“Don’t you realize there’s a monster at large in this city bent on destruction?”
The Borgia Pearl is in transit to the Royal Regent Museum. A courier hides the pearl in a hidden compartment of his suitcase. The pearl is stolen by Naomi Drake (Evelyn Ankers). She enlists the aid of an elderly vicar in getting the pearl past customs by hiding it in a camera. She asks him to take the camera through since Vicars are seldom checked and she doesn’t want to have the film in her camera exposed. The Vicar turns out to be Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone). He has the pearl delivered to the museum.
While Holmes is testing the museum’s electric alarm system trying to prove that it is not infallible he turns it off. Giles Conover (Miles Mander) takes that opportunity to steal the pearl right under Holmes and Dr. Watson’s (Nigel Bruce) nose. Giles is caught but the pearl is not found on him. Eventually they have to release Giles.
A series of unusual murders begin to happen. An elderly colonel, an old lady living alone. They are found with broken china all around them. Their backs are broken. Holmes is immediately interested. The method of murder is one that is used by "The Hoxton Creeper" (Rondo Hatton). The Creeper is a known associate of Giles Conover. The Creeper was believed to have died in a prison escape, but his body was never found.
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. There are three more busts out there. Three potential victims and The Creeper is at large.
“The Pearl of Death” was released in 1944 and was directed by Roy William Neill. It is the 9th of the 14 Sherlock Holmes movies made by Rathbone and Bruce. It is also the 4th appearance of Inspector Lestrade. It is loosely based on Doyle’s 1904 story “The Adventure of the Six Napoleons”. "The Pearl of Death" includes a scene where Sherlock Holmes kills someone.
The movie is also noted for the appearance of Rondo Hatton as “The Hoxton Creeper”. During most of the movie he is only seen in shadow. It’s not until the end where a full view of him is shown.
Rondo was an American Journalist who also had a minor career as a bit actor in horror type movies. He was known for his unique facial features, which were the result of acromegaly, a syndrome caused by a disorder of the pituitary gland. It’s been claimed that the disease was caused by his exposure to German poison gas during WWI.
Unfortunately Rondo died just as his career in the movies was taking off. He had two movies that were released posthumously. He is also remembered by the creation of “The Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award”. The award is a fan based award where the public votes for a variety of individuals, entities and media of the horror genre. The awards began in 2002.