Dressed to Kill (1946 film)

Dressed to Kill, released in 1946, also known as Prelude to Murder (working title) and Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Code in the United Kingdom, is the last of fourteen films starring Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Doctor Watson.

Dressed to Kill
Directed byRoy William Neill
Produced byRoy William Neill
Written byFrank Gruber
Leonard Lee
Based onThe Adventure of the Six Napoleons
1903 short stories (56)
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
StarringBasil Rathbone
Nigel Bruce
Patricia Morison
CinematographyMaury Gertsman
Edited bySaul A. Goodkind
Universal Pictures
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • May 24, 1946 (1946-05-24) (New York City, New York)
  • June 7, 1946 (1946-06-07) (United States)
Running time
76 minutes
(copyright length)
72 minutes
(restored version)
CountryUnited States


A convicted thief in Dartmoor prison (played by an uncredited Cyril Delevanti) hides the location of stolen Bank of England printing plates inside three music boxes (each of which plays a subtly different version of "The Swagman"). The boxes are sold at a local auction house.[1]

The brain of the gang belongs to a darkly beautiful, ruthless woman, who is also a "consummate actress,” as Holmes learns. She disguises herself as a charwoman and speaking Cockney, insults and berates both Holmes and Watson, whom she pretends not to recognize, and leaves with a music box right under their noses. Holmes must recover the last music box to crack the secret code contained in the tune before it is too late.



  1. "Dressed to Kill". AllMovie. Retrieved August 9, 2016.
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