewel called the Star of Rhodesia, a diamond that has caused no end of problems for its many previous owners. Most of the film takes place aboard a speeding train bound for Scotland, a scenario ripe with possibilities, due to the confined space and lack of possible escape. Various characters are aboard, opening up many chances for robbery, and as it turns out, murder as well. Rathbone and Bruce are of course classics in this genre, and after so many turns as these characters, there performances seem effortless. The supporting cast is fine as well, and there is enough action to more than keep the viewer's attentions. It's obvious not much money was spent on the film, and the absence of music at key events is felt, but this mystery remains entertaining nonetheless.
Terror By Night offers a nice change of pace in the old Sherlock Holmes series of films starring Basil Rathbone as the great detective. The action takes place completely outside the confines of London and 221B Baker Street, centering on a train ride from London to Edinburgh. Holmes has been hired to safeguard an ill-fated diamond called the Star of Rhodesia on Lady Margaret Carstairs' trip home, but he's not alone. Good old Inspector Lestrade is also onboard, posing as a fisherman on holiday. Despite the presence of Holmes, Watson, and Lestrade, though, Lady Margaret's son is murdered and the jewel stolen. The jewel must be in one of the compartments onboard the train, and Lestrade quickly takes over the questioning and searching of the passengers. Dr. Watson - God bless him - also attempts his own investigation, which bears only ignominious - and comical - results.
There are a number of real characters onboard the train, each one of them suspicious in some way or other. There's a rather impertinent young lady accompanying her mother's coffin, a most disagreeable professor, an older couple concerned about the police presence around them, Watson's old friend Major Duncan-Bleek, as well as several train employees. The fact that we the viewers are kept unaware of the culprit's identity until the end is a definite plus - as is the fact that the guilty party turns out to be a jewel thief of much renown. There's as much light comedy as there is drama until the endgame is set in motion, and the ending offers a surprise or two that rescues the film from the realm of the merely average. Terror By Night is not the best of the Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films, but it's certainly an entertaining, reasonably compelling entry in the series.
on January 23, 2004
It had been years since I saw Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes. It is always a good idea to trace something that has become a cliché back to its source. For better or worse, the character of Holmes will forever be inextricably linked to Rathbone.
The action in this film is similar to The Lady Vanishes or Murder on the Orient Express. Sherlock is hired to guard a valuable diamond. Of course someone is murdered on the train and he must solve the crime.
Watching this film feels, in a sense, like coming home. Sherlock is THE iconic detective and when he's around, you never worry too much because you are sure no one is going to get the better of him. He is a direct precursor to James Bond, except with more emphasis on intelligence. In many ways it is more entertaining to watch these old films than more modern entertainments. Here you know the acting is going to be good and the dialogue snappy. The film moves along at a brisk pace - in fact, it is so short it wouldn't even be considered a feature by today's standards. Nigel Bruce's Watson may not be as Arthur Conan Doyle imagined him, but it makes sense in the film series: one needs a comic counterpoint to Holmes' dry wit.
However old these films get, I find them very enjoyable.
The DVD itself is bare necessity, but the picture is good enough and the cost is very inexpensive.
on March 12, 2015
DVD trilogy: Dressed to Kill, Terror By Night, Woman in Green. Container says: This DVD disc is formatted for world wide use.
Dolby Digital, Ovation home video. Terror By Night is the best quality of the three, the other two are not as sharp. They are viewable, and these are old movies and classics. I am so happy they are still available. Sound is good, no close caption.