Germans love to laugh, even during the Third Reich. THE MAN WHO WAS SHERLOCK HOLMES is a delightful comedy/mystery staring Hans Albers who was the most popular actor in Germany during the 1930’s and 40’s. He was so popular the Nazis were even willing to overlook his Jewish “girlfriend” who was essentially his wife.
As the film starts we meet two men, Morris Flint (Albers) and Macky McPherson (Heinz Rühmann) who are about to start on a venture that Macky is very worried will get them into big trouble. Albers is wearing a plaid coat and what the subtitles describe as a “deerstalker” cap. Actually, it’s one of those flat soft caps worn by men of all classes the world over under appropriate circumstances. He carries a pipe. Ruhmann carries a violin case.
They flag down a train at a station where it doesn’t usually stop and get onboard. The train crew, who have been reading Sherlock Holmes stories, immediately take them for Holmes and Watson, even though they insist that they are Mr. Flint and Mr. McPherson. There are two criminals on the train too. They also take the duo for Holmes and Watson and decide that it’s in their best interest to jump off leaving behind the claim tickets for their steamer trunks. The duo, under the pretext of investigating, take over the criminal’s compartment and all of the belongings left behind.
By not saying too much and allowing others to make assumptions the duo manage to get first class treatment wherever they go… including from the French police. They are soon very busy investigating an extremely complicated pair of interlocking mysteries, and they are very competent detectives.
I’ll stop there so I don’t spoil it for you.
During the Weimar Republic Germany’s major film studios grew to rival Hollywood for the quality of their productions. In the Third Reich it was considered very important to maintain this status, both for national prestige and to provide the German people with entertainment to keep their minds off things like politics. Some of the sets for THE MAN WHO WAS SHERLOCK HOLMES are very elaborate and worthy of a first class production. Cinematography is by the great Fritz Arno Wagner. All of the cast are very talented actors although the names are not familiar to this American 80 years later. The print used for this DVD is in excellent condition. The only drawback is that the dialogue moves so fast that the subtitles fly by. For those of us who don’t understand spoken German it’s necessary to keep one’s finger ready on the pause button.
I can definitely recommend this film, both as a film and for its historic interest. Fans of Hans Albers will really love it.
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