The Pearl of Death

The Pearl of Death is a 1944 Sherlock Holmes film starring Basil Rathbone as Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson, the ninth of fourteen such films the pair made.[1] The story is loosely based on Conan Doyle's short story "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons"[2] but features some additions, such as Evelyn Ankers as an accomplice of the villain, played by Miles Mander, and Rondo Hatton as a brutal killer.

The Pearl of Death
1944 Theatrical poster
Directed byRoy William Neill
Produced byHoward Benedict
Screenplay byBertram Millhauser
Based onThe Adventure of the Six Napoleons
1904 story
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
StarringBasil Rathbone
Nigel Bruce
Evelyn Ankers
Music byPaul Sawtell
CinematographyVirgil Miller
Edited byRay Snyder
Universal Pictures
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • August 1, 1944 (1944-08-01) (United States)
  • August 25, 1944 (1944-08-25) (New York City)
  • September 22, 1944 (1944-09-22) (Los Angeles)
Running time
69 minutes
CountryUnited States


Master criminal Giles Conover (Miles Mander) steals the famous "Borgia Pearl" from the Royal Regent Museum under the very nose of Holmes and Watson, but when caught the pearl is not found on him and he is released.

Later, Holmes hears of an apparently motiveless murder. An elderly colonel is found with his back broken amid a pile of smashed china. Holmes takes an immediate interest in the case as the unusual method of killing is that of "The Hoxton Creeper" (Rondo Hatton), known to be Conover's right-hand man.

Another murder occurs, of a little old lady, also surrounded by smashed china. Conover makes two attempts to kill Holmes, who surmises that Conover is desperately trying to recover the stolen pearl.

After a third killing Holmes finds the common feature of each: a bust of Napoleon. Conover, when being pursued by the police, had fled through the workshop where they were being made, and hid the pearl inside one of six identical busts.

Holmes tracks down the vendor of the busts and find out that one is still unaccounted for, as does Conover's accomplice Naomi. Conover and The Creeper arrive at the house of the owner of the final bust, only to find that Holmes has taken his place. Overpowered, Holmes convinces The Creeper that Conover will double-cross him, and the Creeper turns on Conover and kills him, after which Holmes kills the Creeper, before the police finally arrive. Holmes smashes the final bust and recovers the pearl "with the blood of five more victims on it".[3]


The Creeper

Universal Studios attempted to capitalise on Rondo Hatton's effective portrayal of the Hoxton Creeper, casting him in two more (unrelated) films as "the Creeper": House of Horrors (filmed in 1945, but not released until 1946, after Hatton's death) and The Brute Man (1946, also released posthumously).[2]


  1., The Pearl of Death (1944)
  2. Bunson, Matthew (1997). Encyclopedia Sherlockiana. Simon & Schuster. p. 190. ISBN 0-02-861679-0.
  3. Davies, David Stuart (1976). Holmes of the Movies. New English Library. ISBN 9780450030659.
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