I have previously written about Basil Rathbone, one of the most famous Sherlock Holmes actors. Rathbone’s immediate predecessor, Arthur Wontner, is not so well remembered today, and there are several reasons why. Wontner was a good actor, yet does not succeed as well as Rathbone in giving Holmes a distinct personality, and his balding head (poorly painted over) does not exactly help to maintain the image of the famous detective.
Still, Wontner made five Holmes films before Rathbone took over, and they were the last British Holmes productions for a couple of decades. One of the Wontner films is now lost, but the other four are all avaiable at the Internet Archive. For a true Holmes fan, these are of course a must, but even the occasional Holmes viewer will enjoy Wontner’s best, The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes.
This film holds up well in comparison with many of the later Rathbone productions. The plot is a fairly traditional Holmes murder mystery, and in fact it is closely based on one of Arthur Conan Doyle’s original Holmes stories.
Wontner as a Holmes actor must be put in perspective in order to be fully enjoyed. Compared with the Holmes of modern productions, he is old rather than young; well-mannered rather than rude; calm rather than energetic. I think that a more knowledgeable person than myself could probably present a timeline of Holmes films and TV productions, tracing how today’s interpretations gradually emerged through generations of actors.
This film is best enjoyed if you have a good sound system. If you watch it, do not let the extremely poor sound during the first few minutes put you off. It does improve after a while, but even then poor reproduction would make the dialogue hard to make out in places.
The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes
Running time: 1 h 19 min
Director: Leslie Hiscott
Stars: Arthur Wontner, Ian Fleming
Image quality: Acceptable
Resolution: Medium (720×540)
Sound quality: Poor
Best file format: h.264 (466 M)